Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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If you practiced yodeling enough you could probably do it in your sleep-Benedict Mendes

So, for this midterm I had no idea what I wanted to do at first, but after the first free writing session I came up with a proposition.

Knowledge can be presented in practiced actions that do not require thought

I came up with this because when I thought of really knowing something, I thought of being familiar with an action or a subject. When one is extremely familiar with an action they can reproduce it at any time without effort or even thinking of it, save the momentary “I am going to do this action” thought. In a sense, to me knowledge it at it’s most valuable when it can be reproduced without thought, because of experience and familiarity with it. The premises preceding this proposition make things a little more clear.

If knowledge is defined by being familiar with a subject

and

If knowledge in the mind can be separate from knowledge in the body

then

Knowledge can be presented in practiced actions that do not require thought

 

The truth of the premises is debatable, as both premises are subjective to the reader or writer, but to me these premises are true and they are what I base my opinion of knowledge on.

 

For the first premise, the reason I define knowledge as being familiar with a subject is that the definition of experience is pretty much being really familiar with something. For example, an experienced chef will be able to tell you how to make dishes in certain ways and how to bring out certain flavours because they themselves have gone through these processes hundreds, even thousands of times. Because they have experience with it they are able to easily produce dishes with their gained knowledge.

 

The second premise basically is talking about the difference between conceptual knowledge and applied knowledge. Reading a manual on how to set up an IKEA chair is different than actually physically setting up the chair, that’s the idea that this premise draws from.

 

And of course, the conclusion. If my premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. Basically, what I’m saying is that once you become familiar enough with something, especially an action, you can replicate it without thinking, and it is in that action that the most valuable knowledge lies. This means that something like muscle memory, when your body physically remembers certain actions, is more valuable than knowledge of how to do an action.  For example, I am a musician and I play piano. When I learn a song I learn it slowly, I have to think about each and every note I hit and constantly use the sheet music for reference. As I get more and more familiar with the song I can start to go faster, and when I’m going faster I can’t rely on the sheet music as much, I have to simply know where some notes are. Eventually I can memorize the song and play it anytime that I sit down at the piano, this is because I have ingrained every key hit, every note into my body and I can replicate it without hesitation. Even when I’m playing a song I have memorized completely, I can think about something else while my body continues the action. Even if I make a mistake, I know the song so well that I can register it and remember to correct it in the future. It is at this point that knowledge is at it’s best and most valuable. Being able to reproduce a song without thinking means I have to know every little detail, every rhythm, every note, every key, I have to have a lot of experience with the song. Because of this, I have more knowledge of the song than someone who does not have as much experience with it but is able to look at the sheet music. Of course, the mind is part of the process of learning the song and transferring what I see on the page to the actions in my hands, but once I know the notes and keys I no longer have to rely on the mind to monitor my actions as I perform them. When the body no longer has to rely on the mind to replicate an action is when you know you have basically the best knowledge possible of that thing or action.

 

This argument lines up a little bit with the thinking of Kant with his mindset of “All knowledge comes from experience” and the belief that the physical world is real. It opposes Descartes because if there is no physical world then the actions I perform would not matter, and therefore would have no place in knowledge. It’s based a lot more empirically than it is rationally, because really an action is about the feel of it. The experience of how your body moves and how it performs the action is more important than the concept of what the action does, it’s using your senses to judge how you’re performing the action rather than the mind and reason.

 

In conclusion the entire argument is a little bit like a more complicated version of “practice makes perfect”, it’s all about repeated exposure to an action or a subject. The longer you practice an action for the easier it will get until you can do it without needing to think, your mind can think about something else while your body does the thing. It is in this that the most valuable knowledge lies.

 

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Lines on a Mind Map

Knowledge is the connections we make between concepts.

To explain knowledge, I am saying the lines we draw on mind map actually represent our knowledge, not the words we write on the paper. To actually know something means you can apply it in different ways, or express its shape with different forms. Competence and Propositional Knowledge fits within my own boundaries of what I think this word “knowledge” really entails.

Premise One:  a concept is defined as a mental construction holding various characteristics to identify it by
Premise Two: a connection is directly relating at least one characteristic between two concepts
Conclusion: therefore knowledge is the connections we make between concepts.

In my syllogistic argument, I begin with defining what a concept is. Starting here I am able to delve deeper into my thoughts because I am clearly laying them out. A concept is constructed by our brains as a means to interpret the world around us using the characteristics of the concept. These characteristics are identification towards the concept. An example of a concept widely excepted by our race is the concept of love. This is an intangible thing, and we are unable to fully describe it with our words, yet we agree that it exists. It is commonly referred to as a feeling, and one will know they are in love when they get the excited feeling in their stomach and protective nature towards this other person. Another concept we encounter daily is the significance of education and its founding effect in society. Uneducated people are seen as useless members of society, people who are not able to contribute anything of great importance regarding development and renovations. Similarly, educated people are given jobs that pay more money because we value knowledge. Which brings me back to my question of when do we know we know something?

My second premise states that a connection between concepts relies on the comparisons you can make between them. For example, between love and the significance of education I can make the connections that they are both woven into the average lifestyle and somewhat forced upon us by our environment. We as humans aspire to encounter and feel love, but why is it so strong? Partly a psychological matter, but also the response of the media, selling us frivolous stories of romance and love. Education is a necessary step towards being able to work in a higher position that McDonalds drive thru attendant. Money is used as an incentive, also reported by the media to be the foundation of happiness.

Therefore I can say I know the concepts of love and the significant of education because I am able to find relationships between the building blocks of each. In a normal day, we will make thousands of connections showcasing our knowledge. An example is seeing the rain outside and then recalling a memory of the unpleasant feeling of being soaked to the bone, therefore knowing in order to stay comfortable we must carry an umbrella. Had I see the rain and not recalled a memory, I would not know that I must carry the umbrella because I was not given a relationship between concepts to form my learning.

David Hume also had some thoughts about the important of connections in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
His ideas highlight that there is a necessity towards connections and the mental process of forming relationships is crucial to our understanding of the world. He splits it up into Critical and Constructive Phases of the Necessary Connection, but basically its existence of debate gives meaning to its stature. He discusses a relationship between cause and effect. The debate on if its a necessary connection and holds true meaning, or whether we perceive it to make sense of our world. Other natural connections we are able to make are discovering the types of people we find most comfort in or a reason as to why we learn a lesson from certain instances. Drawing our connections from two different sources allows us to expand our mind and lessen the compartmentalization of ideas that often takes place in the school or work place.

In conclusion, knowledge is shown by our ability to draw connections between concepts by determining like characteristics.

 

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On Experience, Perception and Biased Expressions

Proposition: Knowledge is fueled by experience, influenced by perception and expressed in a strictly subjective manner

When creating a theory of what knowledge is I came to understand that it is fueled through experience. Whether that experience is physical (one is creating an understanding that fire is hot by touching it) or mental (one is creating an understanding that fire is hot by reading about it). There are so many different ways in which people can begin to understand and gain knowledge of different topics, just as there are many ways in which they encode that knowledge.

Klob’s theory of the experiential learning cycle outlines that there are four steps in the cycle of learning through experience:  Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation,  Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation.

Concrete Experience involves encountering a new situation or the reinterpretation of an existing experience.

Reflective Observation involves reflecting on the experience being sure there are no inconsistencies on the experience and the understanding of it.

Abstract Conceptualization involves the discovery of new ideas or the abstract understanding that come to mind through reflections.

Active Experimentation involves the learner applying new knowledge to real life in order to see what may result.

learning-kolb

 

In Klob’s theory, all parts of the cycle are necessary for a person to fully gain knowledge. No one category can be effective on its own.

Knowledge can be perceived differently person to person. Many people have different learning styles which affect how they learn and what they gain from their experiences. Klob’s theory also involves the different styles of learning that people may have. Different variables affect a person’s learning style, and how they perceive their experiences.  For example, social environment, educational experiences, or the basic cognitive structure of the individual all play a role in how that person learns.

Klob’s theory involves four different learning styles: Diverging, Assimilating, Converging, and Accommodating.

Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO): People who use the learning style of diverging knowledge are often able to look at things from different perspectives. These people are sensitive to their surroundings, themselves and others. These learners prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and using their imagination to solve problems. Diverging learners are best at viewing concrete situations at several different viewpoints and perform better in situations that require idea generation e.g. brainstorming. Diverging learners are generally more social as they prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.

Assimilating (watching and thinking – AC/RO):People who use the learning style of Assimilating knowledge use a logical approach when solving problems or interpreting information. These people value ideas and concepts over information from other people. They require a good clear explanation of a concept rather than a practical opportunity to physically use their knowledge.Assimilating learners excel at understanding a wide range information and organizing that information in clear logical formats. These people are more attracted to logically sound theories than approaches based on practical value. They prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through when attempting to gain new knowledge and understanding.

Converging (doing and thinking – AC/AE): People who use the learning style of converging knowledge can solve problems and will use their knowledge to find solutions to practical issues.They prefer technical tasks, and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects of thinking.These learners are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems which enables them to specialize in technological tasks.

Accommodating (doing and feeling – CE/AE): People who use the learning style of accommodating knowledge tend to be ‘hands-on’ learners, and rely on their intuition rather than logic. They use other people’s analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach when solving problems. These learners are often attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. They act on ‘gut’ instinct rather than logical analysis and are the most prevalent learners in the general population.

A typical representation of Klob’s learning styles looks something like this:

kolb's_learning_styles_businessballs

The east-west axis of the cycle is called the Processing Continuum. This is how we choose to approach a task. The north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum which is our emotional response to our experience.
Many people agree that knowledge is obtained when a person is able to express that knowledge. While I believe that one does not have to express their knowledge to have it I do agree that the best way to prove that one has obtained an understanding of something is to express that understanding. When attempting to express knowledge, it becomes clear that knowledge obtained through experience is often subjective. In an article titled Subjective Knowledge by Rich Stutton he writes of the subjective view point. Explaining that:

“In it, all knowledge and understanding arises out of an individual’s experience, and in that sense is inherently in terms that are private, personal, and subjective. An individual might know, for example, that a certain action tends to be followed by a certain sensation, or that one sensation invariably follows another. But these are its sensations and its actions There is no necessary relationship between them and the sensations and actions of another individual. To hypothesize such a link might be useful, but always secondary to the subjective experience itself.”

He touches on what would conventionally be argued as objective knowledge. Information such as science and math involving definite particles and equations with definite solutions and concrete explainings. He talks about the objective, realist view explaining the belief that knowledge is objective in that

“In this view there is a reality independent of our experience. This would be easy to deny if there were only one agent in the world. In that case it is clear that that agent is merely inventing things to explain its experience. The objective view gains much of its force because it can be shared by different people. In science, this is almost the definition of the subjective/objective distinction: that which is private to one person is subjective whereas that which can be observed by many, and replicated by others, is objective.”

He points out both the flaws and the appeal of these views pointing out that:

“The appeal of the objective view is that it is common across people. Something is objectively true if it predicts the outcome of experiments that you and I both can do and get the same answer. But how is this sensible? How can we get the same answer when you see with your eyes and I with mine? For that matter, how can we do the “same” experiment?”

Stutton concludes that knowledge is subjective; a point that I whole heartily agree with. Knowledge is biased as no one person will experience, perceive and express their knowledge exactly the same way as another. Thus my theory of knowledge is that knowledge is fueled by experience, influenced by perception and expressed in a subjective manner.

 

 

 

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Knowledge is experience

If you gain knowledge through experience, and knowledge is the information you retain then knowledge is the amassed information.

crocodile-dundee-1986-6240-8013771942In my view, knowledge is what you learn from everything around you. All the experiences you go through, help aid you to be a more knowledgeable person. For example in the Crocodile Dundee movies, Mic is very knowledgeable about living and surviving in the Australian outback, because that is where he grew up. Most of his life experiences have to with learning the ways of the outback.While Sue ha vast knowledge about city life and almost nothing about being in the outdoors. Through the movie they both experience a taste of a different world and it makes them both have a greater knowledge from their experiences.

I think subconsciously we choose the information we keep, and our knowledge is the retained information. We chose the information we think well need down the road. Say you live in the mountains of Montana, your going to want to know how to survive. So your subconscious will choose the information it needs. If someone told you how to make a excel document, you’ll probably forget how to do it after a little while, because you know you wont need this information.

What we consider knowledge is all the information we’ve accumulated over time, the information that we thought was worth holding onto.

 

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Midterm: Knowledge and Language

Proposition: Knowledge cannot be effectively shared only through spoken language.

As humans, we are constantly sharing and gaining knowledge through communicating with others. The question is if the knowledge we are communicating is the same knowledge gained by another. Is communication ever fully effective? By definition, effectiveness is decided by successfully producing a desired or intended result. I would argue that no type of communication is ever fully interpreted correctly.

Can we fully communicate without a universal language?

Can we fully communicate without a universal language?

A main form of communication is through spoken word. Languages vary all over the world, with roughly 6500 spoken in the world today. Mandarin Chinese is the most popular language in the world, spoken by about 1.21 billion people. This is one of the main flaws in communication. There is not one universal language that all humans use to speak with one another. Translations between languages are never 100% accurate, already altering the meaning of the shared knowledge.

Again as humans, we are all unique individuals with different experiences, personalitities, opinions, and values. Anything that we observe, hear, or feel is different when compared to another human. Therefore, when interpreting knowledge, it will not be exactly the same as the knowledge outputted to us.

Some may argue that there is a universal language between humans, but not through spoken word.

What emotions do these facial expressions portray?

What emotions do these facial expressions portray?

All humans smile, laugh, and cry, despite where they live in the world. Our facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language definitely aid in communication, but cannot be solely relied on for sharing knowledge. This can also be interpreted incorrectly, and some people cannot comprehend this universal language. Some humans suffer from social-emotional agnosia, which is the inability to interpret facial expressions, body language and voice intonation. This disorder usually effects people with autisim or schizophrenia, and limits social interaction.

To conclude,

Syllogism:

  • If many languages are spoken all over the world and can never be translated 100% correctly,
  • And humans are all unique indivuduals that interpret knowledge in their own way,
  • And the universal language of facial expressions cannot be comprehended by everyone,
  • Then knowledge cannot be effectively shared only through spoken language
 

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Stephen Downes’ Theory of Epistemology

Blog well...
We are greatly fortunate to have a mind like Stephen Downes‘ join us from time to time in Philosophy 12 to offer comments, feedback and dialogue with our for-credit participants. Occasionally, he offers responses to assignments, as in the case of this semester’s mid-term assignment, where he proposes the following theory of epistemology:

Most theories of knowledge depict knowledge as a type of belief. The idea, for example, of knowledge as ‘justified true belief’ dates back to Plato, who in Theaetetus argued that having a ‘true opinion’ about something is insufficient to say that we know about something.

In my view, knowledge isn’t a type of belief or opinion at all, and knowledge isn’t the sort of thing that needs to be justified at all. Instead, knowledge is a type of perception, which we call ‘recognition’, and knowledge serves as the justification for other things, including opinions and beliefs.

You can read the rest of Stephen’s theory of epistemology here. But other philosophers writing their own Theories of Knowledge midterms this week may also find useful reading from an older piece of his writing, How to Write Articles Quickly and Expertly

From time to time people express amazement at how I can get so much done. I, of course, aware of the many hours I have idled away doing nothing, demur. It feels like nothing special; I don’t work harder, really, than most people. Nonetheless, these people do have a point. I am, in fact, a fairly prolific writer.

Part of it is tenacity. For example, I am writing this item as I wait for the internet to start working again in the Joburg airport departures area. But part of it is a simple strategy for writing you essays and articles quickly and expertly, a strategy that allows you to plan your entire essay as you write it, and thus to allow you to make your first draft your final draft. This article describes that strategy.

Begin by writing – in your head, at least – your second paragraph (that would be the one you just read, above). Your second paragraph will tell people what your essay says. Some people write abstracts or executive summaries in order to accomplish this task. But you don’t need to do this. You are stating your entire essay or article in one paragraph. If you were writing a news article, you would call this paragraph the ‘lede’. A person could read just the one paragraph and know what you had to say.

But how do you write this paragraph? Reporters will tell you that writing the lede is the hardest part of writing an article. Because if you don’t know what the story is, you cannot write it in a single paragraph. A reporter will sift through the different ways of writing the story – the different angles – and find a way to tell it. You, because you are writing an article or essay, have more options.

 

 

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Midterm Assignment: Personal Theory of Knowledge

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Jef Safi

All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.

Immanuel Kant

For credit as well as open-online participants are invited to respond to the following prompts in developing a personal theory of knowledge to be share on the blog by the end of next week (Friday December 5th). 

Purpose

  • To state and support a proposition of personal knowledge;
  • To synthesize and reflect on course topics explore thus far:
    • Philosophical Inquiry
    • Logic
    • Scientific Philosophy
    • Metaphysics
  • To integrate existing epistemological ideas into a unique personal theory.

Components

  • It’s a Blog Post: Each personal theory of epistemology will be posted in the form of a blog entry on the class site.
  • Tell us what you know: Identify a specific aspect or perspective of your view of knowledge ( how, where, and under what conditions it exists, is acquired, communicated).
  • Be Logical: Represent the statements formulating your proposition of knowledge as a syllogism or logical argument.
  • Cite your Sources: Whether the website that originally posted the image at the top of your post or the thinker(s) who informed your own ideas, use links and identify how others’ have influenced your published work.

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