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Philosophy of Knowledge

The psychology of knowledge has always been something that has directly affected everyone in a very mundane way. The discussion on this topic has always been a complex one. This is largely because it invites inside a web of tangled and interconnected issues and subjects many different aspects involving the different plateaus in the human learning faculty, as well as the different aspects of culture in a particular society or community.

Throughout history, many significant individuals contributed immensely in the development of the psychology of knowledge. Similarly, many individuals have posited their arguments about these ideas and challenged the thoughts that surfaced and shaped the psychology of knowledge.

This particular subject has always been very important, that even today, modern students involved in this particular discipline are still making efforts to contribute to the available and established ideas surrounding the psychology of knowledge, or to challenge traditional beliefs and make inroads towards new beliefs. The Psychology of Knowledge has always been an open topic because of the fact that modern discoveries made possible by new technologies and new ways of thinking has always provided new ways on how the different aspect of the psychology can be better understood.

Because of this, the purpose of the paper is to attempt to touch base with several different important aspects critical in the discussion of the psychology of knowledge; the discussion on the idea of knowledge itself and how it is different from other related ideas and forms like data, information, understanding, and wisdom; how knowledge and the process of knowing is accomplished in different fields like the sciences, arts and humanities, mathematics, morality as well as religion including the discussion of the prospects and limits of knowledge building and the process knowing in this aspects; the relativity of truth and knowledge to one’s culture; the importance of humility in the quest of knowledge and the important rules and guidelines that are important to the careful thinker; and the meaning of human life in relation to the purpose of knowledge itself. Knowledge and Other Aspects of Knowing The discussion on the psychology of knowledge establishes clearly the definition of knowledge, and immediately sets it apart from other ideas that maybe confused with knowledge because of the proximity of the ideas to the idea of knowledge itself, like data, information, understanding, and wisdom. According to several accurate and reliable dictionary definitions of the term “knowledge,” this is something that pertains to the available expertise or skills found in a particular person.

The is an expertise and skills that may differ from one another largely because these expertise and skills that comprise knowledge developed in a person as a result of a particular life experience, and an important life experience that creates and develops expertise and skills en route to creating knowledge is the experience of education (although non academic experiences are also sources of information that builds skills and expertise and in the process creates knowledge too). The exact idea and description of knowledge itself has been hotly contested for years now. The establishment of the truth of knowledge and the related aspects that is required to make knowledge a socially accepted notion has been countered and challenged. No solid flawless explanation for the definition of knowledge has been put forward. Data, on the other hand, refers to the mere collection of facts. Like knowledge, the facts collected to form idea can also originate from experience and other particular types of experience – like observing or through experimentation.

How data differs from knowledge is that data is something that acts as a tool that can be used to achieve something (i. e. finding out new information); while knowledge is the actual process that uses data to accomplish the fact-finding process. Information, on the other hand, is closely similar to data. Information differs because it pertains to something larger. Everything that the mind absorbs is information because it tells the brain something about a particular thing. Whereas, data pertains to the result of a more scientific and technical endeavor or process. How information differs from knowledge is similar to the difference of knowledge and data.

Knowledge is the actual process; the application, towards a rational undertaking, that utilizes tools, one of which can be data or information. Understanding is defined as the ability to be able to fully describe something based on its natural characteristics and parameters, knowing exactly the nature of a particular thing. Understanding differs from knowledge through the characteristic of understanding acting as a form of end-process of a thought; the mental process of knowing leads to understanding; whereas, knowledge is the use of this particular understanding to be able to accomplish or undertake another endeavor. Lastly, wisdom is a concept that sometimes overlaps with other related ideas like intelligence and knowledge.

Commonly held belief in wisdom defines wisdom as the characteristic of a particular person to be able to make a decision that is ultimately beneficial to the person or achieves the purpose for which the action is necessary. But because wisdom also includes considerations of the psychological and emotional aspects, the display of wisdom does not necessarily result to the same effect if pure knowledge or pure intelligence is applied in the same situation, largely because of the belief that wisdom is greater than knowledge and transcends other aspects related to it. Although like knowledge, wisdom is not clearly defined is still subject to debates until today.

There are many different practical applications and situations which can help a person understand what the meaning of knowledge is and how it is used, and more importantly, how it can be discerned differently from other related ideas like data, information, understanding, and wisdom. Ross and Segal (2002) explained in a discussion in the book “Breakthrough Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations” how knowledge actually works, in a way explaining what knowledge is by explaining its purpose in the psychological and mental order and processing of things. According to the authors, knowledge is the aspect of the human mind or thinking that tells the individual how to undertake particular tasks, how to go about things, how to utilize available resources – in short, knowledge comes in the form of mental ability to know how (Ross, Segal, 2002. p. 124).

“Knowledge… tells us how we’re doing or guides us in what to do (Ross, Segal, 2002. p. 124). ” To elaborate on the explanation, Ross and Segal used the experience of an airline patron as an example. According to the authors, this common everyday experience is a good example in discerning knowledge and information. The authors point to the things that the stewardees and the pilots are saying via the public address system as merely information – the speed of the airplane, the temperature, how high the airplane is flying (Ross, Segal, 2002. p. 124). Knowledge in this particular aspect comes in the form of knowing how to use the information provided.

For example, how the information on temperature can prompt fliers to adjust their clothing so that the body is protected and adjusted from the cold temperature or the warm temperature. This proves that “knowledge has meaning and a purpose (Ross, Segal, 2002. p. 124). ” Process of Knowing: Limitations, Extent, Similarities and Differences The different aspects of the human life where information, data and/or knowledge can be taken from poses similar ways of extracting information/data/knowledge, although admittedly there are some slight differences. These differences stem from the fact that each was, in some ways, different from the other especially in how information, data and/or knowledge was interpreted and understood in these particular different disciplines.

The sciences and mathematics are more closely similar compared with the rest of the fields in this discussion. Both adhere to the systematic and scientific process of information/data/knowledge extraction, using experiments, as well as other erstwhile proven data or existing available data to establish new information/data/knowledge, with the purpose of convincing the world about its universal truth and veracity so that it becomes an established, socially accepted idea. Because of what others believe as the exclusivity of the sciences and mathematics when it comes to producing real and competent information, data and/or knowledge, it has led to the polarity in beliefs.

Christopher Hookway (2000) noted in his article “Commonsense and the limits of Science” how Charles S. Pierce believed that “scientific knowledge is the only real knowledge (Hookway, 2000, p. 103). ” But it cannot be denied that the process of knowing is also affected by other aspects of human life like arts and humanities, morality and religion. This idea was supported by William James, who believed in the existence of “pluralistic universe in which different bodies of belief and different styles of inquiry can answer to different cognitive and affective needs (Hookway, 2000, p. 103). ” Information, data and knowledge is lifted from arts, humanities, morality and religion in different ways.

The arts and humanities, while employing some scientific and mathematic concepts in the process of creating artistic outputs, is focused on affecting not just the mental/rational/scientific aspect of the human psyche, but more importantly the aesthetics as well as emotional and psychological aspects of the human psyche. Because of that, the information/data/knowledge lifted in this discipline does not necessarily needs to follow the scientific process, since people can rely merely on their own personal reason and intuition to react to the output of arts and humanities, and in the process absorb information/data/knowledge. Information/data/knowledge building in morality and religion are based on the existing culture affecting a particular society.

Unlike mathematics and science, this aspect is less universal and can be confined in particular locations and be exclusive and independent with other existing beliefs and is not constrained to make its beliefs and knowledge parallel with those in other parts of the world (unlike the uniformity desired by sciences and mathematics in the pursuit of knowledge/information/data). Morality and religion are affected by the existing doctrines and subjected to the interpretation and analysis of existing leaders that develop and manages religion and morality. Like arts and humanities, the information/data/knowledge lifted from morality and religion may not be well grounded in the sciences and mathematics.

But it is, nonetheless, an important source of information/data/knowledge for a human being. The prospects in the ways of knowing in these different fields in human life, however dissimilar in some aspects, are still similar in the extent and promise of the widening of the information/data/knowledge base through the use of the sciences, the arts and humanities, mathematics and other a priori disciplines, morality and religion. This is because the process of knowing in these different aspects are all dependent on the endeavors of humans who are all still very much focused and dedicated to ever expand information/data/knowledge in their own particular field.

Similar to the parallelism of the extent of the capability of the humans for more information/data/knowledge through any and/or all of the aforementioned disciplines and social fields/institutions is the limitation for the process of knowing – limitations set by the natural mortal characteristics of the human body, limitations set by the variety in interpretation and the natural reaction for argument and the challenging of presented ideas before it becomes officially a socially shared and accepted truth. Truth and Knowledge: Are They Relative to Ones Culture? For relativists, perhaps, this is true, that truth is relative to culture (Leicester, 2000, p.

10) because they measure or discern what the culture demands to be the truth through the features of the culture. For example, for the culture to demand its truth on the idea of same sex marriage, it should feature characteristics which can be for or against this aspect, so that the people would know that the culture is imposing a particular truth in this aspect. If the culture’s notion on this is that it is wrong, it will have features – laws, religious doctrines etc – that will help people in knowing that it is wrong. Through this example, truth and knowledge is relative to culture. But sometimes, there are those who don’t care what the culture says.

When this happens, truth and knowledge cease in becoming directly relative to culture, because culture becomes a non-factor in directly discerning the truth and developing information and knowledge. These individuals should not even be considered anti-social, deviant or anti-culture for the sake of this paper’s argument. In doing, it puts the perspective of the paper in alignment with those who share the popularly held notions inside a culture, which maybe dominant and represent the majority, but nonetheless, does not immediately construe real and universal truth and incontrovertible knowledge. What can be considered closer to the truth is the proposition that the information leading to the formation of truth and knowledge socially and personally is always assisted by the culture.

While it is always up to the individual which part of the available information to pick and absorb as truth, it is always the culture that acts as the source of information for the person and for the society for them to be able to create their own notion of truth and knowledge. The answer to the question, therefore, is that it depends, because eventually what is important is what the individual mind accepts as truth and knowledge, regardless of what the culture dictates. Truth and knowledge is linked to culture, the development of which is assisted in some degree by culture, but never always relative to culture. This is the reason why some people believe there are what they call victims of dogma in practice.

They depend so much on the truth and knowledge that the culture imposes upon them and are very afraid to go against the truth and knowledge of the culture they are restricted in the black-and-white, right-and-wrong territories and are not free from exploring truth and knowledge based on their own terms as personal and independent individuals. Values in the Pursuit of Knowledge There are many different important values that a person should possess in order for the person to be successful and able in the pursuit of more new knowledge. These values, like humility, guide the person who is in pursuit of knowledge, acting like a code or guideline for the individual. Humility is important in the pursuit of knowledge. Without humility in an individual, the person cannot accept the fact that there are many things that he or she still does not know.

If the person cannot reconcile himself or herself with the fact that a person cannot assume that he or she already knows everything there is to know, then it would be difficult or even impossible for the person to undergo or experience the process of learning. Without humility to accept one’s own limitations and the presence of the lacking knowledge that still needs to be discovered by an individual, there will be no active pursuit for knowledge. Without humility to accept the fact that learning is a never ending process, the person will find contentment in what the person has for the moment, and block off any chance for new knowledge to come in.

Oehlschlaeger (2003) noted how many professionals in the field of learning has stressed the importance of humility as a value in areas where the transfer of new knowledge is present, like inside the academe, stressing that both the academicians as well as students all need several important values so that the process of knowing is made possible. “An infusion of these virtues into contemporary academics would likely promote a more communal, less competitive approach to disciplinary knowledge (Oehlschlaeger, 2003, p. 11). ” The author noted that aside from humility, other important virtues that should guide the person in pursuit of knowledge should also include “charity, faith and gratitude (Oehlschlaeger, p. 11). ” Farrakhan (1983) provided insight on why humility is important in the pursuit of knowledge.

In a message that the minister delivered, he pointed out that because of the vastness of knowledge, it cannot be exhausted and that man cannot live long enough – even at 1,000 years old – for him or her to consider that he or she lived long enough to have exhausted the knowledge available to humans and present in life, in the universe (Farrakhan, 1983). Through the presence of humility, the procedure of knowing what is already available information and knowing what is lacking is allowed to be underway. With the realization of the particular discrepancies in the stock of knowledge, the person can, therefore, allow himself/herself to move forward and undertake steps that can lead to the discovery of more information and the development of an improved set of knowledge. Humility as a value guides the careful thinker by setting the line on the differences between available information – what is true and what is not, what is not fully credible and what lacks proof to be fully true, etc.

Through the use of humility, the critical thinker is allowed the ability for careful analysis regarding the information and data he or she possess, in the process improving a person’s knowledge. Without humility, the person is prone to assuming he or she knows everything, towards assuming that everything that he or she knows is true. Besides humility and the presence of other important positive virtues, there are also other considerations that should be made in developing a code of ethics for knowledge seekers, and that would include factors that would address the possible ethical considerations and unethical breaches in the future which individuals may seek to justify through the reasoning that the actions where done in pursuit of knowledge. The Purpose of Knowledge vis-a-vis the Purpose of Human Life

Ever since the development of the cognition of man on the importance of knowledge and the need to pursue knowledge for the gains of mankind, the purpose of human life and the purpose of seeking knowledge (and the role and significance of knowledge) has always been perpetually intertwined. Individuals who are involved in the debate over the purpose and role of the human life and the purpose and role of knowledge has always wondered which of the two propositions is true – are we alive so that we can pursue knowledge, or is knowledge available so that we can live? This particular question is trying to determine which of the two is more important: the preservation of life or the pursuit of knowledge.

It seems that people are made to wonder which of the two has higher goal of human life on Earth. Is it the pursuit of more and more knowledge acting as a tool to accomplish the greater goal, which is to provide a means so that human life can continue, prolong, improve or develop? Or is it the other way around, that the greater goal ultimately is the pursuit of knowledge, and that this is made possible because of the presence of human life, rendering life’s purpose solely in the service of the pursuit of knowledge? Like many consistently intertwined things in the world, the purpose of knowledge and the purpose of life are both simultaneously important.

The pursuit of knowledge serves human life because the result of output of new knowledge always affects human life (hopefully, in a positive way all the time). Similarly, it is because through the presence of human life that the quest for or pursuit of knowledge is made possible. Rather than being intertwined as opposite or contrasting propositions, the purpose and role of both life and knowledge compliments the other, provides a vehicle for continuation for the other, in a sense, completes the other. Human life is served by knowledge, and the pursuit of knowledge is possible through human life. Charles Taylor (1992) noted John Durie’s theological and religion-based explanation on the purpose of knowledge.

According to Durie, is “to make use of the Creatures for that whereunto God has made them (Taylor, 1992, p. 232). ” This explains that knowledge allows the creatures to move and function as they are intended to be by their ethereal creator, since knowledge is a means, a tool or even a trigger to stimulate rational action. In turn, the use of knowledge by these creations, particularly by humans, allow for the development of new knowledge, which will be assimilated and integrated in the psyche of the human mental faculty and utilized. References Farrakhan. (February 16, 1983). Message delivered at Wellesley College, Boston. The Nation of Islam National Center.

Retrieved January 30, 2009, from http://www. noi. org/study/knowledge_mlft. htm Hookway, C. (2000). Pragmatism. Commonsense and the limits of Science. The Proper Ambition of Science. Routledge. Leicester, M. (2000). Moral Education and Pluralism, Vol. 4. Taylor & Francis, Inc. Oehlschlaeger, F. (2003). Love and Good Reasons: Postliberal Approaches to Christian Ethics and Literature. Duke University Press. Ross, B. and Segal, C. (2002). Breakthrough Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations: Creative Strategies for Extraordinary Results. Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. Taylor, C. (1992). Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge University Press.

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