I know that Santa is not real. The rose-coloured glasses of childhood have lifted, and the days of eagerly awaiting a bearded man bringing bring bright, shiny packages from the North Pole are gone. I still love the beauty of Christmas, the joy and goodwill that mixes with the scents of pine and gingerbread in the air. However, the purpose of my conclusion is not related to my enjoyment of the season, but rather to my ongoing debate with the definition of knowledge.
When asked to define what knowledge is, I took my automatic first step for almost any assignment: I read the information package, the workbook, the instruction guide. For this class, I poured through the first chapter of Unit 3, Epistemology, highlighting and making notes in the margins. By the end of my reading, I found myself fixated on the topic of opinion vs. belief…vs. knowledge. If I did not know what the first two classifications of statements entailed, then how could I place anything in the category of “knowledge?”
Thankfully, I have an entire class to make the subject much more clear and totally confusing. We’ve spent the last couple days discussing the merits of knowledge, ranging from how it is formed to its place in the world of paradigms. Of course, I kept sneaking in the opinion vs. belief debate, trying to find out the right spot for my Santa statement. Many people were surprised to discover that that belief statements, according to the booklet, are distinct from opinions because beliefs “can be classified as true or false.” Now, in a world where ‘I think’ and ‘I believe’ are used interchangeably, that precise definition of belief seemed absurd and hard to apply. The Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary definition I found seemed much more appropriate, stating that belief is “the acceptance of truth or actuality of anything without certain proof.” On the other hand, the dictionary definition of opinion, or “a conclusion or judgement held with confidence, but falling short of positive knowledge,” was frustratingly similar to that of a belief.
Almost as a focus group, certain members of our class, *cough Jonathan,* synthesized these definitions into a diagram based off of the one in our booklet. I like to call it the Triangle of Statement Classification.
In this system, statements are either an opinion, an undecided belief, a false belief, or a true belief/knowledge. One cannot attempt to prove an opinion, as it is independent of reason or experience. A statement can only make its way to knowledge if it has the ability to be backed by evidence, whether that support be physical or intellectual. Purely subjective remarks based on personal preference therefore can’t move beyond the opinion stage.
Wondering where the Santa question went? Here it comes again in just a moment. See, at the belief stage, a statement can remain in the undecided realm, where the thought has neither been proven true or false, or it can be falsified, while still remaining a belief. True beliefs (and this is where the justification argument is not going to be brought in), can be lifted to the status of knowledge.
The argument against Santa is quite well supported. More precisely, the argument against the modern, western adaptation of the Christmas Eve process involving Santa is well supported. In this sense, I’m not working to disprove the existence of a person, but rather dissect the faulty event that is said to be performed by him. So many facets of the Santa story present obvious flaws, so I’ll just point out a few discrepancies that I’ve noticed:
- How can a toy be made in the North Pole and in China at the same time?
- What biological adaptation could Santa possess allowing him to exist for such a long period of time?
- How could Santa make it to every applicable child’s home in one night, especially when he must land, fill stockings, place presents, drink milk, eat cookies, and fly off?
- Why do the rich children receive a greater amount of presents with a higher monetary value than poorer children?
The reasoning involved to collapse the Santa theory is reliable, using information that is generally supported to be true (the concept of time and space etc). However, as Jonathan pointed out, severe tweaks in the Christmas tale could shift it back to the undecided position on the triangle. Or maybe, some of the truths the anti-Santa argument are based on will later be proven false by new scientific advancements.
For now though, I will remain an enlightened teen, past the years of believing in Santa but still very much invested in the Christmas spirit.