The past few days in class, I got a chance to see what the philosophical society defined one of the ideas that I thought of in the first unit “Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry. Now when studying epistemology I can add considerable information and include new concepts to express my thoughts.
At the beginning of the course, in class, we were discussing “Truth”, which in itself is tied inextricably to epistemology. The next following days, I came to a simple conclusion. We really cannot know something to be 100% true. Absolute truth in my opinion cannot be found as long we perceive things. The moment we attempt to measure something, that “thing” changes because we are measuring it in Human terms and Human instruments. A Human Bias if you will.
Now in epistemology we can delve deeper into Truth, Belief, and Justification, and their roles in how we know things.
How I like to view of how we reach knowledge or learn in general, is by looking at the process as just that: a process. I see how we know and develop our thoughts as a assembly line, continually developing and refining raw materials and adding to the scaffolding or blueprint provided.
At the start, we must have some idea of what we want to know or would like to know. I see this as belief in epidemiological terms. Belief is defined as holding something as true in your mind despite a lack of evidence for it. The way I see it, it seems like the raw material in an assembly line. In some cases it may be sufficient. If you are a grocery store, the raw apples are enough for you. No further refinement is needed. Through this vein, belief looks to be a fundamental item in the progression of knowledge. The scientific progress that our century has enjoyed is due largely to the conjectures and beliefs of scientists who later went out and sought corroboration for their theories, or in other words refinement.
Taking all this into consideration, how do we know what we’re doing is actually refining the product? How do we know what we’re adding to our belief isn’t just more beliefs? Knowledge, if taken as belief that has been proven true through supporting evidence, is a fickle thing. True as used in the previous sentence is tricky as well.
Now going back to my opening remarks, the knowledge with which we pride ourselves with may simply be stronger beliefs stacked supporting beliefs that are less so. I think this is the case. Setting aside “what if” examples, we can truly investigate what is behind our human knowledge. On the assembly line metaphor, we cannot construct or attain raw and unbiased knowledge because the machines with which we process it are man-made. The human bias of simply observing through our organic eyes, nose, skin, tongue, and ear alters what really is there. Nothing is translated perfectly without distortion. That distortion is what accounts for the problem of knowledge.
It is often written that knowledge is “true belief”. The belief part of this is straightforward enough, but “true” is a problem. If we are defining true as the objective and ultimate truth, “true belief” and consequentially knowledge cannot actually exist, again due to the human bias.
The way I see it, however, is in terms of practicality. I pose the question: “does it even matter?” What is the use of doubting our own senses and interpretation of the different wavelengths of light flying through the air. If as long as we exist and observe, we cannot attain objective truth, why worry? Yes, it’s important to recognize that knowledge in its technical and pure form cannot be attained by us mortals, but, perhaps more importantly, knowledge as defined by our limitations is definitely possible. We must assume truth to learn and teach without doubt.