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Do We Know What We Know?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature of knowledge and truth.  But what exactly is the nature of truth and knowledge?  In the past week, the philosophy class has been involved in heated discussions trying to unravel the mystery behind, trying to decipher the meaning of knowledge.

 It questions questions such as: What is knowledge? What does it mean for someone to “know” something? How much can we possibly know? What’s the difference between belief and knowledge, between knowledge and opinion, between knowledge and faith? How do we know that 1 + 1 = 2 or that the square root of 9 is 3? Is there an ultimate ground of knowledge, a world of absolute truths? Do we know something from reason or from direct observation, or from a little of both? But no one can “observe” 1 + 1 = 2, so how do we know that the statement (or formula) is true? What is truth? Is truth absolute or relative? Is an object of knowledge a construction of the mind?

For centuries, what we believed to be true or to be knowledge comes from mutual agreements of the society – meaning that us, humans conclude the definition of truth for the population.   But as we are moving towards a more self-opinionated society, does that mean early foundation of “knowledge” will be shaken?  A blog post I happened to run upon, The Medium is the Message, contrasts the different stages of knowledge from history to today.  From past to present, humans have been exposed to varying ways of obtaining information and developing the “truth” from it; changing ever so slightly as it flows with the altering societal values.  So then what happens to the knowledge foundation our ancestors have set down?  Does that change accordingly?  Then what does knowledge and truth mean if they change?

No doubt, I completely understand that I don’t understand what knowledge is.  Like the baby in the picture, the more I think, the more confused I get.  What exactly is knowing when you don’t really know that you know?  Hopefully Philosophy 12 could bring some light into this complex topic of epistemology.



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