Now I loved this unit. “Epistemology”. It’s even a cool word to say. Plus learning and knowledge are something that students often think about after being immersed in the world of school for six or more hours every day. Now, when I was trying to decide what I was going to write about I wasn’t sure what to do. There were so many things that had fascinated me and narrowing it down to one seemed difficult. After much deliberation I decided on conscious and unconscious knowledge. Another way of explain this is: what we know we know vs. what we don’t know but we know.
Now I understand that that is confusing and definitely not even close to perfect but it managed to help me sort through the topic. The “what we know we know” is the conscious knowledge. We have access to it at all times and we generally have a good idea of what it contains. The “what we don’t know but we know” is our unconscious knowledge. Although we technically possess the knowledge, our brain somehow can’t explain to us why we know this information and the limits to our knowledge.
Now, I have always wondered how it is possible for me to know something but to not really have access to it. For example if you ask a young child how they are able to catch a ball, they will probably just look at you really confused. They can catch a ball because they, well, can just catch a ball. Even if you ask me today, I will still not have a proper understanding. I might remember enough from a science class to recite back a generic response but my conscious mind will never be able to fully understand or process what my unconscious mind knows. A quick clarification is that unconscious knowledge is essentially the equivalent of instinctual knowledge. It still has to be processed by our brain and acts quite similarly to conscious knowledge but the connections are processed faster.
Now, some of my questions include, when did we acquire this knowledge? As young children did our unconscious brains secretly learn something that our conscious brain could not understand? And to expand on that, how much does our unconscious know that our conscious does not? Can we ever truly measure it? And does that mean that there isn’t a maximum amount of knowledge.
I was reading a very interesting blog post that says that conscious knowledge can become unconscious with experience, so essentially repetition is key. To go further with that you can essentially control your future instincts (unconscious knowledge) by thinking of what you want enough. Now this would lead me to believe that all of my instincts have been conscious knowledge at some point in my life. But what about instincts that have been passed down as humans evolved. We were never directly thought about that although it is possible to pick up on things that others do. Expanding that, what about children who show extraordinary abilities as young children in fields such as music, art, science and math. It has been speculated that when we are born we already possess subconscious knowledge but this is impossible to test. It is believed that unconscious knowledge is passed down by DNA but again this is fairly impossible to test.
Although this has not yet been proven there are a number of researchers and scientists who believe in this and say that theories about deep DNA memories cannot be ruled-out. If so, then it could be possible to access an ancestor’s memories and learn from their mistakes. Although we will never know if this is true it is altogether possible that our subconscious knowledge already has information about the dangers of life before we are even born. If so, then can we truly say that young children have an open mind and no preconceptions if their mind can already sense dangers?
Epistemology was an excellent unit and although I have not yet answered all my questions (with every question that I answer I discover at least two more questions), I hope to continue to think and reflect on them because although I do not believe in one universal truth, I believe that I can hopefully come close one day to achieving my own truth.
Since most of the questions that I’ve answer have many different answers, feel free to try to answer them yourself in the comments section.