Tuesday, August 16, 2011

1)Should a knower´s point of view be considered an asset in the pursuit of knowledge or an obstacle to overcome?

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I believe that a knower�s point of view is relative. Therefore I think that it should be taken into account as an asset as well as an obstacle to overcome when pursuing knowledge. On one hand it should be considered an asset since it presumably is the opinion of someone familiar with the subject in topic, someone who has studied it deeply and knows a lot about it. I believe it could be helpful for people who aren’t as well prepared, as the knower is, to consider this person’s point of view in order to expand their knowledge in such matter. On the other hand I think that this knowledge should be analyzed and not taken as a universal truth. People should be able to take this knowledge into account, trying to obtain from it a personal opinion, but not being determined by the knower�s point of view. It is important for sources to be considered as ways of obtaining knowledge, but is as important to question them in order to really obtain it.

There are many ways and many sources to consider in the acquisition of knowledge and all of them can be thought of as reliable, at least to some extent. Science for example is considered by our western civilization as an extremely reliable source and is sometimes not questioned by regular citizens who blindly believe in it. Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses; I personally think that nowadays we could (to some extent) consider that science, because of its accuracy, strength and reliability, has a similar impact to the one Marx saw in religion at his time. Everything is and should be doubted, if in the past science had been unquestioned we would probably continue to believe that the earth is flat.

Concerning the knower we might say it represents a source of knowledge in the form of authority. This particular person is known for being an expert in his area and his opinion is highly estimated by others and therefore is usually thought of as true. Authority is a commonly respected and undoubted source since it has in its favour the factor of pressure, which can be direct or indirect. When someone we respect or think as wise establishes something as true, we are subconsciously influenced to believe in it. An example of this is a psychological experiment, which was held in order to prove the strength of authority. A group of science students were given instructions from their teacher in order to accomplish an experiment that consisted in combining some gases. The combination of these led to a big explosion. Even though a large majority of the students knew or at least suspected the reaction of this specific combination they had so much respect and credibility towards their teacher that they were actually going to do the experiment. From this example I can deduct as I already mentioned that people should consider knowers as a reliable source but not be blinded by them and keep thinking by themselves in order to reach their own truth and acquire knowledge.

Sometimes although we respect a person’s opinion deep inside we feel that what they are saying is not entirely correct. Instincts and emotions are other ways of acquiring knowledge and as in any source they don’t always lead to truth but should also be taken into account. Blaise Pascal says, “The heart has reasons Reason does not know”. Sometimes things that seem irrational are true, feelings may be stronger than reason and knowledge can be acquired from them. Reason is another path that can lead to knowledge or truth. Sometimes although a knower establishes something as true if we don’t think it makes sense, if it’s not reasonable we won’t accept it as such.

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Authority, represented in this case by the knower, is an extremely strong source. It’s difficult to stand up for something you believe when someone who supposedly knows everything about the subject says that something is true even if you are sure and can prove it isn’t.

I think that the area of knowledge of the knower is something to evaluate as well. I believe there might be a difference in credibility depending on the area of knowledge in concern. In first place there is a difference if the subject being considered is part of an area you already are familiar with or know about. It definitely is easier to defend something you believe in when you have the knowledge to back it up that when it is something you know little about. In second place some areas of knowledge can be more questionable than others since some can be considered more subjective and others more objective. The kind of experience the knower needs to have achieved in order to transmit it to others depends on the area of knowledge he knows about. It is of extreme importance the experience of the knower and the way he transmits it to others. Concerning this and referring to an area such as art Simone de Beauvoir says that in order to transmit something to others you have to understand them and better still be a part of them. “In order for the artist to have a world to express he must be first situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men”. I think this statement can be applied to art as to other areas of knowledge.

The importance of the areas of knowledge is considerable and due to the subjectivity they may posses. It is different when someone is trying to transmit knowledge in an area like Mathematics that when the area expressed is one like Ethics. Mathematics is more objective and precise and its knowledge is therefore easier to transmit. Ethics is definitely a more complicated area since it is very subjective and personal, everyone has their own truth and although there might be certain believes that seem to be universal in the end it is up to the person and its own consciousness.

People sometimes seem to think that some areas of knowledge are trustworthier than others. I personally believe that all areas of knowledge are different and that some are more reliable for certain things than others and vice versa. Bertrand Russell for example establishes that “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” On the other hand Einstein says “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.” I must agree with Einstein since I believe that some things can be better explained by science and that other things can be better explained by other means like emotions, reason or experience.

There is another issue that should be considered, I believe that we can assume that when speaking of acquiring knowledge we are also speaking of acquiring truth. When speaking of truth the first thing we must establish is what truth is. There are different theories concerning this matter, Nietzsche, for example, with his theory of perspectivism says that there is no such thing as a universal truth and that everyone has their own beliefs and there own truth. There are other theories, like Plato’s, that establish that there is a universal truth and that we live in an imperfect world where we can’t find it, at least not easily. If we stick to Nietzsche’s point of view we would probably consider that the knower�s point of view is not reliable since his world is different, his realities are different and therefore his truth is of no use for the pursuer. If we consider theories like Plato’s we may believe that the knower is a source to take into account because it might get us closer to the essence, to the truth.

In conclusion I believe that a knower�s point of view is something to take into consideration and evaluate deeply. I think that in order to acquire knowledge we must question the source in many aspects and we must be able to distinguish which one should be use for different instances. A knower�s opinion may be an asset or an obstacle when pursuing knowledge depending on many factors, like the area, the veracity of the knower and our own opinion of him. In order to reach the truth we can’t rely only on one source but try to acquire the best from all of them.

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