The folllowing sample essay on The Knowledge That discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
According to Plato, for one to know a proposition, one must be justified in knowing the proposition is true, the proposition must be true and one must believe in the proposition (Woolman 2000). Much of what we know and value, is justified through strong and solid reasoning and proof, such as Mathematical and scientific formulas; but a lot of significant knowledge which is believed in and seen of great importance, cannot be proven in the same way, and is justified in a very different manner.
For example, one’s belief in God is justified mainly through faith and to some extent tradition. Historical interpretations are justified through a mixture of rational facts, but also involve a lot of guess work and hypothesis. So is the knowledge justified by strong and solid reasoning and ‘proof’ valued more? In my opinion the correctness of this claim depends on the area of knowledge and way of knowing.
Strong justification in my opinion is different in different subject areas.
In maths and science, I am only prepared to accept knowledge with strong logical and empirical proofs. In other areas, such as my faith in God, that type of justification is irrelevant and meaningless. Faith is the basis of my belief that there is a God. Mathematics is the one area of knowledge where I think the most valued knowledge is that for which we can provide the strongest rational, logical, reasoned justifications.
The explanation behind this is that for mathematics, the main way of knowing is reason, and minimal sense perception, language or emotion is involved.
Mathematicians try to keep other ways of knowing down to a minimal to try to avoid ambiguity and uncertainty. A great example is Fermat’s last theorem, where even though everyone had assumed the theorem was correct, it could not be proven, therefore was not valued as much, which was shown by the small number of theorems based upon Fermat’s theorem. After a long process of reasoning a mathematician called Andrew Wilds was able to justify the theorem, after which other theorems were able to be based on Fermat’s last theorem- showing how its value increased.
This example through the 7-year ‘struggle’ Andrew Wilds went through, showed even though mathematics is based on ‘proof’ and reason, the mathematicians are humans, therefore the mathematical challenges they face have a lot emotion and connections to them, increasing the value of the knowledge they find through challenges. Areas of knowledge such as Ethics have very little reasoned ‘proof’, and justify their knowledge more through faith, belief, conscience and empathy.
This is because hardly anything in these areas of knowing can be proven exactly, instead the knowledge relates more to ones emotions, beliefs and faith- which helps explain why there are so many ambiguities and clashes of what knowledge is correct or more valuable. An example of this is Islamic Extremists (terrorists) who naively believe killing innocent people, who are supposedly ‘enemies of god’, will guarantee them going to heaven. The majority of the world, including most Muslims disagree with these extremist ideas, but the extremists’ faith has lead them to believe what they are doing is right.
I myself am a religious person, and without a doubt believe that there is a superior power among us, known as God and have. Even though this cannot be scientifically proven, I have a religious assurance, belief and faith that God exists. Faith is a unique and powerful way of knowing, lead by emotion. One’s faith and the knowledge reasoned by this faith cannot be rationally justified, but a lot of the time this is the most valued knowledge.
Another example where faith justified ones knowledge was in medieval times, when people prosecuted several innocent people as witches, predicted their future by looking at inside animals and believed Kings were naturally chosen by God. All of this knowledge had no justifications, but were purely backed up by faith, yet they were valued to extreme extents. History and ethics are very similar, but the main difference is that with History there’s more rational justification, and more willingness to change. The presence of belief and tradition is shown through how history books in various countries change.
The presence of rational justification is shown through how some facts in history never change, for example Britain ruled over Tanzania, and then Tanzania got its independence in 1962. This will not change, no matter where the history textbook is made, showing how even though a lot of historic knowledge is justified through tradition and belief; a lot of history is also justified with rational justifications, backed up with facts. In some areas of knowledge where knowledge is justified through a mixture of both strong proven justifications; and faith, belief and emotion related justifications.
These areas are similar to History, but have more rationally justified knowledge. These areas of knowledge include: social sciences and to some extent natural science. For these areas valued knowledge is usually proven and logically justified, but in addition emotion, faith and belief also play a big role. An example of a such a social science is Economics, where most of the theory is justified through strong reason; but several aspects also involve emotion and beliefs, for example if government intervention is good, is it okay to have big wealth inequalities and what type and amount of taxes are acceptable?
For natural sciences, a lot more rational justification is involved, but it’s also connected to some emotion, tradition and belief. For example in physics, there was a big dispute between scientists whether light travelled in the form of waves of particles, both theories were rationally justified through experiments and calculations; but which theory to believe depended on one’s belief. Later it was discovered light travels, as both waves and particles.
There is some knowledge which may contradict all justification, this is a very rare, but it is possible. An area where such a scenario might take place is in Fine art or Music. For example an art piece drawn by a student is criticized for its un-realistic colors, shapes of objects and lack of creativity, therefore receives a bad grade. Most people including artists would agree that the art piece is poor; but some might argue in the contrary that the piece is beautiful and original (i. . Picasso’s paintings were criticized at first). These people might be able to justify through artistic skills that the piece is not great, but they still might love it- showing how their most justified knowledge is not valued at all, but is contradicted. Similarly to fine art or music, is conscience. Our conscience tells us what’s right and wrong and helps us ‘correctly’ solve our moral issues. A lot of the time it is described as “a reflection of the voice of God”.
This is similar to fine art or music, because even though sometimes through our conscience we have justified knowledge of what’s right and wrong, we don’t value and contradict this knowledge. For example most thieves know they are wrong in stealing items or money not belonging to them, but they choose to ignore this justified knowledge, showing they have no value for it. Introspection is when one studies their own mental, emotional and sometimes physical processes (Woolman 2000). A great example of this is love, which is entirely emotional based.
This is similar to conscience or even fine art and music, because firstly knowledge by Introspection is emotion based therefore justified knowledge is valued very little, or not at all. Secondly a lot of the time knowledge and actions by introspection contradict the justified knowledge. For example a woman is in love with a man, she is aware this man is dangerous and probably will cheat and hurt her; but because she’s in love (knowledge through introspection) she marries the man.
In this example the woman has justified knowledge suggesting she shouldn’t marry the man, but she doesn’t value and contradicts this knowledge due to introspection. Even though Introspection has several similarities with the other areas, there is also something very unique. This is that the justified knowledge involved with Introspection is very different from other areas, as a lot of the time it cannot be unanimously decided upon as a lot of the knowledge is based on personal views, conscience and emotion.
In conclusion the most justified knowledge is not always the most valued knowledge, even though this is the case a lot of the time (i. e. Math formulae). The knowledge we value most depends on the areas of knowledge, ways of knowing and other personal factors such as emotion; and sometimes the most justified knowledge could be contradicted and be of least value to us.