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Reflections on Knowing, Knowledge, and the Knower: How is Knowledge Gained?

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What is knowledge? Is it the information on the back of a book or the common notion that the sky is blue or at least a hue in that spectrum. Is it a physical entity in another dimension that grows every time a human has a culminating thought or revelation, or is it the small voice in our head guiding us and telling us what’s right versus what’s wrong. According to the Oxford living dictionaries “knowledge is facts information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”. Knowledge is information or experience gained by knowledge of a fact or circumstance. How is knowledge gained? What are the sources? To what extent might these vary according to age, education or cultural background? How does it vary between shared and personal knowledge?

Knowledge is ultimately gained through interaction and human instinct. All knowledge from either the complex scientific field of quantum physics to a basic greeting is gained through interaction. Yes, there are some basic human instincts that aren’t learned from interaction with others but rather interaction with yourself. An example of this can be the basic human need to urinate. How does a child know how to urinate? Does someone command the child to urinate, no, the child will urinate on its own because his or her body tells him or her to do so? The exchange of knowledge can be gained through interactions between humans and between humans and other species. How would one know that a cat goes meow and a bird goes chirp? By interacting with them. Not obvious interactions that are official that start and end in a conversation but rather simple observations. The saying “monkey see, monkey do” the same applies to humans if a child were to see a cat lick himself, the child wouldn’t start licking him/herself but maybe imitate the cat to a degree (most likely by sticking his/her tongue out).

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Another example of how humans learn from different species are dogs or wolves. When nomads ran the earth some were accompanied by a wolf, wolf’s are not only are good hunters, they track and are able to find efficient paths with only their noses. Some nomads have a wolf in order to follow it through mountains through the safest route possible. The only way these nomads would have been able to learn from this is through observation. This hasn’t stopped people individuals today, in the technological boom that occurred in the 2000’s most technology was inspired by other species. Most knowledge is gained through the four sources; perception, memory, consciousness, and reason.

“The sources of Knowledge” this term was coined by the American Philosopher Robert Audi. Perception is the ability to see, hear or become aware of something through the senses, an example the knowledge that it’s cold or hot in a certain environment, that is gained through sense. Memory is the faculty of how the mind remembers and stores information, an example of knowledge gained through memory is when someone remembers that they don’t like broccoli (most likely when eating through perception and then in the future when seen, which triggers the memory.) Consciousness is the state of being awake and aware on one’s surroundings, an example of this knowledge can be attained through this is when you’re aware of a person’s presence, through perception and logic. The reason is the explanation or justification of an action or event. An example of this is the reason behind physics and why objects are made of atoms and not dots. However it all depends on the individual, knowledge from each individual can be perceived differently depending on the individuals; age, education, or cultural background. A child might perceive death as a temporary state or might not fully comprehend what it actually means, however, an adult might view death as a permanent state and therefore will be emotionally affected more so then the child. This example can also be used in a workplace setting; a man that has been working 30+ years working in the same company, accepts the company’s functions as they are, his perception of the company is the same. However, if we introduce a younger worker into the same worker because of the younger workers age he or she might have a different perspective of the company’s functions, most likely the younger worker would make them more efficient.

Educations make individuals perceive things differently, in a corrupt government an individual would accept things for they are and assume that’s how the world work, but a more educated individual would know why the government was corrupted and maybe how to resolve the corruption. Cultural background also plays a role in how individuals see society. This very much relates to racism, its issues, how it began and more. Not only racism but, xenophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, colorism and more. How does the ability to gain knowledge affect what we know and what I know? Often times when we think of shared and personal knowledge we think of: what “I know?” and what “we know?” If we create a list of things that we know, the list would go on and it’s most likely that the majority of the things on the list are shared knowledge (this could include, course knowledge, latest trends, the most recent memes, etc.).

Shared knowledge is able to travel across cultures, languages and be passed down to future generations. I may have personal knowledge such as ‘earth is flat’ but then that could be shared knowledge amongst a group of flat-earthers. I may not know how to explain string theory but others may be able to. If the initial phrase ‘I know’ turns into ‘I know how to …’ or ‘we know how to …’ then together we could explain string theory. The ability to gain knowledge affects how I or others can help other individuals understand my personal knowledge or more complicated shared knowledge.

In closing, knowledge is awareness gained from experience. This knowledge can be gained from interactions with other fellow humans or other species. Knowledge can be obtained from; perception, memory, consciousness, and reason. However, knowledge can be perceived from different perspectives that can be affected by age, education or cultural background. Knowledge can be shared in order to help other individuals understand a concept of knowledge or to simply unite people under a common belief.

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