The Theory Of Knowledge Essay

1824 words - 7 pages

"That which is accepted as knowledge today is sometimes discarded tomorrow." My intuitive reaction to to the statement was one of an affirmative. Being an ardent student of natural sciences, it was immediately obvious to me how much knowledge had progressed over time. The development of technology has allowed us to widen our perception: to observe what couldn’t be observed, to hear what couldn’t be heard, and to record what couldn’t be recorded, with unprecedented precision and accuracy, producing new knowledge as a result. Even our language has adapted to express the new findings; would anyone have been able to communicate 100 chemical elements 100 years ago?

However, the area of natural sciences may be a unique area of knowledge in terms of its characteristically incessant build-up of knowledge; by contrast, for example, the area of ethics contains knowledge that some might argue is unchanging. A comparison between the two disparate areas can be analyzed in terms of three aspects: to what extent knowledge in each area is “justified”, which makes up for a third of what qualifies as knowledge; how much the knowledge is open to relativistic interpretations, especially with respect to time; and what it takes in each area to “discard” knowledge. Though caution is needed for generalizations, the most intuitive assumption is that knowledge in ethics is cyclical whilst knowledge in natural sciences is “cumulative”(Dawkins 8); which leads onto the point that knowledge is more prone to change in science. Nevertheless, there is an important distinction between to change and to discard; and due to this distinction, it is easier to discard knowledge in ethics than in the natural sciences.

But firstly, clarification is needed for the “justification” of knowledge in each area. Knowledge in science is often accepted as objective truths due to the combination of perception and reason which are used to acquire it, two methods which we trust the most. However, the scientific method, though rigorous, is far from surefire proof. Induction cannot take into account experiments we cannot perceive. In turn, perception becomes the main method we have of obtaining scientific knowledge, but Lovecraft famously said “with five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos” (46), suggesting to the very limited outlook human perception has of the truth in the world. If just our eyes were true reflections rather than sense organs working in tandem with the brain (Walpole, Merson-Davies and Dann 408), the world might become upside-down; or even better, since an atom is composed almost entirely of empty space (Contessa 53), we would most likely observe nothing at all.

The problem with limited perception can be avoided altogether if we consider knowledge in the natural sciences to be truths for us human beings only. However, if the number of interpretations of the world equated to the number of species with...

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