Theory of Knowledge Essay – Philosophy
For over the millennia, philosophers have questioned whether knowledge exists and if we know anything at all. The product from uncertainty is the theory of knowledge. It is actually quite hard to define knowledge; the dictionary defines knowledge as general awareness or possession of information, facts, ideas, truths, or principles but philosophers define knowledge as a belief which is in agreement with the facts. A belief is generally defined as acceptance by the mind that something is true or real, often underpinned by an emotional or spiritual sense of certainty. The question is do we know what a fact is and what sort of parallel corresponds these two? This is the difference between “I am certain” and “it is certain”.
When we say “I am certain”, we already know who the subject is: it is I. When we say “it is certain”, who or what is the subject? “I am certain” generally relates to a belief. You can be certain on something like “I am certain that I will win the race” but someone else may hold that to be false because they say the same thing. There is like tug-of-war between the two’s thoughts but whoever wins the war doesn’t mean their certainty is higher than anyone else’s belief. So who will win the race? What if someone else, who didn’t have that belief won, and then wouldn’t your belief be shattered? “I am certain” makes one feel better. It is mostly bias and are opinionated predictions based on numerous factors like emotion, spiritual sense, life experiences, etc. because the subject is I. Humans are known to be selfish and greedy throughout history. The degree of certainty is very low and therefore it is not trustworthy.
What about “it is certain”? We don’t know who the subject is in this statement. ‘It’ could be anything from news to time. Depending on the subject and the statement proposed, the degree of certainty varies. If the subject was news, we couldn’t trust everything we read. When the Apollo 11 made the first landing on the moon in 1969, it was world news and everyone held that to be true for decades. In the middle of the 1990s, people started to question whether this was a hoax or not. When the bombing of the World Trade Center happened on September 11, 2001, there were photos and thousands of eyewitness accounts to reinforce the statement “it is certain”. We could be certain there is an attack on that day because eyewitness accounts exceed the numbers on the Apollo 11 mission by couple of thousand times. Therefore the level of certainty is higher. “It is certain” is based on factors like environment, eyewitness accounts, evidence, etc. The level of certainty is higher than that of “I am certain”.
Since fact is undefined at this point, what do we need for a knowledge claim to be held valid? Conviction is used by everyone everyday for a knowledge claim. Conviction also has a twist and turn and knowledge claims made by convictions changes over time. When teachers teach, they use their authority to implicate to the students that their teachings are true. Their authority is their conviction. Students will believe their teachers until they reached a new conclusion from something more convincing. Since absolute truth doesn’t exist in this dimension, we might as well believe anything that looks convincing to us. Nothing is fixed and doubt will always be with us. People will believe anything that looks convincing. For example, the landing on the moon looked convincing enough so people believed NASA but over the decades, their conviction was doubted and some people no longer held that to be valid.
Accepting passionate, personal belief as knowledge is easy for oneself because the origin of the belief comes from you. For someone else to take in your personal beliefs, they consider many factors such as seriousness, possibility, levels of conviction, etc. first before accepting it. If someone says “I can eat five cheeseburgers for dinner” you may actually find that convincing because it is possible versus someone who says “I can eat fifty cheeseburgers” then you might not believe them. If someone were talking to you about their religion then you might find it hard to believe them because you have more faith in your own religion. Faith and self-confidence also play key roles in determining acceptations of personal beliefs. If someone has low self-confidence and little faith in their own beliefs, then they are more likely to believe someone else. If someone has strong faith and high self-esteem, then they have a strong barrier against invasion.
Knowledge is still being researched and explored by many today. There are different levels of certainty for a belief. All beliefs are bias though and nothing in this world is pristine. People find something to be true if it looks convincing enough to them. Truth has many forms, but none in which we can see with our naked eye.