Philosophy -210: Appearance vs. Reality

What is knowledge? How do we come to have knowledge? What are the different sources of knowledge? How do we know anything at all? The philosophers and theories I will cover here are not concerned with knowledge itself but how we actually gain knowledge. How do we gain knowledge? Are we born with it? How do we know what we’ve learned is real. That is some of the questions these philosophers try to answer with their theories on knowledge. But do we agree or disagree with them? That is the question.

Introduction. Before we begin discussing philosophers and their theories we must have a basic understanding of Epistemology which is the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of knowledge and belief. There are two schools of thought in epistemology, rationalism and empiricism. Empiricists like Bertrand Russell and David Hume believe that sense experience is the ultimate starting point for all knowledge and that knowledge is obtained from experience only. But yet rationalist like Rene Descartes claimed that the ultimate starting point for all knowledge is not the senses but reason and that knowledge can only be obtained through logic and reasoning.

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Philosophy is not a waste of time! It is a way to open new doors within one’s mind. (Bertrand Russell. ) Bertrand Russell’s essay on appearance versus reality attempts to do just that and open one’s mind to considering how things we see are not really as they seem. Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable person could doubt it? Bertrand Russell circa (1872-1970) page. 73-77 & page. 82 – 86. Russell believed that all knowledge is ultimately derived from our sensory perceptions of the world around us. Russell coined the term “sense data” in his attempt to discern the relationship between appearance and reality.

Sensory data is how an individual would perceive things based on touch, smell, taste, sight, or auditory stimulation. Can it not be manipulated? If an individual is under the influence of alcohol or drugs is there sensory information not impaired by the effects of both. I believe the point Russell is trying to make is that what is real to us may not be real at all. But do you agree with him. What would his counter parts think of his theories? Would Descartes agree? What about Hume. Rene Descartes circa (1596-1650) page. 87-91 Descartes believed that pure reason is the most reliable form of knowledge, he was a rationalist.

He did not believe that the information gained through our senses was reliable and that our senses could be deceived. He doubted the reliability of sense perception and believed that knowledge could only be obtained through the methodical application of reason. With that said, what would Descartes’s think of Bertrand Russell’s theories regarding how knowledge is obtained? Would Russell’s theories conflict with his own? * I believe Descartes would challenge Russell’s theories by arguing that you could not rely solely on sensory information in order to gain knowledge.

Descartes would say that we experience sensory stimulation while sleeping therefore we cannot only rely on sensory input as the only form of learning. He would claim that certain things in the universe are naturally constant and not open to interpretation or manipulation. III. David Hume circa (1711-1776) page 108-117 David Hume believed that all human knowledge is based on relations amongst ideas or what he called sense impressions, and that knowledge depends entirely on the evidence provided by our senses. Therefore anything not given an experience is a mere invention and must be discarded.

He believed that human reason or inquiry could be divided into two categories, relations of ideas and matter of fact. As with Russell, Hume was an empiricist. He was more concerned about what and how we know and not with what is actually the case. Although Hume and Russell differed in their philosophical theories I believe they would agree with one another to an extent. Conclusion I can’t say I disagree with any one of the philosophers theories referenced in the text. In fact I personally believe that you have to apply all of their theories in order to gain knowledge.

We do learn from example and from experience, but yet some things can’t be explained by logic and reasoning. Are babies not born hungry? If they are born with no knowledge how do they know they’re hungry. I believe in order to truly gain knowledge you must keep an open mind to all possibilities and forms of learning.

Works Cited

“Bertrand Russell. ” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/russell/>. Cahn, Steven M. Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print. “David Hume. ” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/hume/>. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ” Hume, DavidA []. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www. iep. utm. edu/hume/>. “Online Research in Philosophy. ” Steven M. Cahn (ed. ), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://philpapers. org/rec/CAHEPA>. “Rene Descartes. ” Rene Descartes. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www. renedescartes. com/>.

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