Philosophy of Knowledge - Philosophy Essay Example

Philosophy of Knowledge



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            According to Ayn Rand, who articulated this philosophy in the middle of the 20th century:

            “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own   happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute” (quoted from Quine, 1978).

            A lot of philosophical points of view are undeniably conceptual and theoretical. However, it also accurate to say that philosophy is at times very tangible and realistic as well. As a matter of fact, I choose to say that there are lots of specific answers to most philosophical problems. In philosophy there are many ways of digging into the nuances of the questions and then trying to explain them in various ways. Despite this reality, many times there is this somewhat sense of mystery. Because of this, philosophy sets itself apart from science, it seems like there is always something which remains mysterious.

Definition of Terms

            Based on Webster’s definition, knowledge is “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association”. In reality, though, there are lot probable, similarly credible meanings of knowledge. A commonly used explanation of knowledge is “the ideas or understandings which an entity possesses that are used to take effective action to achieve the entity’s goal(s). This knowledge is specific to the entity which created it” (Tramel, 2002).

            Polanyi describes knowledge as “organic.” By that, he meant that in itself, knowledge has life and life implies growth. Consequently, with growth comes change. For Polanyi, knowledge is infinite, it is not restricted or limited and therefore, it is not final. However, this means for Polanyi, that knowledge is not the absolute because of this characteristic trait. Whether we agree with this or not, at this point any person may think this as immaterial. This fundamental nature of knowledge, what we may term as “organicism”, includes “ontological, epistemological, and teleological implications for education, as well as embodies an ethos for knowing” (source: Polanyi, 1974)


            A comprehension of knowledge entails some grip of its association to information. In day to day speech, it has long been the exercise to make a distinction between information — data set in meaningful arrangements — and knowledge which has traditionally been considered as something that is understood, that is factual (for realistic knowledge, that brings about an effect) and that is unfailing.  In modern times, hypothetical oppositions to the notion of truth (e.g. by post-modernists) or to that of consistency (e.g. by positivists) have led to some vague impression of the difference.

            The transposable use of information and knowledge can be mystifying if it is not made clear that knowledge is being utilized in a novel and extraordinary substance, and can seem deceitful insofar as the purpose is to affix the status of (true) knowledge to simple information.  It also is likely to hide the reality that while it can be tremendously effortless and fast to transport information from one area to another, knowledge is sticky: it is a lot complicated and time-consuming to transfer knowledge from person to another.

            In evaluating efforts to identify knowledge it can be beneficial to bear in mind that the human mind has many times been seen as proficient of two types of knowledge — the rational and the intuitive.  In the West, perceptive knowledge has often been undervalued in accord with logical systematic knowledge, and the elevation of science has even led to assertions that perceptive knowledge is not really knowledge at all.

            Nevertheless, acknowledgment of the complexities intrinsic in transmitting knowledge from one person to another has been likely to emphasize the magnitude of implicit knowledge e.g. notably in the writings of Polanyi (1974), and Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995).  In an attempt to differentiate knowledge from mere information, some Western specialists have attempted defining “knowledge” as wholly tacit (i.e. as capacity in action), thus relegating what others have deemed as exact knowledge to sheer information (Sveiby).  In the East, the custom has been to commemorate the significance of the intuitive, in contrast to the rational. The Upanishads for example talk about a higher and a lower knowledge, and link lower knowledge with the different sciences.

            Chinese thinking has stressed the harmonizing character of the intuitive and the rational and has characterized them by the representative pair yin and yang. Discussions about the definition of knowledge have remained for thousands of years, and appear to persist for some time to come. The definition of knowledge is an animated contest for philosophers. The classical meaning, originated in Plato, has it that in order for there to be knowledge no less than three criteria must be satisfied; that in order to be accepted as knowledge; a statement must be warranted, factual, and understood. Some assert that these stipulations are not adequate and there are a number of options anticipated, including Robert Nozick’s point of view for the prerequisite that knowledge  ‘trails the truth’ and Simon Blackburn’s supplementary condition that we do not desire to say that those who meet any of these stipulations ‘through a defect, flaw, or failure’ have knowledge. Richard Kirkham proposes that our definition of knowledge necessitates that the believer’s confirmation is such that it reasonably requires the truth of the belief.

            On the other hand, I define knowledge as a relation linking two or more ideas, where concepts are intellectual matters. But these ideas do not survive apart from a ‘conceptualizer’, a smart being. Thus human knowledge is slanted and has no complete meaning. Nonetheless, we may assume the existence of an all-knowing, everlasting, faultless God who acts as an absolute model of knowledge and truth, and although there are many bases to do this we must acknowledge that any meaning of an absolute standard is both subjective and rationally capricious.

            We are attempting to communicate the concept that knowledge has a diverse type of existence than the material. Because even if we permit that the material has a being separate from intelligence, we cannot speak the alike for knowledge. Knowledge is especially to a great extent akin to sound and color. As the tree falls in the forest it is understood to create plenty of sound waves, however if there is no organism close at hand skilled of hearing, then it creates no sound. Similarly, when light mirrors an entity it gives off distinguishing wavelengths of light, except that neither the object nor the light is colored in themselves. Color is present in the intellect of the perceiver. Color and sound are the brain’s system of creating meaning out of peripheral signs picked-up by our sensory organs. At the same time, knowledge ceases to exist exclusive of a knower, and there is no such object as “unknown” knowledge.

            Is truth and knowledge relative to one’s culture? No, truth and knowledge are not relative to one’s culture. Since there is such a thing as absolute truth, (and that all true knowledge is derived from that absolute truth) knowledge then that truth is applicable to any and beyond any culture. If there is no absolute truth, then this world will become a complete chaos. It’s just good that true knowledge exists and that it comes from the Absolute truth.

            For example, if there is no point of reference pertaining to movement, one cannot know how fast or how slow one’s movement is. If you are passing through trees or posts along the road, the movement of those trees/posts is your point of reference. Anybody passing through the same road regardless of race has the same point of reference. In this case, the trees/posts, which we are using as example, are the absolute truth. You don’t have to comply or adjust to the culture of a particular group or people in order for you to know whether you are moving or not. Everybody accepts the same standard. This is one example of absolute truth. To say that there is absolute truth overruling everybody’s behavior is to say that regardless of nation, race, or culture, we live alongside each other.

            We confront more than a few challenges in answering the cynicism of our postmodern civilization. Is knowledge probable? Can we beyond doubt really know? What are the confines of our knowing? I will try to answer very carefully the preceding questions.  Straightforwardly speaking, yes, humility is needed in the quest for knowledge. The primary reason is our finiteness. Acknowledging our limitations is, in itself, knowledge.

            It is important that as we pursue the things we want to discover, we are confronted with the reality that no matter how huge amount of knowledge we amass in the process, still, as individuals, the knowledge that we will have gained, is only part of a large whole. Humility is an attitude of the mind which acknowledges one’s self without any imagination of grandeur. It prepares us to be able to concede that there are vast sources of knowledge yet that we need to know.

            The first restriction on our knowledge is our finiteness. It is essential that we grow in knowledge; yet because we are finite, even if we may reach the point where we might be able to say, “I have filled myself with all the learning a person could ever get,” but because of our “limited nature,” what we have accumulated are nonetheless incomplete – or else, we are infinite.

            Knowledge entails diligence, effort, and hard work. We all have an inadequate quantity of specific skills or talents. Regardless of how much schooling we have obtained or diligence we have invested, many of us will never do skillfully at math or music! I may be the best in speech or sports, but it does not follow that automatically, I’ll be the best in other fields. So aside from knowing the fact that we have incomplete knowledge of things, we also cannot, no matter our attempt at it, do something for which only some people are gifted with.

            Keep in mind though, that traditions and conventions of learning in any discipline are constantly changing. As we study and learn the basics, new horizons are shaping and the fundamentals of many branches of sciences are expanding. Consequently, change is always possible and hence, constant redefinition of concepts is probable. This is the very nature of knowledge; it is continuously evolving. Not that things are constantly changing but rather our perception of those very things is expanding. We come closer and closer to the full comprehension of the many things being explored.

            In the case of learning some particular objects, some can be studied and understood by experiencing them. We can come only with an accurate knowledge of some things through our experience of them.  A table, anywhere in the world, is recognized as such since everyone learned to identify a table from childhood. It has been a part of their day to day experience at home. Another example is teaching profession; a professional teacher developed his/her skills not solely in academic precincts. Teaching can be learned by engaging ourselves in it and by doing it utilizing our intellectual faculties as well as our physical equipment (reading, writing, speaking, thinking, and listening). A teacher masters his/her teaching better as he/she goes through the “classroom experience.”

            All publications employed in learning (textbooks, articles, and other resources) are only tools, and assumed to be containing the basics for a particular course – essentials to jumpstart exploration into a field and subject. No one knows everything and nobody can know all there is that needs to be known about a field; hence, we approach the field and the subject matter with a certain kind of attitude – as a community of learners. The teacher acts as guide in this community of learners, helping students appreciate the learning process as they learn the subject. The teacher also guides the students to see their needs and their specific part in undertaking the journey education. Being the mentor to the students, it is the work of the teacher to provide the basis for the subject matter on which students can expand the information and the available knowledge, as well as open opportunities for students where they can pursue their areas of interests.

            On the part of the students, they must learn to involved themselves by adjusting and accommodating themselves to become part of the bigger community of learners/scholars and take part in the process of the knowledge-making of a particular area of learning by joining the class ready with thought-through questions related to the data at hand and their own sphere of interest. They should risk their ideas to a bigger group of critics beyond the four walls of the classroom.

            Learning for the sake of learning is the ideal course every student must take. It is assumed that it takes all of our lifetime to continue to be “students.”  What we have in mind is not acquiring or achieving something (e.g. a grade); rather the reward comes from the appreciating that we are able to grasp ideas; there is insight, there is awareness of a certain discipline or aspect of that discipline and how we as students or learners is suited in that field. As a whole, accordingly, we throw in something (big or small) to the wider scope of learning and to the world. Those truly knowledgeable are not individuals who commit to memory numerous informations or their ability to quote passages, but they are they who appreciate what those information and data are and what those materials signify within a bigger context.

The Knowledge Seeker

            This is one way of developing a code of ethics for a knowledge seeker. Many of us have partial mental aptitude, varying from individual to individual, even in matters of our talents. In addition, our knowledge is confined in time and space (Stolnitz, 1965). Is specific knowledge available to us, because of factors such as the time or period in which were born, and the place where we reside? I believe it is so. An infant may have the potential to be as genius as Beethoven, but because of economic restraints he/she was born in, accessibility to necessary musical instruments which are needed to develop the skills early in that infant’s life becomes impossible. The finiteness of our frame tells us that we are limited in many respects (Myers & Myers, 1995).

             Life is indeed significant and yet very fragile. We are shaped by circumstances and moved by people who have the power to persuade us. What we know and how we understand things are vital. The Holy Book says that “people perish for lack of knowledge.” That is so true. Our knowledge, what we think, perceive, directs our courses of action. Little by little, all that cumulative stuff creates a worldview, and worldviews dictate our lifestyle, our decision-making processes (Reany, 1998). With these thoughts human life has significance, has meaning. I have significance, so do the rest of humanity in this very small planet. That dictates my code of ethics when dealing with others whom I co-exist with.

            Knowledge therefore equates life. Knowledge causes us to appreciate what ought to be appreciated and reject that which should be rejected-the evils of this world. But without knowledge we can never discern evil from good. The effects can be cataclysmic at times. Nobody can afford that. So everybody should go for knowledge!


            Philosophy and the thirst of knowledge evidently, carries with it an allegiance to the conviction that self-knowledge ought to be an aspiration of disciplinary and personal growth and development. Because of the plethora of discoveries and inventions, there had seemed to be a pervasive atmosphere that the world out there no longer contains any mysteries.

            Conversely, each one of us has to consider what is evident. In this life, we just don’t simply exist. There must be a purpose, and every person must strive to discover what that is. Our lifelong inquiry is “What is our purpose?”  Many of humanity have stopped to consider what that is; or simply accept what they think as fact: that we are here as ornamentation of creation. A mentality like that would be downright silliness and mendacity, because it has been demonstrated that the universe does not even need or want our aid.

            The very heart of universe is established on the framework that it is human less. For the reason that animals that have become extinct are the by products of our way of life. In cases such as these, we ask ourselves up to what limit is our role and responsibility in this life. Moreover, we fear what we don’t know and we think of whether this makes us insignificant in the midst of a big universe. Many people fear that obedience and compliance is required from us by somebody we don’t see.

            Herein is one big struggle of every human. In the claims of Christianity for instance, a lot of people see the faith that Christianity postulates as giving allegiance to an “unseen myth.” There is a likelihood that those who articulate this phrase say it because of what is required in people to believe in ultimate unseen God. It is quite difficult because what is required is accountability and responsibility.

            One of the hardest things any human finds him/herself doing is taking responsibility for his deeds. If we were given the option, not one of us will hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes or our choices gone awry. If I committed abortion, for example and realized that I just took a person’s life, one of my own, I would tend to suppress those guilty feelings inside, deny that I even did what I did or if someone confronts me, to justify what I did with rationalizations like “I didn’t kill a person but a blob, a fetus.” Such is our plight because knowledge of accountability to a higher Person defines our boundaries. We can either resort to abandoning the idea of God to whom everyone is accountable, or conforming/obeying to the demands of that God.

            As a result, when we choose the former, we as beings reject our own purpose, yielding to conditions or situations such as self-repudiation, cutting, anorexia, owing to our belief that we don’t have a purpose and don’t have reasons to exist. I believe that when we abandon our purposes in this context we also cease to be content, for it is only there that we find our happiness. This world doesn’t want us, and the only probable response is that someone higher wants us here.

            We cannot help but recognize that each person has a philosophy of life. And we may acknowledge this or not, recognize this at times but the fact remains our philosophy affects our conduct, influences our work and our values. They say that “nothing is as practical as a well established way of life.” Philosophy is plainly the manner one sees circumstances and events. Philosophy is founded upon our accumulation of ideas, perception of our world and our opinions on all things gathered from the length of our life’s experiences.  It will ascertain my belief, choice and behavior.

            My personal philosophy directs the choices I face with in my daily life and in my work. It also dictates about why I relate with a variety of people. It even enables me to aid others in developing a sound philosophy of life. This philosophy simply sets the goals I want to accomplish and the preferences I have in my life’s journey. Without establishing these things, it may incur drastic consequences much like going through a road without determining first where I was going.

            Because I understand that I must develop a sound philosophy in life, this reality is grounded on the issue of knowledge about oneself. Unless I consider that I have to actively chart a clear and easily understood philosophy of life, I would just be trotting around without ever knowing whether I am near my destination. Simply, this is due to the fact that I may not really be interested to know where I am exactly going. So whatever thing I would be doing, it is vital that I am resolute or committed on the goals I have set.

            In addition, my personal philosophy is revealed through the code of ethics. Ethics essentially tells us what is the correct thing to do and what is wrong thing to do. An individual’s code of ethics consists of personal goodness and truthfulness. It includes a straightforward tenet which makes possible the determination of one’s conduct in a variety of situations. Ethics can be assumed as something you have even if you don’t have a proper education. This enables an individual to make clear distinctions on the options he/she has and on that basis make his/her decisions.  Most significantly, ethics enables us to be a positive pattern for people to follow.

            My personal philosophy is developed by being involved with other people’s lives.  This goes to show that we don’t have an original philosophy of life but rather that the values and beliefs that other people have eventually are incorporated with our own set of values and beliefs. So the fact is I am not only a result of the hereditary endowments of my parents and ancestors, but I am also a product of my environment.

            Essentially I believe that knowledge and possession of it is much more than just pursuing a career for financial gains but rather I view the whole works as a way of life. As a way of life, knowledge and its pursuit must be taken into account as all-encompassing other than a segregated aspect of life.

            Furthermore, since this is the scenario, learning is viewed as a learner’s primary concern; hence knowledge of what the learner’s requirements is in order. From those needs will a mentor make plans for learning. He/She will assist the learner then, to reach that person’s goals and aspirations.

            In conclusion, human beings have a purpose, and they have a reason for being human. Using their intellect and other personal endowments they explore their world and utilize the resources to benefit themselves and others.

            I respect the self-sufficiency and pride every person possesses. I help others discover their sense of dignity as they help me with mine. I also know that we as people are also capable to do evil and harm other people.

            A full and content life is developed through trust. It is difficult to exist when I cannot trust others when I have to rely on them. Each person has something to offer to others even if they are not that competent or attractive. A system of knowledge makes possible that people can be dependable and could be beneficial to society. Each one has direct and indirect impact on the milieu he/she is placed upon.

            Learning in general is power and liberating; it delivers people from the clutches of ignorance. It also empowers individuals, their families and their communities to live their lives in the capacity provided them.


1.      Brockett, R.G., & Hiemstra, R. (2004). Toward Ethical Practice. Malabar, Florida:         Kreiger Publishing Company.

2.      Myers, C. & Myers, L.K. (1995). Models of instruction. In The professional educator: A            new introduction to teaching and schools (pp. 512-551). Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

3.      Quine, W.V.  and. Ullian, J.S., The Web of Belief, Second Edition (New York: Random

                        House, 1978). ISBN 0-394-32179-0.

Polanyi, Michael, 1974 . Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy University of Chicago Press
Chicago, Ill.:

5.      Reany, Patrick, Published in: Arizona Journal of Natural Philosophy, Vol. 2, March        1988, pp. 7-14.

6.      Stolnitz, Jerome .Aesthetics (New York: Macmillan, 1965).

7.      Tramel, Stephen, Editor, Ways of Knowing: Selected Readings (Hays, Kansas: FHSU,


8.      Tramel, Stephen .WKCP Companion (Hays, Kansas: FHSU, 2002).

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