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Knowledge and Belief
• The maps on this page were drawn by students from Japan,
Greenland, Costa Rica and Canada. Can you match each map
to the...
Mental Maps
Mental Maps
• What do you think we mean by the term “mental
map”?
• In what ways is your mental map similar to a
geographi...
Mental Maps
• The mental maps we create give a distorted picture of
reality (they are prone to confirmation biases)
• This...
Mental Maps
Mental Maps
• Each of us has a ‘common sense’ picture (or ‘map’ of the
‘world’)
• For each of us this map is different, de...
Mental Maps
Paradigms
• A paradigm is a framework of accepted knowledge within
which we build our mental maps
• We generally only reco...
Certainty
• All of the ways of knowing have inherent
problems which introduce doubt and make
certainty a difficult thing t...
Certainty and Language
• Knowledge changes over time as new
discoveries are made. Knowledge is
disseminated by language
• ...
Certainty and Perception
• Our senses often deceive
us
• We don’t all perceive
things exactly the same as
each other, e.g....
Certainty and Reason
• Some people are better at reasoning than
others
• For example, is the following simple syllogism
tr...
Certainty and Emotion
• Our gut feelings are based on emotion and
intuition
• Different people intuit things in different ...
Relativism
• This is a belief that absolute truth does not exist (i.e. any
position you take on any question is as equally...
Trusting Knowledge
• Evidence
– In order for a belief to be reasonable, it requires supporting
evidence. The onus is on th...
Knowledge
• The accepted definition of ‘knowledge’ is the Platonist idea
of ‘Justified True Belief’ (JTB)
• This was large...
Justified True Belief
The Problems of Knowledge
• Belief – something that is often thought of as being self-evident (after
all, you might say yo...
The Problems of Knowledge
• In 1963, Edmund Gettier published a paper in which he
showed it is possible to hold a justifie...
Knowledge and Belief
• Knowledge and Belief are related and lie on some kind of
continuum (we may disagree about where eac...
The Importance of Open-Mindedness
• Carl Sagan
– “Be open-minded, but not so open minded that
your brains fall out”
The im...
The Problems of Knowledge
a. Certainty
• Knowledge (or at least certainty) is always
moving away from us
– If you study so...
Buffon’s Needle Puzzle
Probability needle hits a
line = 2/π
The Problems of knowledge
b. Justification
• Imagine, in the Middle Ages, a scholar claimed
that the Earth was round, not ...
Transforming Information
1. Understand the information
2. Evaluate the information
3. Respond to the information
We have a...
Responding to information
• There are 2 ways to respond to information
• Either you believe/accept it or you
disbelieve/re...
Truth and Belief
• Information is often presented as a knowledge claim
– “I know that… because…”
• There are 3 ways to inv...
Correspondence Theory
• Something is true if corresponds to a known fact
• e.g. “grass is green”
• Correspondence theory l...
Coherence Theory
• Something is true if it fits with our overall beliefs
• Are there are problems with this?
• JFK is a go...
• Think of some coherent but stupid
explanations for the following examples:
– Why the Sun moves across the sky
– Why the ...
Pragmatic Theory
• Something is true if it can be shown to work in
practice
• e.g. “my theory on how a disease spreads
mus...
Pragmatic Theory
• Newton’s Laws were shown by Einstein’s
theory of relativity to be basically untrue
• However, Newton’s ...
• Class the following statements as (A) true and useful, (B)
untrue and useful, (C) untrue and not useful:
1. If a noun in...
Evaluating Information
• One of the biggest debates around today is
the debate about global warming
• What can we choose t...
Evaluating the Information
• Please make up your own mind about the knowledge claims
on both sides of any debate
» BUT
• B...
What is Wisdom?
“Knowledge of what is true coupled with just judgment as to action.”
Wisdom
Wisdom
• The textbook lists the following characteristics
as typical of a wise person. Please remember
that this is the au...
Good Judgement
• Certainty is impossible
• We need to turn ourselves into critical thinkers –
there is no point believing ...
Breadth of Vision
• We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly
specialised (especially in education)
• This pro...
Self-knowledge
• Prejudices are impossible to avoid altogether,
but somebody with self-knowledge (meta-
cognition) is able...
Responsibility
• “If I have become great, it is by standing on the
shoulders of giants” – Isaac Newton
• All knowledge com...
Intellectual humility
• We all need to realise that we can never achieve absolute
knowledge. We all need to be aware of ou...
Knowledge and belief
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Knowledge and belief

IB Theory of Knowledge

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Knowledge and belief

  1. 1. Knowledge and Belief
  2. 2. • The maps on this page were drawn by students from Japan, Greenland, Costa Rica and Canada. Can you match each map to the most likely student? Why do you think this?
  3. 3. Mental Maps
  4. 4. Mental Maps • What do you think we mean by the term “mental map”? • In what ways is your mental map similar to a geographical map? • What things have affected your own mental map? • In what ways do you think your mental map is different to the person sitting next to you now? • Is your mental map affected by your age? – is it static or dynamic? • Are all maps inherently dynamic? West Wing – Changing Maps
  5. 5. Mental Maps • The mental maps we create give a distorted picture of reality (they are prone to confirmation biases) • This means “common sense” does not really exist • Our beliefs come from a variety of sources – Teachers – Friends – Family – Books – The language we speak – The culture and/or religion we belong to
  6. 6. Mental Maps
  7. 7. Mental Maps • Each of us has a ‘common sense’ picture (or ‘map’ of the ‘world’) • For each of us this map is different, depending on what kinds of influences have shaped it • We hardly ever consider our map (or its flaws) (Incidentally this would be metacognition) • Our mental map can be so influenced by the way we have been brought up, it may skew or bias our common sense in ways we don’t even realise – so common sense (or intuition) cannot necessarily be trusted Harold Camping The banana – an atheist’s nightmare
  8. 8. Mental Maps
  9. 9. Paradigms • A paradigm is a framework of accepted knowledge within which we build our mental maps • We generally only recognise them when they are broken – i.e. when someone comes along who sees beyond an existing paradigm and produces a paradigm shift • We often think of such people as geniuses • You could probably name many geniuses in disciplines like maths, art and science – but paradigms (and geniuses) exist in all areas of knowledge http://edrontheoryofknowledge.blogspot.mx/2 014/08/botswana-ronnie.html
  10. 10. Certainty • All of the ways of knowing have inherent problems which introduce doubt and make certainty a difficult thing to achieve: – Language – Perception – Reason – Emotion – Faith
  11. 11. Certainty and Language • Knowledge changes over time as new discoveries are made. Knowledge is disseminated by language • Knowledge gained from language involves somebody else imparting that knowledge, either through the spoken or written word • Some sources are more reliable than others
  12. 12. Certainty and Perception • Our senses often deceive us • We don’t all perceive things exactly the same as each other, e.g. Colour blindness • Put your finger across the centre of the image on the right. What do you perceive?
  13. 13. Certainty and Reason • Some people are better at reasoning than others • For example, is the following simple syllogism true or false? – All fimbles are foobles – Some fimbles are wombles – Some foobles are therefore wombles
  14. 14. Certainty and Emotion • Our gut feelings are based on emotion and intuition • Different people intuit things in different ways • People can have equally strong feelings on completely opposite sides of a debate
  15. 15. Relativism • This is a belief that absolute truth does not exist (i.e. any position you take on any question is as equally true as any other) • In a subject like TOK this is very problematic. You are expected to develop justifications to defend your position on a knowledge question, and you can’t do this from a relativistic standpoint – therefore always avoid relativism • Of course, in a simplistic sense, two opposing beliefs can’t both be true. If I believe the Earth is flat and you believe it is round, we can’t both be right
  16. 16. Trusting Knowledge • Evidence – In order for a belief to be reasonable, it requires supporting evidence. The onus is on the person making a knowledge claim to provide this evidence, otherwise they are guilty of the fallacy of argument ad ignorantium • Coherence – Coherence refers to how well a knowledge claim fits with current understanding. It is a good guide when chosing what to believe, since outlandish beliefs rarely cohere with a contemporary paradigm. However, some scientific claims have been ridiculed before being accepted as true (e.g. Alfred Wegener’s Theory of Continental Drift)
  17. 17. Knowledge • The accepted definition of ‘knowledge’ is the Platonist idea of ‘Justified True Belief’ (JTB) • This was largely accepted for thousands of years. However, the ideas of justification, belief and truth are all subjective to some degree • In his 1926 essay ‘Theory of Knowledge’, Bertrand Russell had this to say about the JTB definition: “The trouble is that no one knows what a belief is, no one knows what a fact is, and no one knows what sort of agreement between them would make a belief true."
  18. 18. Justified True Belief
  19. 19. The Problems of Knowledge • Belief – something that is often thought of as being self-evident (after all, you might say you “know” what you believe and what you don’t). However, it is not always easy to pinpoint your own beliefs • Truth – this is perhaps less self-evident. Truth may change over time and what one person may accept as a perceived truth may be challenged by another. In his essay Theory of Knowledge, the philosopher Bertrand Russell discussed the relationship between truth and belief in these terms “… no one knows what a belief is, no one knows what a fact is and no one knows what sort of agreement between them would make a belief true.” • Justification – this is plainly not self-evident. Justification of a belief is in some way personal to whoever is making a knowledge claim and perhaps to some extent subjective. Forming your own justifications to defend your own knowledge claims is at the heart of the discipline of TOK
  20. 20. The Problems of Knowledge • In 1963, Edmund Gettier published a paper in which he showed it is possible to hold a justified true belief, but not have knowledge. One of his examples is paraphrased below: • Smith and Jones apply for a job. Prior to his interview Smith is told by the president of the company that it is has already been decided that Jones will be offered the job. Smith also sees that Jones has ten coins in his pocket (in a conceit of the story it’s never explained how Smith sees this – perhaps they were talking at the coffee machine). Smith now holds a justified belief that the person who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. However, it transpires that the Company President was wrong and Smith is offered the job (not only that, but coincidentally Smith also has ten coins in his pocket). Smith’s justified true belief therefore stands, but we cannot call it knowledge because the premises of his justification were faulty. Gettier’s original paper Analysing the Gettier Problem Can you come up with your own version of a Gettier problem story?
  21. 21. Knowledge and Belief • Knowledge and Belief are related and lie on some kind of continuum (we may disagree about where each actually lies and whether the positions are fixed) Impossible CertainUnlikely Possible Probable • Beliefs may or may not be true, and do not necesarily require justification
  22. 22. The Importance of Open-Mindedness • Carl Sagan – “Be open-minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out” The importance of unbelief
  23. 23. The Problems of Knowledge a. Certainty • Knowledge (or at least certainty) is always moving away from us – If you study something in year 7 at school, then you revisit the same thing again in years 9 and 11 your knowledge of that topic has grown (“vertically”?) • There also appear to be some things in the Universe which defy understanding (at least at present) e.g. The Bell Experiment
  24. 24. Buffon’s Needle Puzzle Probability needle hits a line = 2/π
  25. 25. The Problems of knowledge b. Justification • Imagine, in the Middle Ages, a scholar claimed that the Earth was round, not flat. When asked to justify his belief, he explained that because our feet are curved at the bottom. This must be because the Earth is round and our feet become molded to it when we are children and walk around without shoes. • Does he know the earth is round? • Compare this to The Banana – an Atheist’s Nightmare
  26. 26. Transforming Information 1. Understand the information 2. Evaluate the information 3. Respond to the information We have already considered how we understand information. Now we need to think about we evaluate and respond to it.
  27. 27. Responding to information • There are 2 ways to respond to information • Either you believe/accept it or you disbelieve/reject it – your response either results in ACTION or INACTION
  28. 28. Truth and Belief • Information is often presented as a knowledge claim – “I know that… because…” • There are 3 ways to investigate the truth of a knowledge claim – Correspondence theory (does the knowledge claim correspond to a fact?) – Coherence theory (does the knowledge claim fit in with our current set of beliefs?) – Pragmatic theory (does the knowledge claim work in practice?)
  29. 29. Correspondence Theory • Something is true if corresponds to a known fact • e.g. “grass is green” • Correspondence theory leads to all kinds of problems • How do we know the previous fact is true? • What is a fact? Do facts just exist outside the realm of our perception • There are all kinds of problems with our perception
  30. 30. Coherence Theory • Something is true if it fits with our overall beliefs • Are there are problems with this? • JFK is a good film, it is based on some historical facts and many people believe the conspiracy theory it presents for the assassination is correct – but that does not necessarily make it true • Coherence is necessary for truth, but does not make something true on its own
  31. 31. • Think of some coherent but stupid explanations for the following examples: – Why the Sun moves across the sky – Why the prices of stocks and shares goes up and down – The assassination of John Lennon – Global warming Coherence Theory
  32. 32. Pragmatic Theory • Something is true if it can be shown to work in practice • e.g. “my theory on how a disease spreads must be true, because the medicine I have created to prevent its spread works” • What is the problem with this? • Well, basically, it is possible for something to be useful but not true, or true but not useful
  33. 33. Pragmatic Theory • Newton’s Laws were shown by Einstein’s theory of relativity to be basically untrue • However, Newton’s Laws work so well in practice that scientists use them in their calculations to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
  34. 34. • Class the following statements as (A) true and useful, (B) untrue and useful, (C) untrue and not useful: 1. If a noun in Spanish ends with “a” then it is feminine 2. 2+2=4 3. Santa Claus is watching over you to see if you are being good 4. If you smoke cannabis your teeth will fall out 5. I am right because God is on my side 6. Anyone in Mexico can be successful if they work hard enough 7. Everyone has a special talent, we just need to find out what it is Truth and Belief
  35. 35. Evaluating Information • One of the biggest debates around today is the debate about global warming • What can we choose to believe or disbelieve here? • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1Pv7wCR cJ4&feature=related
  36. 36. Evaluating the Information • Please make up your own mind about the knowledge claims on both sides of any debate » BUT • Be a critical thinker – Use the theories of correspondence, coherence and pragmatism when investigating a knowledge claim – Look for self-interest in anybody’s argument (in other words look for confirmation bias) – Look for argument ad ignorantiam (the person presenting the knowledge claim should be “knowledgeable”) – Be ready to accept expert opinion (but don’t be fooled by authority worship, and check that the “expert” really is an expert within the field of the knowledge claim)
  37. 37. What is Wisdom? “Knowledge of what is true coupled with just judgment as to action.”
  38. 38. Wisdom
  39. 39. Wisdom • The textbook lists the following characteristics as typical of a wise person. Please remember that this is the author’s opinion (but I think it’s a good list). – Good judgement – Breadth of vision – Self knowledge – Responsibility – Intellectual humility
  40. 40. Good Judgement • Certainty is impossible • We need to turn ourselves into critical thinkers – there is no point believing everything, or questioning everything • How much evidence is enough? • Good judgement is as important in areas of knowledge as diverse as history, ethics, maths and science • You can’t learn good judgement simply by reading about it in a book, its something that takes a lifetime to develop
  41. 41. Breadth of Vision • We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly specialised (especially in education) • This produces people with quite a narrow or fragmented vision of reality • There is a word for a person like this in German (but not English) – a fachidiot • I would suggest that the wisest people are those with specialist knowledge, but with a good understanding of the “big picture” – i.e. not fachidiots! • There has been a move recently for interdisciplinary projects – perhaps most notably in environmentalism
  42. 42. Self-knowledge • Prejudices are impossible to avoid altogether, but somebody with self-knowledge (meta- cognition) is able to recognise them within themselves • We often need the courage to question our own beliefs – and our own prejudices • This is the root of true self-knowledge
  43. 43. Responsibility • “If I have become great, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Isaac Newton • All knowledge comes in some part from other people • You have to have some level of trust in the people you have gained knowledge from • However, you also have some responsibility to check the evidence you are basing any knowledge claim on • There are many people around today with “know- how”, but there are few wise people with “know- why”!
  44. 44. Intellectual humility • We all need to realise that we can never achieve absolute knowledge. We all need to be aware of our limitations • We can never know everything there is to know, even about a single grain of sand • Therefore the big mysteries of the universe are things to be contemplated rather than solved • Dogmatists (people who think they know everything they need to), never experience intellectual humility • These are people who find everything “boring” – and have therefore lost their sense of wonder in the world around them • These are also people who avoid this “boredom” by becoming involved in drugs, pseudoscience and the paranormal

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