Brylle’s Notes for Theory of Knowledge
The Four Ways Of Knowing
Perception, Reason, Emotion, Language
The world is a confusing place in which we find a bewildering variety of different opinions. Our common sense picture of reality probably contains inaccuracies and biases that we are not aware of. We acquire knowledge about the world through language, perception, reason and emotion, but none of these ways of knowing can give us certainty. According to relativism, truth is relative to the individual; but the fact that we take seriously the idea that someone may be wrong in their beliefs suggests that relativism is false. Since there are few black and white certainties in the world, we have to rely more on judgement. An important aspect of good judgement is finding the right balance between scepticism and open-mindedness. Two preliminary criteria for deciding whether a knowledge claim is plausible are evidence and coherence. Since we are what we believe and our beliefs affect our actions, if we want to be the authentic and responsible we should occasionally subject our beliefs to critical scrutiny. A good preliminary definition of knowledge is to say that it is justified true belief. According to the traditional picture, truth is independent, and simply believing that something is true does not make it true. Rather than say that belief and knowledge are two completely different things, it may make more sense to think of there being a belief-knowledge continuum. Knowledge is more than true belief, for your belief must be justified in the right kind of way. The main thing that seems to distinguish an acceptable from an unacceptable justification is reliability. Whether or not you are justified in saying you know something depends on context. When you say you know something you are in a sense taking responsibility for its truth. There are different levels of knowledge ranging from a superficial grasp of a subject to complete mastery of it....