“We See and Understand Things Not as They Are but as We Are.” Discuss This Claim in Relation to at Least Two Ways of Knowing.

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Our comprehension of the world comes from an innate and inbuilt sense of understanding, unique to each individual. Everyone is affected by their own upbringing, culture, belief systems and past experiences, only they themselves would understand and relate to the issues of the world the way they do. The way we “see and understand” things, can be considered to be the way in which we perceive things and react to them. Individuals from each distinct culture develop differently, according to the behavioural characteristics and mindsets of their society. Understanding something requires the interpretation of various information we receive through the different ways of knowing, allowing us to come to our own comprehension of the matter at hand. In this way, the way I “see and understand” the world, will be unique as no other individual will be able to understand things through the same light as I do. As such, is it safe to question whether or not any of us experience the same reality? The human mind in its attempt to “understand” the world around us shapes and translates what we “see”, through a filter of our own life experiences and personal nature.

At the same time, knowledge is defined by Plato as “justified true belief”. Using this definition we can assume that something can only truly be considered knowledge when the individual is completely certain of the fact and this fact cannot be argued against. More specifically, objective knowledge is described as unbiased and is based on facts, not influenced by personal interpretations, feelings or prejudice. Objective knowledge would therefore, be things seen as “they are”, disagreeing with the claim in question, as this knowledge remains true no matter who acquires it. In this essay I will explore how the ways of knowing, perception, emotion and language aid or inhibit our understanding of the world around us.

Language as a way of knowing shapes our worldview as each individual is equipped to apply different linguistic skills in accordance with their own scope of life. Take for example the term “snow”. To anyone living in tropical Singapore, “snow” is understood to be the frozen form of water that falls from clouds, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes. Even that description could be considered too technical. However, if we were to ask an Eskimo living in Alaska to describe the recent snowfall we would not get the same answer. There are at least 11 different ways to say “snow” in Eskimo. For example aqiluqqaq means soft snow,
milik represents the term for very soft snow
while mitailaq is soft snow on ice floe covering an open spot[1]. These different terms may seem unnecessary to us but that is because we were not brought up in the Eskimo society where the knowledge of these different types of snow would be essential for their survival. From this we are able to see how our cultures affect our ability to know and understand as we often only learn and understand situations with relevance to our current circumstances and society.

Belief systems developed through upbringing, religious and cultural influences will no doubt have a significant effect on a person’s thoughts and stands on various ethical issues. In another example, cultural perception plays a key role in the way we as people, see and view certain issues. My mother and father come from extremely different cultural backgrounds. My mother, originally from Australia and my father, a Singaporean, often had differing views on certain issues involving dressing and modesty. Coming from a more western society, my mother seems to have adopted a more open and liberal approach when it comes to how my other siblings and I dress. My father however is more inclined to look at the situation in a more conservative and traditional way and rather we dress more modestly. In this way, I feel that the way we see and understand things is almost definitely affected by our perception, whereby culture and upbringing...
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