“When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails” (Abraham Maslow). How might this apply to ways of knowing, as tools, in the pursuit of knowledge?
Most are driven by interest and the curiosity to know the unknown; this in turn is the pursuit of knowledge. Any person can achieve curiosity but achieving an open mind in order to accept the knowledge one wants to know is also part of it. Depending on whether or not a person has an open mind to what they are exposed to can influence whether or not they can become capable of learning new information and developing that new information into knowledge and new perspectives. Once one gains a new perspective it can become easier to solve problems “that begin to resemble nails” because knowledge is a tool in and of itself when applied using the ways of knowing. At first, a question that came to mind was: does knowing more automatically free one from biased and close minded opinions? One can easily use what they know to their advantage and use it to avoid situations. But what if someone is not exposed to various environments, diverse people, and new information? It then might become more difficult for that person to handle the same situation that someone with more knowledge and understanding could handle. This might explain why many desire to learn more and expand on what they know now; this can be done to become prepared in a sense. These were the first understandings of Abraham Maslow’s quote before beginning to really analyze and expand on the idea of being able to either use knowledge to ones benefit or letting oneself become limited by knowledge. All of the ways of knowing not only affect how people obtain knowledge but also influence the developing opinions of the same information seen before. Once the ways of knowing are considered, one can now see many different problems. Noticing the problems from different standpoints can also develop once ways of knowing are considered. Abraham Kaplan’s quote from The Conduct of Inquiry related to Maslow’s idea of knowledge and its effect on one’s perspective. Kaplan stated that “…give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding” (Kaplan 28). It supported Maslow’s idea while making a clear point that when given a solution, or a hammer, then one might go looking for a problem. The quote expressed a similar approach to knowledge when compared to Maslow’s own quote. Once the quote was better understood it became easier to apply the ways of knowing to how people can either become limited or more open to the idea of attaining knowledge. If one specific way of knowing is relied on this can be seen as limitation. One example might be one’s reliance on only reason, which can lead to a limited, or lack of, understanding. With this, it is easy to think of the character from Star Trek, Mr. Spock, who only thought logically and without emotion or language. All of his decisions were made solely off of reason and limited Mr. Spock to become close minded and think with a cause and effect point of view. Being able to attain information requires the understanding of more than one way of knowledge since all of the types of ways interact with one another at one point or another. Mr. Spock’s way of thinking is only one example of many of how Maslow’s quote can be interpreted as a person’s limitation and being able to only see a problem from one narrow perspective. The ways of knowing can easily be utilized as teaching tools when it comes to which one inspires why someone would want to explore and interpret the world. That inspiration could easily be stimulated through the types of sense perception like: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. Essentially, all knowledge can come from the five senses. It is what can help one to recognize what is being done or even process what one is being exposed to. For instance, when writing any type of essay or paper for a class a student can recognize what they are doing with each sense, such as: feeling oneself write with their pencil; touch, proofreading and reviewing what was written; sight, and typing the paper written; sound. “We perceive the world through our senses: sense perception is the active, selective and interpretive process of recording or becoming conscious of the external world” (Sense Perception, p.1). Perceiving the world through the five senses, even with simple tasks such as writing an essay, become a helpful tool in encouraging a person on the pursuit of knowledge since all five senses can help a person to better understand situations with experience. Along with understanding tasks in the world and in ones surroundings the five senses assist in also interpreting those problems that one may encounter. When interpreting situations, or problems, one tends to use language that can be misunderstood because of differing definitions of words or phrases, or even emotion that can miscomprehend reality. The types of sense perception can become affected by an emotional or spiritual factor that is categorized as emotion in ways of knowing. Emotion can be fueled by opinions and can have the capability of hindering open mindedness. A person’s perception of things can easily change along with the change of a person’s emotional state. A person’s mood or emotional state can trigger perceptual expectations and one can then become accustomed to perceiving things that agree with one’s mood. Now, if emotion can affect one’s perception so easily how can people trust their emotions while in the pursuit of knowledge? Emotions can hinder one’s pursuit of knowledge because emotion might cause one to become biased towards any information collected. On the other hand emotion can also be used to gain knowledge. It can cause a person to personally connect with what interests them or what is being presented to them. Impactful events like the attack on the World Trade Center could strike up emotion from a student who might have been personally affected when learning more about it in class. That lesson in class may cause them to pay more attention to the subject and even influence that student to want to do research outside of class in order to gain more insight or a different perspective on the subject other than their own. A less dramatic illustration could simply be a student’s interest in science that makes the student want to take more initiative in the class and outside of the class. Emotion can provide anyone with energy and focus in the pursuit of knowledge. Both the types of perception and emotion can be expressed through language which, according to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, can determine a person’s experience of reality because a person can only see and think with no more than what their range of language allows them to see and think. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis can be seen clearly through the Inuit people and the way they have become accustomed to snow. For instance, Inuit people in Alaska are surrounded by snow all the time and because of this the Inuit people developed numerous words and descriptions for the many types of snow that they see. While Inuit people are accustomed to seeing many variations of snow, people in Charlotte are not as exposed to so many types, let alone one type, so the one word ‘snow’ perfectly describes the experience of snow and what is seen in Charlotte. The two different situations show an example of how a person’s experience can either limit or expand ones way of thinking as well as their range of language used. Language can limit a person with what they do and also how their thought process works, in other words, linguistic determinism can influence a great deal of a person’s language. Language might just be the most important way of knowing, or at least the most influential, because it is what can help a person read into and analyze the gist of a situation and its significance. Although language helps start off the process of knowledge and the opening of one’s mind, reasoning can help a person to come their own conclusions and opinions of what they encounter. Maslow and Kaplan both describe the idea that all problems need to be solved or dealt with in their quotes, but reason serves as a counter argument to that because it assists in giving a person a choice. The choice is in whether or not the ‘tool’ or ‘hammer’ needs to be used or thought about and reasoned a little more. Once reason is used as a way of knowing, emotion can be used too. What if emotion is not a tool but rather a distraction in a sense? Emotion can become a distraction because people can let it cloud their judgment or reasoning in a problem making “… all problems begin to resemble nails”. With this said, people would then become their own problem, and if emotion is a problem could trying to develop information into knowledge using the other ways of knowing still help? It could when learning new information since one becomes open to more opinions and perspectives and become less biased than before which in turn eliminates emotion as a negative factor when trying to solve issues. In the pursuit of knowledge, ways of knowing can definitely help in the process as well as hinder it. Applying ways of knowledge to Maslow’s idea of limited knowledge being a person’s set back was simple and straightforward only because ways of knowledge are easily connected to ones thinking process. In conclusion, ways of knowing can ultimately enhance ones natural curiosity in life and in the pursuit of knowledge. Word Count: 1,600
Kaplan, Abraham. "Page 28." The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science. N.p.: Transaction Publishers, 1973. 28. Web.