WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE
When we talk about knowledge what we mean is knowledge about some object. Informally, knowledge is a description of the state of some object. The object may be either physical or abstract. Some examples of abstract objects include love, hate, memory, the future, and even knowledge itself. We naively believe that our knowledge of reality is direct, but this is a mistake. Our experience with physical objects is actually indirect. We do not directly mentally experience physical objects; we mentally experience only our concepts of them.
Knowledge can be defined as a relation between two or more concepts, where concepts are mental objects. But these concepts do not exist apart from a conceptualizer, an intelligent being. Thus human knowledge is subjective and has no absolute meaning.
Knowledge is very much like sound and colour. When a tree falls in the forest it is assumed to make a lot of sound waves, but if there is no creature nearby capable of hearing, then it makes no sound. Likewise, when light reflects off an object it produces characteristic wavelengths of light, but neither the object nor the light are colored in themselves. Color exists in the mind of the perceiver. Color and sound are the brain’s method of making sense out of external signals picked-up by our sensory organs. Knowledge does not exist without a knower, and there is no such thing as “unknown” knowledge.
Human knowledge is a subjective means of coming to grips with the world. As far as we can prove, human knowledge never captures the essence of reality; it merely characterizes it according to our own purposes.
Knowledge certainly exists for it is an invention of man. It serves man by offering a metaphorical and subjective characterization of the “known” world. Human knowledge has no absolute status for it is founded on arbitrary definitions. If we change our definitions, we change the way we characterize the world, though presumably the world remains unchanged. That knowledge has no absolute foundation to man is the inevitable result of the pluralistic nature of the world. In a sense, though, knowledge can be said to be “true” when it is understood that knowledge represents the appearance of the world rather than the “real” world itself. Logic has its value as a limited means of gaining knowledge about the world.
In normal conversation we use knowledge to mean:
- Knowing that (facts and information)
- Knowing how (the ability to do something)
Sometimes, we use the word knowledge to mean that we have some information, we know that Mary drinks lemonade, for example. When we have this type of knowledge then we are able to express it. I cannot say that I know when the Battle of Hastings took place, if I cannot, under any circumstances, say the date! This is not true of knowing how.
If I know how to swim, then when placed in the water I make certain movements and do not sink! However, I may be unable to say how, exactly, I am able to swim. Knowing how does not mean I know that … If I cannot say the date of the Battle of Hastings, I cannot be said to know it. But if, while swimming, I cannot tell you exactly how I do it, you cannot say I don’t know how to swim!
Failing to understand the above can lead us into certain fallacies. If we get instruction from the best public speaker in the world, it does not mean that because he or she can speak excellently, that they know how to instruct others. They might be able to say what they do. For example they might say how they practice. But this might work for