Theory of Knowledge: Ways of Knowing, Dr Naomi Goulder


Hello, I’m David Mitchell and I’m Naomi
Goulder. In this dialogue, we’re going to be talking about so to speak the mind of
the nura that’s to say those mental capacities and faculties and activities
that play a role in our coming to know things. Naomi, I suppose that as
philosophers thinking about ways of coming to know things we might naturally
be inclined to mention first of all the senses the powers of seeing hearing and
smelling and so forth and reason the power of reasoning. Yes,
usually both the senses and reason are thought to be very rather good ways
of coming to know in their philosophical tradition there’s been a long dispute as
to which of them is the more primary which provides the ultimate
justification for all of our knowledge all of our beliefs and yet in everyday
life I think that they seem to have a complimentary sort of status where we
will typically acquire some beliefs through our sensory apparatus and then
infer using our reason towards other beliefs, so thereby, extend our sensory
knowledge into other areas. Yeah, that’s a paradigm case of the use of reason where
we use it to infer further conclusions from premises that are given to us by
our senses. I wonder whether it’s fair to say that reason can also be
expressed in what one might perhaps even call intuition.
I mean intuition, the term, has connotations that are perhaps a little bit
suspect the idea of knowing something by intuition of the exercise of
professional you know a faculty of intuition but it’s also possible – is it
not – to speak of say a mathematician grasping something by intuition, grasping the
solution to a problem in the immediate way without having
to go through a chain of reasoning. So, that in that sense perhaps intuition does
have a respectable place in our ways of coming to notions. Of course, when we
think about coming to knowledge it’s natural to focus on the senses and
reason perhaps with intuition and playing a role there but those are
rather direct ways of acquiring knowledge and really most of the
knowledge that we have is acquired indirectly. So, other people acquire
knowledge and then pass it on to us typically through language. We’ve got a
large number of books around us here but also in conversation – the
testimony of others is an important route for us to be able to extend our
knowledge beyond the remit of our immediate physical environments and our
own reasoning capacity. Yes, it does appear on the face of it that a great
proportion of our knowledge is secondhand in that way but it’s acquired
by being told things by other people know by reading but of course, not everything we’re told by other people not everything we read is true Absolutely and in fact even if one did
acquire some true beliefs by credulously uncritically going around looking at
billboards and we would perhaps hesitate to call that knowledge it would seem to
be too accidental that the beliefs we acquired were true that way because
without a sufficiently critical attitude towards the sources of our knowledge,
we’re really not in a position to be nervous at all. Yes, does seem that this
requires some sort of a critical attitude on the part of the person
to become another. It just struck me that actually there’s a, is there a possible
analogy between the role of language in acquiring what we would normally think
of as second-hand knowledge and the role of of memory in transmitting knowledge not
between persons but to speak between times so that what was first hand knowledge acquired by the senses or by the use of reason is preserved is transmitted
through memory. Then, also though I think whatever thing that our apparent memory
impressions tell us remains knowledge. Even there I think for it to be knowledge
that we acquire through remembering this required some sort of a critical or
skeptical attitude – is that fair to say? Yes, although we have to beware of the other extreme which would be the radical kind of skeptical position that would be so doubtful and
critical about every faculty and every potential source of knowledge that it
would end up leaving us with no beliefs at all – just total uncertainty.
Yeah, we’ve been denying ourselves knowledge that we could have. Yes, so I suppose
that suggests that there might be a place for something rather more akin to
trust or even faith in the pursuit of knowledge. Yes, it is interesting to
think of faith as having a rowing in knowledge but faith most immediately
suggests religious faith but I agree that if we think of faith as a
kind of trust then there’s some sense in you need a role in making sure that we
don’t you know without knowledge but as we could have had. Thinking of terms
that perhaps a bit surprising to be used in the context of coming to know things,
let’s turn to imagination and emotion The word imagination is used in quite a
variety of perhaps connected ways. Two ways that come to mind to me are these:
imagination might be thought of as the faculty of being able to think of
possibilities, being inventive as it were. On the other hand, you might mean by the term
imagination the faculty of imaging to speak of having things in the mind’s eye.
Does either of those play an important role in acquiring knowledge? Typically, when you think would think of imagination in relation to the creative arts and with really something that isn’t related to knowledge at all. When we really focus on it we can see that even in some
paradigmatically knowledge acquiring activities such as the scientific
inquiry ball of imagination is great so as no scientific progress can occur
without scientists making up hypotheses to test and that clearly is an example
of imagination that in the first sense you mentioned which has been the
articulation of possibilities and alternative possibilities. Yeah,
how about emotion, perhaps that’s a trickier one. Isn’t emotion something
that just happens in the pursuit of knowledge? Yes, emotion is very usually
thought of as de-railing our rational faculties and is preventing us from
getting a clear view of the fact but this first of all in the ethics
literature, a long tradition in which emotion is seen is actually revelatory
of moral features of situations so ethical knowledge is very often
thought to be reliant upon a particular emotion – sensitivity to a situation. Compassion and all that sort of thing.
Yes, exactly but even looking further afield to areas of inquiry
the more associated with science, the existence of strong emotions can clearly
sometimes accentuate our knowledge of acquiring capacities rather than de-railing them and an example of that might be the emotion of fear. If I’m
extremely fearful for my life I might well be more alert and more likely to
pick up movement in the peripheral vision and that sort of thing. So, actually this
traditional the kind of common sense idea that emotion gets in the way of
knowledge acquisition seems to me false. Yes, so, we’ve mentioned
a number of mental capacities, mental faculties that play a role in our coming
to know things. We’ve mentioned since perception, reason, intuition, language,
memory, faith, imagination, emotion. There are lots of comparisons and contrasts to be made among those. One that occurs to – I don’t know whether the same might have struck you already is that some of these are pretty clearly faculties that which we appear
to acquire knowledge directly, that is to say if they are sources of knowledge,
ways of coming to know things in their own right. Sense, perception and the power
of reasoning in particular. Others of them, perhaps, we’ve been kind to say that
although they have a role they can contribute along with these other ways of
knowing to the extinction of animals to learning, they are perhaps not to be called
ways of learning in their own right. Naomi, thank you very much.

  1. Sewan & Sawen Creations

    November 18, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    So these are the sick fuck tinkering with the ptogram…thanks for showing us how ya'll do it…robots

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