Memory Month Day 4: What’s Knowledge?

Since this entire month is dedicated to memory, I thought that discussing the topic of knowledge wouldn’t be too far off. That’s because we want to remember information in order to be able to know more.

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But what’s this thing called knowledge?

During philosophy today, we discussed a passage from Plato, in which he was attempting (through the character of Socrates) to define this very term. This seems something only philosophers would be interested in. Really, now…who else ever thought of asking a question like this?

I certainly haven’t before thinking of taking this course. Since its very title (Knowledge and Reality), reveals its content, I thought to myself that it would be interesting to find out what knowledge (and reality) is.

It turns out this is quite tricky business. If you look on merriam-webster, you’re going to find out that knowledge is “awareness of something : the state of being aware of something”. Is it, really? If you are aware of something, does it follow that you have knowledge of it?

In a sense, yes. But if you dig deeper, you find out that that’s not the case. I, for one, am aware of a lot of things. But does that mean I know them? I think not!

The first definition, however, seems to give a more complete account: “information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education”.

The problem is that this definition fails to establish what kind of information, understanding, or skill counts as knowledge. Sometimes, experience can give you false information, or understanding. Same goes for education. Perhaps skill is the only type of knowledge that can’t be false, because with a skill, you either have it, or you don’t. I’m not very sure about that, however, and I don’t want to make a false statement.

I would venture to say that something becomes knowledge once both experience and education have proven it true. But then I run into a different problem: we can all know that the Earth is round, even without having used experience to back up this claim.

So, has my theory been short lived? Or is it the case that one can’t say it knows that the Earth is round without first checking it for itself? Sounds like a laborious process…

This theory also implies that we can never have any knowledge of things that have happened before we were born (and even for some time after birth). That’s simply because we can’t check the facts. At least not directly.

Maybe that’s it! Maybe we don’t have to perform a direct check on every piece of information. Perhaps inspecting it indirectly would suffice. And yet, now we run into the issue of defining what it means to check indirectly.

As you can see, Philosophy is quite a difficult topic to entertain. But it’s precisely it’s difficulty that makes it fascinating.

Now, to get back to memory, there’s a good reason I like Philosophy so much. When it comes to this, I almost never have to sit down in front of my notebook, and memorize the subject matter. Why? Well, that’s because it is in the nature of Philosophy that if you want to understand it, you have to play around with its ideas.

Playing around with ideas in your head is exactly how you get to memorize them! I’ve said this before, but it seems to me that all mnemonics are is a way of playing around with information.

I truly wish to find a way to learn all information in a way that’s reminiscent of Philosophy. Who knows, maybe there’s a way like that out there!

 

/Larisa

  • Confused about what’s going on? Click here!
  • For the post that started this challenge, click here.
  • For yesterday’s entry, click here.
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