How do we know?

Ways of Knowing has an interesting post which includes questions about the nature of and limitations of various ways of knowing.

This example is from the section on language:

Language and Knowledge

* How does the capacity to communicate personal experiences and thoughts through language affect knowledge? To what extent does knowledge actually depend on language: on the transmission of concepts from one person or generation to another, and on exposure of concepts or claims to public scrutiny?

* How does language come to be known? Is the capacity to acquire language innate?

* If knowledge is based on an internal representation of the world does this imply that language is a necessary component of knowledge?

* In most of the statements heard, spoken, read or written, facts are blended with values. How can an examination of language distinguish the subjective biases and values which factual reports may contain? Why might such an examination be desirable?

* How apt is Voltaire’s view that ‘Error flies from mouth to mouth, from pen to pen, and to destroy it takes ages’?

Functions of Language

* What different functions does language perform? Which are most relevant in creating and communicating knowledge?

* What did Aldous Huxley mean when he observed that ‘Words form the thread on which we string our experiences’?

* In what ways does written language differ from spoken language in its relationship to knowledge? Can control of written language create or reinforce power?

* Is it reasonable to argue for preservation of established forms of language? Is it reasonable to ask for one language common to the whole world?

* What is the role of language in creating and reinforcing social distinctions, such as class, ethnicity and gender?

* What is the role of language in sustaining relationships of authority? Do people speak the same way to inferiors and superiors in a hierarchy? Does the professional authority speak in the same way as the person seeking opinion or advice?

* What may have been meant by the comment ‘How strangely do we diminish a thing as soon as we try to express it in words’? (Maurice Maeterlinck)

There are four categories on the post: perception, language, reason, emotion.

Are there other ways of knowing?

I think this post would be a good place to begin a discussion of knowledge or to work on ideas for a definition/illustration paper on knowledge.

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