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Theory of Knowledge Explicatory Essay


Knowledge is very fundamental in the life of a person and it is therefore very necessary to fully understand the various ways of knowing. Traditionally, there are four basic ways of knowing which were developed by different philosophers. These four ways of knowing are depicted in the TOK diagram of knowledge.

The sources of knowledge represented in the TOK diagram include sense perception, language, emotion and logic. Sense perception is the first way of knowing that is based on body senses such as vision and touch (Lehrer 34).

The second source of knowledge is language and in this case knowledge is passed down from those in authority and through reading. Language is used as a medium to pass knowledge from one person to another.

The third source of knowledge according to the TOK diagram is emotion. Knowledge about certain things is obtained through intuition and emotional feeling.

The fourth and final source of knowledge according to the TOK diagram is logic which emphasizes the importance of reasoning as a source of knowledge. Rational thinking leads to generation of ideas and solutions that become a very important source of knowledge and understanding.

Philosophers and psychologists claim that there is a fifth way of knowing that is yet to be fully exploited. Many scholars agree that memory plays a very significant role in helping a person know and understand things (Lehrer 112).

Although memory as a way of knowing is not featured on the TOK diagram, many scholars agree that it plays a significant role in generating crucial information that is used in historical studies and social science.

This paper will substatatiate and explain why memory is an important source of knowledge apart from the four ways of knowing highlighted in the TOK diagram.

The idea of classifying memory as a source of knowledge is always discussed in most TOK discussions. Memory is a concept that combines different sources of knowledge and is normally used by many people to make knowledge claims. Memory is a combination of past experiences, perception and emotion.

Ideas generated by memory are reliable but not in all instances (Dicker 59). Some of the ideas generated by memory end up being faulty and hence not trustworthy at times.

Cases of mistaken identity are very common in courts and it is therefore true to say that the reliability of memory as a source of information or knowledge is not a hundred percent. There are instances where eyewitnesses commit a lot of errors in their testimonies due to forgetfulness and misconception.

The fact that eyewitnesses can not be completely relied upon in a court of law makes many people to question whether memory is a reliable way of knowing. It is believed that memory can easily be altered if a person uses drugs or listens to other suggestions.

The memory of a person keeps changing as time passes with the one that is relived more that once losing its truthfulness over time (Dicker 78). The mind of a human being is very vulnerable and it can therefore be easily manipulated by other external sources.

The fact that the memory of a person can easily be influenced under different circumstances proves that it is sometimes difficult to find the actual truth of a particular case by completely relying on memory.

Despite its shortcomings, memory is still considered as an important source of knowledge in fields such as history and social science. Memory can not be completely ruled out as an unreliable way of knowing because it is sometimes useful in cases where there is no manipulation (Dicker 145).

It is always a great challenge to convince some people that memory is a very reliable source of knowledge that is used in fields such as history and social science. Psychology scholars have discovered that memory is a very important element of cognitive psychology and other social sciences.

Cognitive psychology deals with how the human behavior is affected by the mental processes of a human being (Pollock 46). Many people underestimate the importance of memory and only coming to realize its significance when it fails to help them.

Forgetting occurs as a result of memory failure and therefore memory should be seen as a very important asset. In psychology, memory is classified into three categories that include the working memory, sensory memory and long-term memory.

The sensory memory is directly connected to mind with the information delivered or the impression created fading in the shortest time possible. The human mind could be completely overwhelmed if it had to remember all the information it receives (Pollock 46).

The human mind tends to remember only the information that grabs its attention. The human mind finds it difficult to remember everything that a person sees of hears. The amount of information that can be kept and worked on by the memory at a particular time is very limited.

A working memory is normally used to keep information while working on it at the same time. The people who speak faster are a perfect example of how a working memory works. The information in a working memory tends to fade if it is not stored in a long-term memory.

It is always easy to retrieve information from a long-term memory since the information stored is permanent. A person’s name is normally stored in their long-term memory and that is why its retrieval is automatic.

The other shortcoming of using memory as a source of knowledge is the possibility of new memories interfering with the new ones (Pollock 46).

The memory of person can be distorted by stress, passage of time and the power of suggestion. There are three ways through which the memories in the mind of a person can be retrieved.

The first way is through recall where previously learned information is retrieved in its original order or randomly.

The other way through which information can be retrieved from the memory is through recognition. In the case of recognition, previously learnt information is retrieved through identification of the right option from a number of choices (Hoerl 396).

The third way of retrieving information from the memory is through reconstruction. Reconstruction occurs through remembering particular details of a scenario and building concrete information from the remembered details.

The majority of historical information was obtained through the use of memory to remember past events. It is therefore very important to examine the reliability of memory as a source of historical information (Hoerl 396).

Many historians are always skeptical about the use of memory as a source of historical information. Social historians are the main proponents of oral history that relies majorly on information obtained from oral interviews.

The use of memory in recalling a past event makes some historian to view oral history as subjective and unreliable. The use of documented sources as a source of historical information has become a common trend with many historians but it is important to state that those sources are not always accurate (Hoerl 396).

Some of the discrepancies in documented sources are normally discovered when oral interviews are conducted. This scenario justifies the fact that memory can be a reliable source of historical information.

The subjectivity of oral history is what makes the memory a unique source of knowledge for historians and social scientists. Critics of oral history bank on the argument that memories decline with time but the argument is yet to be substantiated with concrete evidence (Hoerl 396).

Supporters of oral history argue that when interviewing a person to obtain historical information, the only thing that is required is the motivation to remember.

Knowledge claims are categorized according to their source. The primary category consists of a person’s own understanding and ideas whereas the secondary category is based on the ideas and findings of others.

There are cases where knowledge claims are based on a combination of both primary and secondary sources (Guyer 89). The majority of new ideas and theories are normally derived from other people’s ideas and it is therefore very difficult to classify them as original.

The majority of knowledge claims are based on both primary and secondary sources because new knowledge is normally built from the existing one.

The two categories of knowledge claims include positive and normative knowledge claims. Positive claims of knowledge describe the past; present and future nature of a system, process or activity (Guyer 89).

The statements that are normally formulated from positive knowledge claims describe the relationship between things. The best way to come up with positive knowledge claims is through careful observation of processes and systems.

Positive knowledge claims also describe systems, things, processes and activities in detail. These descriptions are based on both personal understanding and understanding of others. Positive knowledge claims are very common in science because science aims at discovering why things happen the way they do.

By claiming that academic success depends on how hard a person works, an individual is said to have used a positive knowledge claim to describe the relationship between working hard and academic success. A statement of relationship is used in the mentioned example to describe a process.

The normative category of knowledge claims is based on judgment. The value, morality and importance of a process or thing are normally expressed in this category of knowledge claims (Guyer 89). The normative knowledge claims judges whether a process, system or thing is wrong or right.

Knowledge claims come with issues that limit what people claim to know. The first issue that arises when particular knowledge has been claimed is whether evidence is required and the reason why it is needed.

The second issue regarding knowledge is that the number of knowledge claims that do not require evidence is very small. The majority of knowledge claims require evidence for people to believe in them.

The implications that a knowledge claim without evidence brings is another knowledge issue (Guyer 112).

The fourth issue regarding knowledge is the level of importance that some areas of knowledge have compared to others. Knowledge issues should be critically analyzed before a person comes up with a knowledge claim.

Works Cited

Dicker, Georges. Kant’s Theory of Analytical Knowledge: An Analytical Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason. New York: Hackett Publishing, 2004. Print.

Guyer, Paul. Kant and the Claims of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Print.

Hoerl, Christoph. Time and Memory: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print.

Lehrer, Keith. Theory of Knowledge. New York: Westview Press, 2000. Print.

Pollock, John. Contemporary Theories of Knowledge. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Theory of Knowledge." June 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/theory-of-knowledge/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Theory of Knowledge'. 26 June.

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