Often have I noticed in my school compound, posters hung and stuck, of all sizes shouting out “Never be afraid to ask questions” followed by a fully fledged song about the importance of asking questions in class. It is obvious that we wouldn’t bother even remember having seen the poster, hadn’t the principal of our school taken the initiative of announcing that there is such a poster put in every classâ€¦
But my point here is not about our initiative to read the poster, but to understand why it has been put. Rather why it has been posted in every grade of the school, starting from nursery itself? What is so special about asking questions day in and day out without reason?
I asked my teachers, of every stream and subject, my parents, and they had just one final baseline for and answerâ€¦ ‘Without questioning, you will never learn. It is curiosity that leads to knowledge.’ ‘Now, how would curiosity lead to knowledge?’- I asked myself. I did get an answer immediately saying-‘why it shouldn’t? What happens when you get stuck in a question which is a little wayward from your syllabus course? If you had the courage to question in class without feeling embarrassed about it, the teacher would surely have found a way of combining two or more formulas which would solve it, and a barrier would be broken, for now you would have gained the knowledge if tackling such sums and they are of no stress anymoreâ€¦’
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Now if we look at it at the example through the theory of knowledge point of view, we would now be discussing the area of knowledge of human sciences, as relating the typical human behavior of curiosity and doubt, with the relationship of gaining knowledge by breaking this psychological barrier of doubt, or sometimes, realizing the wrong results that might have protruded with the same mannerisms of doubt. In other words we would be dealing with the following knowledge issue:
“How does our approach towards knowledge affect the enhancement of knowledge?
Taking the example discussed in the previous page for instance. I DOUBTED the problem, in other words I couldn’t relate my knowledge to the problem, which is a common human behavior. Whilst I would never ask to the teachers or in class due to sheer concern about my status among my environment being snatched away from me; this being my APPROACH towards my doubt. Hence if my approach towards the doubt is negative and conserved in nature form the very first step, how am I supposed to gain knowledge to tackle the doubt? ….
This is similarly applicable to not only a personal level but also in the wider perspective of the real world. If we look through the pages of past events, happenings, whether the event be a cause for social reform, or the evaluation of more knowledge towards understanding the physics of the world, both have evolved from some approach towards existing knowledge. It is a very general point for observation, that no knowledge is evolved until the existing knowledge isn’t questioned. We never understood the formula of E = mc2 in grade six, until and unless when we get the chance to studying the chapter of detailed radioactivity in grade twelve, where we learn that ‘m’ stands for mass defect and ‘c’ stands for speed of light. This leads to another question of the derivation of the formula, which we learn about in collegeâ€¦and so onâ€¦
What I meant to say through the first example is that when we approach an elementary knowledge and bring it to analysis, is when we start to learn more about the knowledge, which we perhaps never dreamt of learning, and then again another approach to the same knowledge, and another enhancement; this chain is endlessâ€¦
If we learn about the milestones in sciences, such as foundation of Newtonian physics and the evolution of gravity, have all rise from the fact that Newton doubted the apple that fell over his head, and wondered how objects jerk forward, when stopped from motion.
Scientists like Nicolas Copernicus and Galileo too, doubted the system of the Earth, reason being that their processed knowledge form their environment that time went against their ethics. Thanks to them that we do not consider Earth as flat anymoreâ€¦
Even looking into the field of human sociology, it has always described humans as “the only way a human differentiates itself from the animal kingdom, is their ability to think and reason”. The only reason we see the world to accept changes, and change form evolution to evolution, is because of the human ability to question each and every action of what we do.
To describe the previous paragraph more clearly, would give us the answer of the second question. Taking concrete examples from analysis by branches of social sciences, one of the most appropriate instances would be the revolutions that have taken place resulting in change of the political viewpoint of people around the world. The first example would be the renaissance, where the people doubted the church, gained knowledge about the real existence of humans, hence the result of the evolution of science as the second form of God.
A second instance would be the political changeover form monarchy to democracy, where revolutionists like Jean-Jac-Rousseau of the French revolution, Lenin of the Russian revolution, even personalities like Mohandas Karmachand Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., are all equal examples of humans who doubted the environment around them, judged the facts which went against their ethics, not necessarily for the purpose of gaining knowledge. But in the process of doubt, have opened doors of knowledge of more people -oriented politics, a knowledge which the world resides todayâ€¦
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But it must be noted that it also doesn’t narrow down to such specifications that doubt is the only way of enhancing knowledge. There are many instances where knowledge was found either by coincidence, or accidentally, such as taking the discovery of the first dinosaur fossil fuel, leading to a whole new dimension of the occurrence of a prehistoric age, or the occurrence of the first democracy, that is, in Rome, which was sure not through the occurrence of any doubt, it was just a sheer necessity.
In other words, we can’t declare that all the great inventions as any approach or a doubt towards knowledge. It is just a finding. Similarly we can’t declare all the possible revolutions of the world to occur form sheer hostile approach to an existing government.
Equally it doesn’t really mean that approach of knowledge is the only possible way to attain knowledge. Never. There are numerous instances, which human science itself proves that doubt is NOT the only nesseccary behavior for approaching knowledge. For umpteen, years, around recently in mid 90’s, scientists started to doubt the existence of God itself, and went on so far, as to publish in THE TIMES cover page, saying God doesn’t exist, and a new knowledge of the existence of the higher being is to be obtained. It was not long until one month onwards; the same magazine published another cover page, saying “GOD IS BACK”. Nothing less than mere mockery in the name of God, just for the sake of showing a common man that a scientist has doubted a theory, meaning a new knowledge to spring up. Well, it ultimately led to nothing else but ill-respect of the declarer.
Hence it would be very important to understand that our approach to knowledge is responsible for the enhancement of knowledge. But it is not the only way to enhance knowledge. Doubt is a method, but this method will lead to limited enhancement of knowledge, not a deep-root of the knowledge which humans want to possess.
“Chariot of the gods?” by Enrik Von Daniken
“The Prince” by Machiavelli
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