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Some Knowledge Is Discovered And Others Are Invented Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1371 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The question “how do we evolve knowledge?” is a debate in philosophy older to human existence. Philosophers differ on the source of knowledge. Some say that reasoning is a way to acquire knowledge while others say that perception is the way to get knowledge. Art, ethics and math are some of the areas of knowledge. The major argument is on whether these areas of knowledge are discovered or invented. Mathematics and ethics use reasoning as the way to have knowledge whereas art is concerned with perception and the perception leads to experience. Giving arguments and counter arguments for determining whether laws in physics, art and ethics are invented or discovered.

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Epistemology is an important area of philosophy dealing with the theory of knowledge. It focuses on determining what is true knowledge and how do we receive the true knowledge. The word knowledge is known in different ways such as understanding, recognizing, grasping etc. According to the tripartite theory of knowledge which is the most popular account of knowledge, there are three conditions in order to possess knowledge. They are belief, truth and justification. Belief is the first condition for knowledge. “Even if something is true, and one has excellent reasons for believing that it is true, one cannot know it without believing it.” (Dawkins). Truth means conformity with reality. If a thing is known, it must be true because false cannot be known and therefore, knowledge must be of truth. “The third condition for knowledge is justification. In order to know a thing, it is not enough to merely believe it; one must also have a good reason for doing so.” (The Tripartite Theory of Knowledge).

Knowledge can be received by two sources and they are known as empiricism and rationalism. There is a constant debate in philosophy on derivation of knowledge, whether knowledge is empirical or rational. “In the philosophy of science, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to experience, especially as formed through deliberate experimental arrangements.” (Empiricism). Empiricism says that knowledge is obtained through senses and without senses we cannot understand knowledge. The theory rationalism is quite different from empiricism postulating that reason is the source for knowledge. In the view of philosophers who support the theory of rationalism, in the acquisition of knowledge holds three types of knowledge. First one is the possession of the innate knowledge and they strongly say that innate knowledge is absolutely different from sense knowledge. Second type of knowledge is the truth of logic, mathematic or ethical truth. For example, one plus one is two and it is the mathematical truth. It is true and it cannot be other. So also, there is logical necessity drawn through the deduction and induction methods in the acquisition of knowledge. Thirdly, the rationalists say that even though there are truths which are grounded in experience, reasoning is important in the derivation of knowledge. For example, if two persons see a sunflower at a time, their understanding and perception about the flower will be different. This shows that there is ‘reasoning’ among them in order to judge the beauty of the flower.

Through reasoning we come to mathematical knowledge. Mathematical principles are not discovered but are invented. Here, we solve a problem with the help of a formula. We use our rationale in applying the formula in order to solve the problem. “Mathematics is an invention according to the Formalists and Intuitionists, who believed that mathematics is an invention of the mind.” (Was Mathematics an Invention or a Discovery?). They tell that mathematical principles are not an absolute necessity and also there are no complex numbers in the nature. So mathematics is an invention and not a discovery.

Ethics is invented, not discovered. It is mere construction of human mind. There are moral principles and it varies from society to society, nation to nation and individual to individual. An ethical act which is dominated in some society is not at all ethics in some other societies.

From watching a recent documentary about Liberia an African man was interviewed who used to be a general of a clan, before battle they would kill a young child and cut his heart out consuming some of his blood. This shows some clans in Africa are cannibals and their culture is not bothered about killing of other people. But, most of the people cherish an ethics that killing is immoral act. Therefore, we can say that ethics is constructed and invented, not discovered. Reasoning is the way to come to this knowledge.

The way of knowing art is different from ethics and mathematics. We use reasoning for understanding mathematical and ethical principles. But, perception is the way of knowing the art. We see an art and it leads us to a kind of experience. Seeing an art such as film, statue and pictures, we become emotionally aroused. But understanding an ethical principle does not make us emotionally aroused. “We cannot know the content of the work of art without experiencing the work.” (Lehrer, Kieran, and Dominic 1).

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It is not possible to say all knowledge are discovered or invented completely. Knowledge that human beings have acquired now in different areas are not mere discoveries or inventions. Great knowledge is result of both great discoveries and inventions. For example, the theories in physics have undergone discussion whether those are invented or discovered. Most of the theories in physics were made from different life experiences. Sometimes, the origin of these theories was closely related with the incidents that happened coincidently. For example, when the origin of the theories of gravitational forces was discussed, the experiences that had in the life of Isaac Newton is mentioned often. Those life experiences led him to make great theories of gravitational force. But, universe was acting according to those rules before they were actually made. These findings were called as discoveries because they existed before they were expressed by mathematical terms. So, the theories which are written or explained using mathematical or linguistic symbols are inventions while their results in practical level are discoveries. But, generally these finding are called as discoveries. But these discoveries are base for many findings which are called as inventions without any doubt. For example, space shuttles are example for one of the greatest inventions of human. But, at the time of making of space shuttles, different theories of force of gravitation have to be analyzed as it acts against force of gravitations. So, in same area itself discoveries and inventions are interlinked in many ways.

When we derive knowledge related to art, perception of people who derive those knowledge become prominent. Generally, the findings in arts are inventions. A painter creates his ideas in his mind in a platform. It is a creation, so it can be called as an invention. But, it is possible to argue that there are findings of things which already exist. When an architect makes a sculpture from a rock, he really applies his creativity to the rock and takes a particular shape, which already exists, out of that rock. It is very difficult to explain how man creates an artistic thing which becomes an invention of man in simple logical manner. It is possible to explain the creativity only if both the persons, one who explains and one who listens think in the level of art.

The rules of ethics are made for adding more values to social life of human beings. But, being a social creature, many principles of morality have become inevitable part of human nature. So, there are arguments that ethical theories are discoveries of human beings. “These arguments, regardless of their mutual areas of agreement and disagreement, seem to point towards morality as being a set of more or less complete rules, already present in the human intellect at birth.” (Arroyo).


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