Theory of Knowledge

Knowledge generally has three necessary requirements; the statement of knowledge must be true, you must believe that the statement is true and there must be good evidence for believing the statement. If we were to respect these statements entirely, then the question, ‘Can we know something that has not yet been proven true? ‘ would have a simple and definite answer of “no”. However there are many views and ideas, which contradict this and provide us with alternative requirements for defining knowledge. Many people believe that a statement must be proven true for it to be considered as knowledge.The difference between knowledge and belief is that knowledge requires proof, but it is not fully clear how much evidence is necessary; this often causes a lot of problems when discussing the subject. Knowing isn’t the same as being certain, but believing isn’t enough to claim that something is knowledge.

Someone may have faith in something, which isn’t true and has no proof simply because of their beliefs. There are many different reasons, which cause belief; fear, need of security and family upbringing1.Nevertheless, the motive for accepting or rejecting a belief does not validate it.

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‘Knowing’ something is not the same as ‘believing’ something, knowledge has to be true where as belief refers to a personal opinion or state of mind. This can be explained by the following example; ‘I knew that X, but X was not true’ is an incorrect statement because in order to know something it has got to be true even if you strongly believe it. However to say ‘I believed that X, but X was not true’ is entirely acceptable as everyone is entitled to their own opinions.2 Many people find it difficult to believe something that has been proved incorrect, however somebody with very strong beliefs may not change their attitude and faith even when it is proven wrong. A statement of knowledge must have a certain amount of evidence for it to be proven.

Evidence can determine whether or not we regard something as knowledge, so this is an important aspect to consider when discussing whether we can know something that has not yet been proven true. There are two types of evidence, which makes the argument even more complex.Empirical evidence derives primarily from the senses and this is generally what is used to prove whether something is true in everyday life. For example if we hear somebody say something we can accept it as true and classify it as knowledge however it might only be their opinion.

3 If we experience something for ourselves either by sight, sound, touch or smell then we necessarily tend to claim it as the truth. However this type of evidence cannot be applied to all types of knowledge. How can we make claims to know something, which we cannot see?This is why many people find it difficult to strongly believe in a God or a certain religion. We have no visual evidence to prove that God exists but still many people claim to ‘know’ that god exists despite contradicting evidence. It would be impractical to prove that God exists if this means to demonstrate in a way that nobody can question. The other type of evidence is indirect, which we already accept as truth as it fits in with what we claim to know.

4 This is frequently referred to as the coherence theory of truth and suggests that some things can be accepted as knowledge even if it has not been proven true.It depends on individuals whether or not they believe certain things, and whereas we can believe things, which may be true or false, we can only know things that are true. 5 If you say that you know something you are declaring that you believe that it is true, and there must be a reason, which has caused you to believe.

However if you do not have significant evidence then you cannot claim that what you are saying is knowledge, it can only be your opinion. 6 It is justified that true belief depends on objective evidence and cannot be simply based on subjective views.This means that knowledge has to have evidence and cannot be based simply on opinions and ideas. Nevertheless it is not realistic to demand proof for everything.

Disproving something is usually simple whereas proving beyond all doubt is virtually unachievable. However inductive logic is the process by which we move from the specific to the general and make regularities about things. This can only be known through observation and does not go beyond what is empirically verifiable. Induction is given to a process, which has been observed a number of times.This kind of logic is not logical, as the conclusion is not contained within the premises, unlike a deductive argument or syllogism. It could be disputed that induction doesn’t give us certainty but does provide us with probability.

This process does not prove that something is true; instead it can be used to prove that a statement is incorrect. 7 Popper agreed with this and believed that induction is logically invalid but is a form of falsification, which means that it can only be used to prove that something is false.Karl Popper was a respected philosopher of the twentieth century and possibly his greatest contributions to the theory of knowledge was his investigation of the logic of scientific discovery. Popper argued that the only way in which to reach a conclusion was through the method of deduction. 8 “What really makes science grow is new ideas, including false ideas”9 Louis Pasteur used this method of falsification to refute the theory of spontaneous generation and demonstrated that microorganisms are everywhere.