Why do other languages have several different words for “to know”? What are the constraints of English?
As a student of French, I know two different words for what we call “to know”: savoir and connaitre. Savoir encompasses both knowing a fact and knowing a certain skill. “Je sais que c’est lundi aujourd’hui” (I know that it’s Monday today) and “Je sais faire cuisine” (I know how to cook) use the same verb. The other word, “connaitre”, means to be familiar with, and can be used for places or people. I think this is useful because it is evidently different to know my best friend and to know what 2 plus 2 is. In English, I don’t think our lexical gap is too problematic however; it is very easy to differentiate which type of knowing the person means depending on the context they use it in.
The Five Stages of Knowledge
According to Mohammed Youssef, there are five Arabic words for knowledge in the Koran, which correspond with five different levels of knowledge, all of which come before wisdom. The first level is something which you have just begun to be introduced to; for me, an example of this is maybe a new concept that I have just been introduced to in math. The second and third levels are slowly gaining more experience; for me, these would be the concepts that maybe I learned in the beginning of the year in math that I keep using over and over again. The fourth level is maybe something I learned a few years ago in Algebra 2 or Geometry that I’ve had lots of practice with. The fifth and final level is the last level before wisdom; I think of this as basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These are things I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember and I am very comfortable with.
Types of Knowledge
The first type is experiential knowledge, which is something that you know through direct experience. I think that the biggest area that I have for this is social interaction: how to talk to friends, classmates, teachers, parents, children, strangers, etc.
The second type is procedural knowledge, which is knowing how to do a certain skill. This often pertains to sports, hobbies, and other physical, “muscle memory” sort of things. For example, I know how to walk, run, swim, dance, ride a bike, etc.
The last type is knowledge claims, which are more like simple facts. I know how to spell “knowledge”. I know what “TOK” stands for. I know my multiplication tables.
I think that the knowledge claims are the easiest to learn because they don’t require any activity or experience. It’s book knowledge, and anyone can read and commit something to memory. However, I think that the other two types tend to stick with you longer, especially experiential knowledge. Facts are easily forgotten, procedures stay with your muscle memory longer but you can become “rusty” after being out of practice, but experiences stay with you the longest.
Ways of Knowing
There are four different ways of knowing: sense perception, language, emotion, and reasoning. I think they can all apply to different types of knowledge, but some are more relevant to certain types than other. For example, sense perception I think is relevant to all of the different ways. We notice that the sky is blue or that sugar tastes sweet: a knowledge claim. We see what kinds of facial expressions correlate to different emotions in people: experiential knowledge. We feel the sensation of walking and falling until we are successful: procedural knowledge. I think that language ties really well with knowledge claims but not much else because we learn most of our facts through language, whether it be written or spoken. I think emotion and reasoning both work best with experiential knowledge, because after we have done something, we can either gauge how we feel about the experience or look at what happened logically and use this to inform ourselves.
If I heard someone say “I’ve heard about that”, I would probably classify that as a knowledge claim. Since they haven’t actual done it, they can’t have experiential knowledge or procedural knowledge.
Theories of Learning
This article talks about six different theories of learning: behaviorism, cognitivism, pragmatism, constructivism, social constructivism, and connectivism. I think that of these, the IB program combines cognitivism and constructivism, both being taught but also being self-directed in your search for knowledge. Personally, I think that it is difficult to choose one that I find the most helpful because all of them are necessary to some degree in different aspects of life. For example, for procedural things, pragmatism is the most useful, but for most of school, cognitivism is necessary.
Types of Memory
Procedural memory- This is the memory for the performance of a particular type of action. It is often “subconscious” memory, especially for processes and actions that we perform often. They can usually be automatically retrieved and used.
Working memory- This is the shorter term memory that holds multiple pieces of information in your mind and allows you to process and use them for various tasks. This type of memory requires monitoring and attention.
Long-term memory- This type of memory holds associations among items for, evidently, a longer amount of time than the working memory and the short-term memory. It differs structurally and functionally from these memories.
Declarative memory- This is a type of long-term memory that can be consciously recalled. It included facts, knowledge, and personal experiences, but not procedural (or non-declarative) memories.
Episodic memory- This is a type of declarative memory that refers specifically to autobiographical events that can be stated. This includes times, places, emotions, and similar types of knowledge.
Tests for Truth
The tests for truth are coherence (does it agree with other claims I believe?), correspondence (does it match previous evidence?) and pragmatic (does it work in practice?). I think that in our DP subjects, we mainly use correspondence in class, but personally we use the coherence test (we are not likely to believe something is true if it contradicts our previously held beliefs). We do utilize the pragmatic test occasionally, especially in math, when we test out formulae to see why they work or do our own proofs.
Truth v Lies
The difference between sincerity and correctness is that a sincere statement can be completely factually wrong, as long as the person who is making the statement wholeheartedly believes it to be true. Similarly, a false statement and a lie differ. A false statement can be made with the intention of being sincere.
I think that various types of justification are important in our classes. A lot of the time, we use intuition to help guide us when we aren’t completely sure. I think this helps more in classes where answers are less concrete, such as English and history, versus in math, where intuition may help, but having formulae memorized is a must. Emotion is also a more important justification in such subjects, but also in the arts classes, such as theatre and art.
Intensity of Belief
Evaluating Knowledge Claims
I’ll be evaluating my recent learning about the Haitian Revolution in history class.
Source: My source is both Mr. Webb and a series of online readings and videos put out by Brown University. I don’t think that either of these sources have any motivation to deceive me and I believe them both to be reputable. The facts that they have given do fit in with other sources that we have examined that speak about the revolution, so it passes the coherence test.
Statements: The statements made do not have a context which would make them unreliable. The backgrounds of those presenting the information are open; one of the men who makes videos for the Brown program is, in fact, from Haiti. There are visuals that accompany the readings and videos, some of which are emotionally affecting, but seem to be fairly balanced. There are not contradictions.
Self: I think that I do have an inclination to believe simply whatever the teacher tells me, especially in regards to something that I have no prior knowledge about, such as the Haitian Revolution. However, I don’t think I have personal biases that would affect the way I perceive this piece of history or affect my belief in it.