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Theory of knowledge

Science Allegory of Louis-Ernest Barrias
Source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barrias_La_Nature_se_d%C3%A9voilant.jpg

(Nature unveiling itself to Science Allegory of Louis-Ernest Barrias.)

The theory of knowledge has been assimilated to the philosophy of knowledge and to gnoseology.

When the theory of knowledge is assimilated to the philosophy of knowledge, it is part of philosophy according to a certain “geography”:

  • continental: the theory of knowledge covers all knowledge, and epistemology is about scientific knowledge,

  • Anglo-Saxon: the philosophy of science deals with scientific methods and results, and gnoseology deals with knowledge in general.

In fact, since the work of Edgar Morin, among others, the theory of knowledge is transdisciplinary, multi-dimensional and multi factorial. As a result, it can no longer be totally included in the field of philosophy.

The theory of knowledge, reasoned inventory of the instruments necessary to know, studies:

  • the nature of knowledge and its variety;

  • the origins of knowledge;

  • the contents, the evaluation criteria and the value of the knowledge (to separate the true from the false);

  • the means and conditions of knowledge;

  • the possible limits of knowledge,

especially human knowledge. Of course, the theory of knowledge actualizes the knowledge of knowledge, without being the history of knowledge which is a specific discipline.

Much of the work in this discipline is devoted to the analysis of knowledge, that is, to the determination of its necessary and sufficient conditions. It is more precisely a matter of establishing which relations maintain knowledge with, in particular, belief and truth, and what procedures of justification make it possible to distinguish in an individual the knowledge that comes from:

  • of a simple true belief (which can be by accident). Ex: Some people think that the earth revolves around the sun without having made the intimate journey of justification. For them this knowledge is a true belief.

  • of a true intimately justified knowledge.

Zetetics is a test of an acquaintance.

Origins of the theory of knowledge

According to Philippe Descola, the theory of knowledge attempts to emancipate itself from the cultures and historical periods that led to its development and opens up to diversity. Pascal Picq even proposes to update Pascal’s bet: “Beyond the controversies […], could we not take again the ethical principle of this bet for the future generations, by acting to preserve [natural and domestic biodiversity ] as well as the cultural diversity that is linked to them?”. Edgar Morin, Philippe Descola and Pascal Picq, among others, invite humanity to respect the historized diversity of sources of knowledge and cosmogonies.

Details of relationships in the specific environment to knowledge

Link between knowledge and belief

In view of one of the objectives of the theory of knowledge, which relates to the determination of the necessary and sufficient conditions to be able to speak of knowledge, the following points should be mentioned:

Plato, knowledge (According to Plato, knowledge is at the intersection of truths and beliefs)

The classical approach defines knowledge as a true and justified belief, and not just a true belief. This definition excludes cases where an individual has a true belief, but where he is unable to explain why this belief is true. The individual can thus believe that “the earth turns around the sun” (proposal p) for example by hearsay, without being able to explain it. The proposition p is true, but the individual does not have the knowledge that “the earth revolves around the sun”. It is a belief for the individual.

The justification of belief is therefore the crucial element of this traditional analysis of knowledge, and many contemporary theories seek to determine precisely its nature and modalities; the theory of justification is one of the main branches of the theory of knowledge.

The term “knowledge” has for a long time designated, in philosophy, beliefs whose truth is certainly justified. Any belief with a lower degree of justification constitutes a “probable opinion” (or provisional knowledge). This point of view still prevails in the work of Bertrand Russell (particularly in Problems of Philosophy, 1912). In the decades that followed, the idea that the degree of justification of beliefs must be evaluated in terms of certainty lost in influence.

Today, cognitivists believe that an individual masters a knowledge when he is able to rationally explain his true belief. Example: The individual announcing that it is the earth that revolves around the sun (lesson learned at school) and that proves itself capable of demonstrating it for himself or for others.

Link between knowledge and knowing

An individual knowing was initially an knowledge for an individual (an: at least).

Once formalized (at least: in writing), knowing exists independently of the individual.

The theory of knowledge is concerned with the transmission of the knowing of an individual who knows to an individual or a collective able and willing to learn.

The strategy, the pedagogy, the means of this transmission are the most important aspects to maintain the objective of a complete and operational transmission to the learner.

The mediation by an individual who knows is all the more important because there is a “knack” or “tricks” to be acquired in the mastery of a knowing by a learner.

Link between knowledge and information

Lionel Naccache denounces the confusion between knowledge and information; and clarifies the issue: “Knowledge is a story of “I”. A story of subjects who experience this [knowledge-information] experience daily running the risk of revising their models of beliefs and interpretations of the world and of themselves.”

Edgar Morin invites us “to dispel the illusion that we have arrived at the knowledge society”. He specifies “the relevant knowledge is that which is able to situate all information in its context, and if possible in the whole or it fits. […] The knowledge progresses mainly, not by sophistication, formalization and abstraction, but by the ability to contextualize and globalize “. […] Knowledge is knowledge only as an organization put in relation and in context of information”.

Link between knowledge and technique

In encyclopaedic works related to the theory of knowledge, it is common to find studies on the links between knowledge and science or the links between knowledge and culture: The level of abstraction allows to talk without having to enter too much deeply in the specificities of each entity (specialized language, objects, methods, difficulties, risks, …).

On the other hand, the technique does not leave naturally taken to the abstraction, the links between the knowledge and the technique are much less evoked whereas, as of the tool and later the mechanization, the technique printed its model(s) on the individual, society, and civilization. It must be said that the time of the technique is of shorter term than that of the prospectivist reflection, the panoramic study and the organizing policy of “living together” elsewhere.

There is little by little more and more of the “independent” editorial contributions of philosophers, sociologists, and critical historians (dependent and unburdened) of the knowledge resulting from the technique. In any case the corpus is under construction.

Translated from Wikipedia

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