Theory of Knowledge

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In this statement, there are two different structures of sentence. The use of “I” is a first person tense, whereas “it” does not involve a particular viewpoint. According to the theory of linguistic determinism1, or linguistic relativity2 to be more precise, explains the difficulty of distinguishing knowledge. Linguistic relativity tells us that the language we use determines part of our thinking. The language we speak will more or less influence our thinking to follow that culture.

If the culture empathizes on individualism, then it is more likely that the people will use “I am certain” since their cultural background teaches them to put personal emotions on their first priority, whereas people from a different culture will put the community first before their personal emotions. Therefore the validity of these statements depends on their background cultures. There are mainly two ways for us to treat knowledge we receive: subjectively or objectively. These two statements “I am certain” is more on the subjective side, since there are no others being involved except from myself.

The use of “It is certain” tries to remove the subjective judgement of the personnel, takes into account opinions and evidences from other sources and some level of evaluation and processing. The use of “it”, though, does not necessarily indicate the other way round. “It” refers to a proposition that allegedly conveys “certainty”, whereas the word “certainty” has a dispositional rather than propositional connotation. For example, the use of “It is certain” is more common in most textbooks and academic researches, and “I am certain” is used in daily life.

It is considered as non-scientific by using “I am certain” when writing academic research papers and textbooks. However, we sometimes use “it is certain” without having in mind that we mean something scientific. For example, we can say, “It is certain that they are in love. ” There are four ways of knowledge: logic, emotion, perception and language. In the above statement, language greatly affects our logic. The use of “I” gives the impression that the conclusion contains a heavy influence of one’s emotional attachments.

This is because the conclusion “I am certain” uses myself as the centre of judgement. This implies that the logic we used to make our judgement is not so dependable since the logic has been misled by his emotions. Therefore passionate conviction can result in a meaningless logical approach of one problem. For example, if a Christian simply says, “I am certain that God exists” then it might not be very persuasive. This is because a Christian is well-known for believing God exists, and without any other third party evidences, it is hard to convince non-believers that God exists.

However, if Christian look for historical evidences such as the The Red Sea where Moses separated, and matches between the Bible and history, finally came up with the statement that “It is certain that God exists. ” This statement is stronger because not only does it excludes the passionate conviction from the Christian but also introduces other areas of knowledge (science, history, religion etc. ) and becomes a more accepted “truth” or “certainty”. “It is certain” is another kind of sentence structure where a first person sense is changed into a third person sense.

However, the process of doing so must involve a loss of information i. e. in this case one’s emotion. In scientific researches, the author must avoid using first person tense when writing in order to exclude any false influences caused by their personal emotions. Many experiments must have been done with insignificant errors in order for a scientist to prove/disprove a theory. However, “I am certain” does not necessarily mean nothing. For a belief to become justified, it has to be compared with a fixed theory or belief that is dependable. As humans, our strongest belief is our emotions and memories.

For example, there is no one more certain than myself whether I am in love or not, and passionate conviction will only strengthen this belief. In these cases, “I am certain” is a better way of expressing knowledge (it will be less convincing if someone say “It is certain that I am in love”, since science cannot tell why you are in love, but only what happens after you are in love). Moreover, personal belief is less likely to change because one’s belief is constantly refreshed by his/her emotions and memories. For example, your experience will only strengthen along with time on whether a chair can support your weight when you sit on it.

Suppose there are many statistics showing that a four-legged chair will be able to support a person’s weight (approximately 1000N), and a three-legged chair can also support a person’s weight (approximately 700N). You weight 500N (50kg), which means mathematically you should be fine sitting on both, but which one will you choose? Your experience tells you that you always sit on a four-legged chair, and you have never tried a three-legged chair before. Therefore “it is certain that both chairs should be alright. ” and “I am certain that the four-legged chair is better. ” both come into one’s mind and he will go for the four-legged chair.

Passionate conviction, although does not sound very scientific, is sometimes the only prove when dealing with who is right. For instance, in Physics, without looking out of the window it is impossible to tell whether I am in motion or not. If there is another person moving at the same speed, then both of us see the other person as stationary, and without any solid proof in Physics both are as equally correct as the other. In other cases, passionate conviction is sufficient in justifying one statement. This is most obviously seen in emotional claims. For example, I say that I feel extremely cold today.

Even if the Observatory says the temperature is 20°C outdoors, I can still feel cold (if I come from a very tropical place like Africa). There are no other areas of knowledge that can disprove my feeling cold in 20°C. Science tells me that I should feel reasonably comfortable in 20°C. However, science can predict that people from Africa should feel differently when placed in a different environment. On the other hand, ways of knowing can perfectly tell if one is feeling cold or not. Our perception helps us to first sense the weather, then see how this person react to this weather.

Logic tells us that if a person feels cold, he will shake. Our emotion can help us sense if that person is making a false claim or not from their facial expressions, body language, etc. Finally, our language helps us understand how cold this person feels. There is a significant difference between “It is a bit cool here”, “I am cold”, and even “I am freezing”. Therefore passionate conviction is sometimes sufficient to justify knowledge. In conclusion, “I am certain” and “It is certain” and passionate conviction do not contribute to a particular side, and they tend to change in terms of validity when dealing with different situations.

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