Month: September 2017

Language as a Source of Knowledge

Question: “The vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge”.

Language is a method of communication between humans that is either written or spoken, and consists of the use of words in a generally accepted structure and convention. Humans constantly uses language to express themselves and their ideas to others, and thus spread their knowledge throughout the global/local community. However there are some drawbacks when one must be careful of when trying to transmit knowledge through language, because not only are some concepts hard to express in language, but the interpretation of language very fluid at times. What this means is that because of people’s different life experiences and what they already know, different people’s interpretation of language can differ from person to person making it hard to find a common base in language to communicate your specific and intended message clearly.

Religion is an Area of Knowledge (AOK) that shows how the ambiguity and vagueness of language can sometimes lead to people having different religious ideals. This can be seen through how christians, muslims and others treat people and situations differently. For example, a verse in the Bible states that “Vengeance is Mine”. Many people interpret this verse as saying that if someone wrongs you, than you have the right to exact vengeance upon the wrongdoer. However what this verse really means is that if someone does you wrong, god will be the one who will provide justice, kind of like karma. As a result many devote Christians may misinterpret this verse and use it as an excuse to exact revenge upon someone, and not allow god to pass judgement upon the individual himself. Therefore, the vagueness of this Bible verse may impede the progress of knowledge by creating individuals who do not think about why they were rejected or wronged, and simply think they are right and deserve vengeance on those who rejected/wronged them without thinking about the circumstances from an outside point of view. In addition, the vast majority of muslims believe that the word jihad symbolises their internal struggles to live a life that abides by the moral codes of the Koran. However some muslims believe that jihad represents an external struggle against those who would threaten the faith or the faithful, sometimes by using arms. As a result of the vagueness of the term jihad, some people have taken it up as an excuse to wage a global war of terror against western society. Therefore the misinterpretation of jihad impedes the religious knowledge of many muslims, because nowadays people relate jihad to islamic terrorists and not it’s true meaning of spiritual struggle.

However the ambiguity and vagueness of language does not always impede the production of knowledge, and this can be seen in the arts. In fact, I believe that the fact that the ambiguity and vagueness of language in the arts is what allows this AOK to be so diverse, impactful and eye-opening. For example, scripts done by playwrights may contain language that is really vague. However this allows for many different interpretations of certain scenes, which allows different directors to convey different meanings to the audience. Thus allowing the audience to gain more insight into different situations, and thus increase their understanding of the different scenarios and reasons for these scenarios. Therefore I believe that vagueness and ambiguity does not always limit the production of knowledge.

Further Questions: (The ones crossed out are answered in above)

  • Do vagueness and ambiguity always limit the production of knowledge
  • Does any kind of knowledge benefit from vagueness and ambiguity of language
  • Is all language vague and ambiguous
  • What is language
  • What limits language
  • What is role of language in producing knowledge
  • Does knowledge require language to be made?

Reason

Claim: Pure logic is only concerned with the structure of arguments. The validity of an argument is independent of the truth or falsity of its premises.

In response to the claim above, I would agree that pure logic is only concerned with the structure of arguments. This is because when making a deductive argument, ones premise can be truth or false and their argument would still be valid. This is because the validity of an argument is only based off of whether the premises are structured in a way that is logical and makes sense. For example if I have two premises, one of which being that martians have green skin and the other being that some tree frogs have green skin, then using logic, I can argue that some tree frogs are martians. While we know that the argument is false, the premise of some tree frogs having green skin is true however the other premise is actually an unknown since we do not know what martians look like. Despite having only one true and concrete premise, the argument can still be considered valid since we logically took in the information of the premises and came to a conclusion. Therefore the validity of an argument is independent of the truth or falsity of its premises.

This type of logic is especially prevalent in science, where scientists start of with a general argument and then through creating/testing premises come to a concrete conclusion.

Does Emotion Hinder Knowledge in some AOKs?

Claim: A good historian strives to be as unemotional as possible, this is the only way to write accurate history

“With great power comes great responsibility”, the famous quote from the wall-crawling hero Spider-Man is a lifelong mantra that drives the superhero forward through his superhero career. This quote can also be applied to historians, because their version of history is usually societies version of history. The history that they deem accurate is the basic framework with which we build modern society upon, and as a result they hold immense power to shape and mould society. Therefore their jobs require unbiased perspectives regarding historical events, in order to not lead themselves and society astray. However the question remains, is being unemotional the only way to write accurate history?

Emotional historians may over/under exaggerate certain events in order to make history conform to their ideas, as a result only half of the total story will be told. As a result these historians will superimpose their biased perspectives on society and will affect how society progresses. Overall, their version of society will become askew and will bend history to their ideas and imagination.

On the other hand, historians that are emotional may be able to convey certain ideas and events better than unemotional ones. In various literary pieces, it is often the ones that better express the author’s emotions that people tend to better imagine the scenery being described. The same can be said about historical recounts or descriptions, because recounts with more emotive words may be able to better describe certain events than unbiased, unemotional words. For example when describing a war, it would be better to use emotional words to describe how people felt about that war. As a result, a history without emotion would be a history that has lost an important element, emotion. History is riddled full of emotional conflicts, events and people, therefore recounting and describing history without emotion will only provide a part of the story.

In conclusion I believe that while it is important for historians to write accurate history, I do not believe that to do so emotion must be thrown out of the picture. This is because emotion plays an important part in historical events, therefore ridding history of emotion will take away an important part of the story which blinds society to the whole truth.

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