Monday, March 6, 2017

How does knowledge teach us about who we are?

"Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are." To what extent is this true in the human sciences and one other area of knowledge?"

Knowledge is important to humans, not only because it helps us become more advanced, but also because it can help expand our understanding of who we are. First, it is important to understand what knowledge is. Knowledge is information that is known to be true, and this knowledge can be gained through experiences and investigations.

The quote "knowledge gives us a sense of who we are", is especially important when investigating the human sciences and history. The human sciences, specifically psychology, helps humans study how their brains work and why we behave in specific ways. History shows the past behaviors of humans, including how we reacted to different events. With the use of the human sciences to study the behaviors of humans and history to study the past of humans, we can gain more knowledge that can aid us while we try discover who we are as humans.

This topic uses the human sciences as a very broad term, but there are many different branches of the human sciences. One that specifically applies is psychology. Psychology is defined as "the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context." By studying psychology and gaining more knowledge of the human mind, one can try to understand why they do what they do. Psychology can also help us learn about our emotions. Emotions are extremely important for humans, because they can play a very large role in how we make decisions. The way we feel about a certain choice will greatly affect our lives. Intuition also plays a large role in psychology. Intuition is "an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it." So a human's initial reaction to something is their intuition, and this can be studied with the use of psychology. This makes the phrase "knowledge gives us a sense of who we are" very true because, by learning about how our minds work, humans can understand more about how we function with emotions and intuition, and this can give us a better sense of who we are.

Another area of knowledge that supports the quote "knowledge gives us a sense of who we are" is history. History is the study of the past and the events that took place then. The past that humans are mostly concerned with is that of human affairs. This is the history that is taught in classrooms, where students learn the who, what, when, and how of the years prior to now. By studying history, we can form patterns of how people reacted to certain events and the actions they took. The knowledge of these patterns inform us of the ways we usually act and help us see what worked and what did not. As George Santayana said, "those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." History helps us understand what mistakes we have made and allows us to learn from those mistakes.

Together, psychology and history can teach people a great deal about who they are. By applying psychology to an analysis of the past, we can not only determine what mistakes we made, but also why we may have made those mistakes. Think of when South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Thanks to history, we know this event took place and we know that it caused more states to secede and eventually led to a four year long war. By looking at this cessation through a psychological lens, people can try to understand why South Caroline decided to leave the Union. People can look at the emotions that may have been felt by the leaders of South Carolina and the intuition that led them to secede. By learning about these, we can try determine what caused South Caroline and the states that followed to secede. This can then help us learn about who we are in times where we feel trapped and angry and can help us prevent drastic measures similar to the ones taken by South Carolina.

However helpful these areas of knowledge may sometimes be, they are not always accurate. Psychology is largely based on uncertainty, because the research conducted cannot give people a definite conclusion. It can only give evidence, which can be used to create ideas of how people act. However, none of it is for certain. History also has some limitations. History is largely based on memory, perception, and language, and each of these can cause it to be highly conflicting. Memory is not always reliable and can be under or over exaggerated with time. This can lead to events being much different than they actually were. The way a person perceives something can also largely affect the history that they describe. Different accounts of the same historical events are often extremely different. Language also plays a large factor because it is how we record our history. Before written word existed, people recorded history orally. This was a problem because those stories evolved over time and are now either lost or completely different. Due to this, people do not know much of the history that took place before written word. There are even some problems with the written histories. There is no guarantee that what is written is true. Just like psychology, there is no certainty, only
evidence that supports it.

By using the human sciences to study the behaviors of humans and history to study the past of humans, we can try to gain more knowledge that can help us while we try discover who we are as humans. Psychology helps us realize the behaviors of humans and history informs us of the patterns of the past, and by combining the two we can try to understand why we have taken the actions we have and what that says about who humans are.

1 comment:

  1. This is a clear and well-organized analysis. I especially your careful interest in the possible meanings of knowledge, and in your clear choice of two compelling AOKs for analysis. Your claims about these AOKs are all true, though some feel a little bit surface level. You are bringing in the WOKs in a useful way, but what seems missing is the "So What?" What does it mean to give us a "sense of who we are" and what effect does that have?

    You get closer to this in your history section, which suggests that we might be able to avoid future mistakes by looking to the past. I wonder how that plays out IRL, though. We haven't managed to end all wars, no matter how closely we study those of the past...

    The least clear moment is when you are trying to read the Civil War in psychological terms. Something doesn't fit there--maybe sociology would be more useful? Relationships between groups?

    Your analysis of the potential weaknesses of these AOKs is also compelling, but lacks that same "so what?" How do these weaknesses affect each AOKs ability to "give us a sense of who we are?"