Are there ways of knowing more likely than others to lead to the truth?
To answer this question to any satisfactory degree, a premise must be set that defines the ways of knowing and what truth is. Truth can be defined as the objective reality, or an objective fact, and a way of knowing is a method of reaching a conclusion through information given. The ways of knowing as the IB curriculum acknowledges them are as follows:
- Sense Perception
There is no one way of knowing that is superior to all others in terms of reaching the truth. The most effective method of knowing is to combine all ways of knowing cohesively. However, certain ways of knowing are more reliable and widely applicable than others — memory, logical reasoning, and sense perception combined together generally provide the most accurate and precise method of knowing.
For instance, faith and belief in a higher power caused people to believe that Ganesha statues in India were drinking the milk offered from their spoons, separating them from the objective reality, which was that the statues only appeared to drink milk as a result of the capillary effect.
It was only through closer scrutiny using reason, sense perception, and memory scientists determined that the statue only appeared to drink milk because of the capillary effect, which allows liquids to flow against gravity into small areas. reason was used with sense perception and memory to accurately and logically produce an explanation for the phenomenon. This example clearly highlights the strengths of logical reasoning, sense perception, and experience in terms of reaching the truth.
However, a possible counter argument is that that there is only one way of knowing that is superior to all others. One may argue that reason above all is the best way of knowing, as one can use logical reasoning to provide an accurate explanation for virtually anything. Since the universe runs on given laws and systems, a logical understanding of those fundamental systems is therefore the most applicable and effective way of knowing that can reach the truth. While this is true to a certain extent, a prime example that indicates otherwise is all around us — in the case of human emotions and thought, the vast majority of human behavior can be predicted, analyzed, and manipulated given enough understanding. Despite this, humans in mental conditions like insanity and dementia or have psychopathic tendencies are incredibly unpredictable. The mercurial nature of severe mental states like insanity is such that even the most reasonable, well thought-out person can find that reaching the truth behind an insane persons intentions virtually never succeeds. It is in instances like these where reason alone is hardly enough to begin to scratch the surface, the dependent nature of the ways of knowing is revealed. The most reliable way of reaching the truth behind an insane persons decisions requires a person to employ a wide range of ways of knowing in order to reach even a satisfactory answer: reason and sense perception still must be utilized as to draw on knowledge regarding the patients condition; memory and experience must be incorporated in the sense that an experienced mental health practitioner has an intuition towards what an insane person is really like; and language must be used effectively to communicate the truth across mediums like written text and videos. For some, faith as well as emotion may become an integral way of knowing for when addressing an insane person, and for others, imagination could be used to help understand the mental distress that an insane person may experience.
The ways of knowing cover diverse, often overlapping, spheres of human perception. There is no singular method that trumps all others, and while certain ways are more applicable than others, none can be said to be superior to another — the most accurate method of knowing is to use the ways of knowing in tandem so to best reach the truth in a manner that extends across all aspects of human knowledge.