Monthly Archives: October 2020

Are some ways of knowing more likely than others to lead to truth?

There are eight “ways of knowing” in Theory of Knowledge: language, reason, sense perception, emotion, faith, intuition, imagination, and memory. A way of knowing is a way that we as knowers can decide whether or not something is “true” or “factual.” This is not a simple decision to make as we must weigh many different factors. Therefore, the definition of truth is up for argument. The technical definition of truth is “a fact or definition that is accepted as true,” however the validity of being “accepted” is not always reliable as popularity does not equal credibility. Due to the complexity of this definition of truth, no one way of knowing, in isolation, is more likely than others to lead to truth.

It is important that knowers use a variety of “ways of knowing” to decipher the accuracy of a statement, as well as form their own opinion. This is due to the fact that truth is not definitive. Therefore implying that an answer cannot be black and white. When only one “way of knowing is used,” what we get is a black and white answer. For example, take the statement “God is real”. Is this true or false? Can we decide this with sense perception? Maybe. “If I have not seen him with my own eyes he cannot be real.” However, this statement can then be refuted with the idea that you may not have personally seen Him, but the stories I was raised on tell us that there are in fact people who have encountered God so who is to say they are being untruthful? Another way of knowing, faith, would allow one to believe sense perception is not necessary to decide whether the statement “God is real” is the truth or not. This is why it is important to weigh the importance of the different “ways of knowing”. Yes, which way of knowing is more important may differ based on the statement in question, and the people involved, however this still shows that there is no one way that can classify a statement as truth.

If only one way of knowing is used in deciding truth, the answer presented cannot possibly address all aspects of the question. It is crucial to the depth we aim to achieve in conversations surrounding the idea of “truth” to consider all “ways of knowing”, their strengths, their limitations, and what we are willing to sacrifice to settle on an answer or an opinion.