What Is Human Knowledge? Utilizing Plato Hume Kant And Russell

Human Knowledge

         Knowledge is defined as the acquaintance or responsiveness of something or someone. It can be used to refer to either practical or theoretical comprehension of a subject. Epistemology is the term used to define the study of knowledge in philosophy. Acquisition of knowledge requires the involvement of complicated processes of cognition such as perception, reasoning, and communication. The capacity of acknowledgment of a human being can be used in relation to knowledge. Classical definitions of knowledge specifically say that a statement should conform to three certain criterions to be good enough to be considered knowledge. A statement must be true, believed and then justified. These requirements have been subject to discussion, and many philosophers have claimed that these conditions are not enough and are shallow to measure knowledge. Great philosophers such as Plato, Kant, Russel, and Hume proposed different explanations and requirements that we can’t say that those who show any of them either by defect, law or failure know.

           Theaetetus Plato defined knowledge as “justified true belief.” This definition is mostly accepted even today. It looks vague and does not seem to carry any truth with itself. We cannot refer to something as knowledge if it never was the truth. It is also hard to refer to something as a piece of knowledge if it does not have any justification. In the 20th century, Edmund Gettier disproved the definition of knowledge by Plato. Most of the Gettier’s arguments were negative. Gettier argued that if knowledge is not justified true belief, then what could it be? He said it is not possible to explain everything that we know. Taking an example will help us see why Plato considered a justified true belief to be good enough to be knowledge. 

               Assume a gambler who predicts the result of a football match and places a bet on it before the game starts.  If this guess turns out right, this is a true belief but can we inevitably call it knowledge? This belief is only based on prediction and luck, and consequently, we can say that a true belief becomes knowledge only if it can be justified. This example holds the explanation given by Plato. Gettier also provided an example to show that justified true belief is not knowledge. Assume a tourist who visits a park for the first time and beliefs that there are buffalos there. He looks around the park and sees buffaloes. This is a sealed case presenting a justification of a true belief.

Nevertheless, assume that the tourist did not witness a buffalo, but in its place, he saw a cow which was in the park but a separate area from the Buffaloes. Here, the tourist beliefs that in the park there are buffaloes, and admittedly, they are there – this means his belief is true – and he can fully justify this because in his own belief he knows he saw a buffalo. Can the tourist be said to know that buffaloes were in the park? Through this example and the explanation presented by Gettier, it is clear that the definition of knowledge by Plato is not valid. The justification by the tourist for his belief of seeing a buffalo is not right because he saw a cow. The definition of knowledge by Plato can be reframed again to denote that knowledge is a true belief based on an argument which is valid.

              Bertrand Russel is a 20th-century empiric and an analytic philosopher. In his book, The Problems of Philosophy, he addressed the problem of beliefs. He said that a true belief is a relation between a mind and some object other than itself. He says that the object is not just a single one but a complex whole. For example, if it is my belief that Steve read a novel, supposing my belief is true that object that corresponds to my belief is not single but a complex whole, “Steve reading the novel” the belief object is linked by a relationship, in this case, its reading. Russel also affirmed that the object also has a direction, Steve reding the book and not book reading Steve. Russel argued that for a belief to remain true the complex whole must be present in a world which is independent of the mind and also not dependent on my belief in it. So, statement of belief should have a subject “I”, “Steve reading the book” as the object part and a relationship that links the two as the believing part.

            This analysis by Russel seems fair. It is possible for a belief to be either true or false and it is essential that in a belief we can be able to differentiate the subject from the object, which usually exists as a complex whole. Russel argument has one shortcoming. He says that the truth of a belief depends on its relation to the object which its existence does not depend on the state of mind. In my idea above, it is evident that for it to be true, Steve must read the book, this does not depend on me. Still, the truth-value of some other beliefs is not usually connected to anything that does not rely on the subject.

            Empiricist David Hume explained the existence of a difference between things that are in the perception of the object and those that are due to the observer. Hume categorized the judgment due to the object as a primary quality, and that is due to the observer as a secondary quality. Things such as the mass of an object is a primary quality since it is only a physical property of an object and does not depend on the observer. Colour, for example, is a secondary quality since it depends on the perception of the observer. If the color were not dependent on the observer, then everybody would perceive it invariably.

          According to Hume, these are Arguments from Illusion since they show how our perception deceives us. Hume also differentiated between impressions and images. Impressions are perceptions while images are an interpretation of impressions by our minds. For us to accept that some things in the world are dependent on ourselves, we have to look at our correspondence. Hume says that the best way to address this is to ascertain that a correspondence exists between mind-dependent things and things that are outside ourselves. It is more straightforward and more objective to explain the smoothness or the roughness of a table through referring to its perceived distance and how the molecules are arranged. The wavelength of the light can conveniently be used in explaining color. Some qualitative properties are not present in behavior and defining them in physical terms is difficult. If I perceive that a car is red, how can the correspondence for this be checked?

           Emmanuel Kant considered a problem in the knowledge called the issue of a Priori knowledge. The correspondence of this kind of knowledge to the outside world is strange. This knowledge does not need any experience. Its justification is very different from the previous ones. Kant, in relation to other empiricists, discussed earlier, distinctively explained the difference that exists between the thing-in-itself and the perception that we have towards that thing. He argued that we don’t know the thing and then differentiated the neumenal world and the phenomenal world. According to Kant, the world that we experience is the phenomenal world, and it comprises time, space, qualitative properties, and others. Time and space are not in neumenal world, and this is where the thing-in-itself is found, and it can never be known because anytime we perceive anything about it, it joins the phenomenal world. The distinction between these two worlds is fairly reasonably sensible.

          The argument by Kant is very radical because he attributes space and time to us. Nevertheless, time and space are mainly the relations of objects, and if the mind cannot perceive more than one image, then it will be inaccurate to say that they have a relationship. A connection requires a contrast, and contrast is an envisioned mental activity. The existence of any relations that do not depend on the mind is difficult to comprehend their nature because they could not have aspects such as conceptualization and comparison which are crucial in containing relations. To make sense from a sentence such as “my book is on the table,” conceptualization is essential so that we can create a comparison between the book and the table. The idea that a kind of relation would exist between different objects independently without conceptualization is very peculiar. Kant differentiation of the phenomena and neumenal worlds is crucial for a priori knowledge. He maintained that priori knowledge is found in the phenomena world. priori knowledge is comprised of mathematics and logic.

         In conclusion, defining knowledge is almost impossible. The justified true belief definition of knowledge by Plato is only applicable in the most uncomplicated knowledge cases where knowledge is on the basis of belief which is made out of a relationship between the mind and some objects outside of itself and the correspondence of that belief and the subject which is not dependent on the object can be analyzed. However, Russel, Hume and Kant brought up very different explanations which do not bear any correspondence to any object that does not entirely depend on the subject of the belief.  Therefore, a belief does not have to be true for it to be taken as knowledge although it has to portray some truth to satisfy many minds that are familiar with it. This explains the reason why a group of mentalists will continue solving problems even if partially, after one of them passes on. After all, the understanding of the world by human beings is only restricted to our limited knowledge and perception, and most likely we will never break these boundaries.

Work Cited