Published:  09:27 PM, 07 September 2020

Ambiguity in the Theory of Knowledge

Ambiguity in the Theory of Knowledge
The idea of knowledge has been a phenomenon of ambiguity since the beginning of the universe, even sometimes before the inception of the globe when Satan had tempted Eve by eloquent speech about the forbidden fruit, as a source of knowledge. Since, the beginning of civil society, great scholars especially, philosophers, politicians, social and religious reformers have tried to delve into and brought to light the actual idea of knowledge. The contentions have been created between the scholars because some have tried to find out the idea of knowledge from philosophical perspectives while others provided theories of knowledge from empirical and pragmatic perspectives. However, I will try to provide a comparative study of the theories of knowledge in a brief.

Democritus's Theory of Knowledge

Along with explaining the structure of Nature, Democritus had concerned with two more philosophical problems, one is the Problem of Knowledge while another one is the Problem ofHuman Conduct. According to him, there are two forms of knowledge, the Trueborn and Illegitimate. All the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) are the part of illegitimateknowledge whiletruebornknowledge relies on the objects. For instance, two individuals agree that what they tasted is an orange (trueborn). However, they can still confront about the orange's taste (illegitimate), with one is exposing the orange is bitter, on the other hand another is saying it is tasty and sweet. Therefore, according to Democritus, "by the sense we know in truth nothing sure, but only something that changes according to the disposition of the body and of the things that enter into it or resist it". Finally, it is conspicuous to us that Democritus had to assert that both sensation and thought have been the same type of mechanical process.

Socrates's Theory of Knowledge

One of the greatest philosophers in the world history of all times is none but Socrates who had been considered as the wisest person in his contemporary times because once a young religious zealot named Chaerophon went to the temple of Apollo near Delphi and asked whether there was anyliving individual who had been more intellectual than Socrates, the priests replied that there was not because he was the only one man who could realize and admit his own ignorance, believing that "Knowledge is Virtue" means, to know the good is to do the good. The true knowledge to him is to "know thyself" which stands for recognizing the shortcomings of himself/ herself.

However, Socrates was highly beguiled and convinced that the surest and most authentic path to achieve knowledge was via the practice of orderly speculations, with the speculation acting as intellectual midwife, the tactics which he called Dialectic(the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions). According to him, by using this technique, anyone can be cleared that what is said and what is meant by it. However, the true knowledge to him is to know thyself as well as the mind of others through the process Dialectics.

Plato's Theory of Knowledge and the Cave

We know that the Sophists( Protagoras, Gorgias,Thrasymachus), have been  skeptical  to perceive and adopt the true idea of knowledge while Plato confronted this view and started believing that there are some unchanging and universal truth which human reason is capable of grasping. In The Republic, he provides the allegory of the Cave to make understand the idea of Knowledge. According to the allegory of the Cave, Plato asks us to imagine some people have been living in a huge cave since their birth or childhood and have been tied by their legs and necks so that they cannot move. There is a wall in-front of them and behind them there is a walkway by which some persons are carrying some artificial objects including figures of animals and human beings, made ofwood and stone.

Exactly, behind the walkway, there is a fire and the shadows of people are reflecting on the walls in front of the chained individuals. According to them, the shadows are the real because they do not know the reality. Finally, one of them, escapes from the cave and sees the outer world, comes back to the cave and tries to explain the difference between the real world and illusion or the shadows but they all rejected him and try to kill him to misguide them. However, Plato tries to prove that the world is nothing but illusion and there is of course, an ideal world which is Utopian and perfect. The world is the imitation of the masterpiece. Therefore, true knowledge exists but we only see the emulation of the original version, and human beings can discover the real objects behind all multitudes of shadows, and thereby attain true knowledge.

Multidimensional Approaches in the Theory of Knowledge

British empiricist John Locke asserts in the Theory of Mind that No man's knowledge can go beyond his experience and every man is born with empty Slate and infuse the mind with pragmatic experiences from the circumstances, later he has been hailed by another empiricist David Hume. Both of them most provably, followed the Sophists(Protagoras, Gorgias, Thrasymachus), who believed that human Knowledge was grounded in social customs and the understanding of peoplebelonging the surroundings.

While, moral philosophers like Augustine, Aquinas or Late modern philosophers such as Kent, Hegel' view of knowledge or skeptic Sextus' rejection of empiricists, or SwamiVivekananda, Nazrul and Emerson's idea of knowledge based on innate capabilities to transcend to the ideal or authentic Knowledge as like as Plato's idealistic world are nothing but the vivid contentions and tantalizingambiguity in the theory of Knowledge which has been started in the Prelapsarian (characteristic of the time before the Fall of Man; innocent and unspoilt) world by the hand of Satan( According to Bible or Milton's Paradise Lost) and continues till now in the Post-lapsarian universe(occurring or existing after the Fall of Man),undoubtedly, will continue until the last call of the destruction.

However, Knowledge might be gained from practical experiences or from inborn blessings or knowledge might be virtue (Socrates) or Curse(Dr.Faustus) for human beings but to me, the search of true knowledge is a matter of individual perception and the combination of both inborn and pragmatic experiences

The writer is a student of MA, Department of English, Jahangirnagar University.

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