When coming across something new, we tend to think that as knowledge. Learning something that you didn’t know before. However, the issue of knowledge goes way beyond learning something that you didn’t pick up on before. The question, how do you know in the first place is an epistemic question that is begged by the typical thinking of knowledge. One can take a pragmatic approach that argues that it’s useless to talk about knowledge so you should just believe that which is useful. One could argue that I am a thinking thing so it’s impossible to not want to know. The point is, that knowledge is essential to the human experience because we are philosophical creatures that seek to know. This is why it’s important to understand what knowledge is and what it entails.
Belief is key to understanding how knowledge is obtained. “There is agreement among most analytic philosophers that belief is (roughly) a dispositional, affirmative attitude towards a proposition or state of affairs.” When we hear a proposition, we must investigate it with proper logical inference and with no prior belief bias. This is the first step for obtaining rational belief that can be held with certainty. Beliefs come with different levels of certainty, but it’s not something you can just calculate with mathematics. Belief aim is the standard for what constitutes as a belief you ought to have. This gets into ethics of belief and the norms of belief. The belief aim for knowledge is to seek the truth. To have knowledge is to know what corresponds to reality. Pragmatic aim of truth would be to believe that which is most useful, which will not get the truth, hence no knowledge. The start of this is to set aside our emotions and have intellectual humility and honesty.
Truth should be the norm of belief to obtain knowledge, meaning “that any belief that does not also count as knowledge is impermissible or irrational or vicious or defective”. Without this principle, science, math, social studies, history, and any other epistemological topics are not teaching truth or knowledge. For those who go to universities or colleges, your money would be a waste of time and you might as well sell used cars. With this in mind, it’s important to use our mind since it is the tool that we use to form our beliefs. As we perceive something, then we form beliefs about it. If I see a car in front of me with its brake lights on, then I will form a belief from the accident if I don’t hit my brakes. All humorous examples aside, something to note that a belief is “a propositional attitude, then, is the mental state of having some attitude, stance, take, or opinion about a proposition or about the potential state of affairs in which that proposition is true.”[i] Most beliefs concerning conscious thought will be the gateway to knowledge. We have to seriously reflect on our beliefs and test them out as to see if they are true. This is why it’s important to get your epistemic methodologies set in the right path so that your beliefs will be aimed at truth. When it’s aimed at truth, then you will have true propositions, which are knowledge claims.
Knowledge is considered to be a species of belief by many philosophers. You must first believe something to see it as true and to test it as true. It starts with a knowing venture, which is a pathway to wanting to know something particular. If I set out to learn how to ride a bike, then I set out on how to know the process at which how to do it. This is of course an example of procedural knowledge. Semantic or declarative knowledge has to do with epistemology, which is the study of knowledge itself. These are more propositional statements, like Jesus of Nazareth existed. What we see in post-modernity is that anything that is not procedural knowledge is subjective to the mind of the believer. Meaning, that declarative statements of truth are seen as not objective, but subjective.
Knowledge at its core is justified true belief. You must first believe in order to know something. The distinction between procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge has been made already. Knowledge is more than just facts and information. It’s not 100% certainty since it stems from beliefs which have presuppositions. Also, different epistemologies have different norms at getting at truth, but in their field topics. For example, science deals with inductive reasoning which cannot have 100% about anything. Unless you want to say that knowledge cannot come from science, then you have to realize that knowledge is not 100%, but certainty. There is scientific knowledge that is justified true belief in the methodology of the scientific method. There are things that we can know for absolute certainty like there are no married bachelors or one ended sticks. Arguments from mathematics and definitions are things that can be demonstrated as proofs and not evidences. The reasoning for this are the axioms of logic and mathematics that are justified starting points since epistemology starts with the axioms of logic. These propositions are indubitable, meaning no counter arguments can show them to be false, hence not doubt worthy. There is another kind of knowledge as well, that is to know someone. To know someone is not a propositional statement or brute face, but a personal experience. Those who are married have this kind of knowledge at the center of their epistemological relationship.
Knowledge starts with beliefs since we are philosophical creatures that reflect on what we think and perceive. There are different types of knowledge that are based on different axioms and methodologies. All knowledge claims can be based on absolute certainty, certainty, or confidence. It is belief that corresponds to reality and is objective for all to justifiably believe in. We must submit to the truth and let it guide our beliefs to be true so they will become knowledge.