For example, BBC once reported on a Congolese family’s unfortunate incidents. The family’s icebox broke, the mother became sick and had a car accident, the grinder malfunctioned and money went missing. 4 The mother reasoned that this was because her children were witches. To people who do not have witchery as a pervasive belief in their cultures, the mother’s justification may seem unconvincing because the mother seems to base her argument on the cultural belief that witches exist and that they cause most troubles.
However, the mother’s understanding of her world is largely affected by her culture’s influence on her. From this example culture can be seen to dominate the way we “see and understand” reality and knowledge, and that it is perhaps difficult for us to view things without our cultural beliefs. Reasoning can also be seen to be more affected by our knowledge goals than perception It seems that all our understanding of the reality is to an extent subjective. Yet we can see both Einstein and Newton’s equations in their own context and in turn understand them.
Thus, the line between whether we only understand things as they are or as we are seems to become less distinct. Also, knowledge generated based solely on the belief of this statement may contain problems. Subjectivity has its limitation too; for example, the scientific method attempts to be as objective as possible, for scientific theories are accepted only when the same results can be repeated elsewhere. If the data were perceived and collected “the way we are”, consensus cannot be reached easily due to our different beliefs, and as a result the scientific system would collapse.
Similarly, historiography taught in IB History is largely based on reasoning using evaluation of sources, a process which requires objectivity because the historian needs to be as free of his subjectivity as possible so that he can determine their origin, purpose, value and limitation. 5 Hence, some acquisition of knowledge favour objectivity over subjectivity, so it seems that we do not always see things “as we are”. However, the question that arises when we attempt to comprehend things objectively is whether we can truly understand them without our direct experience.
“Seeing” involves our senses transmitting empirical information to our mind. Yet understanding is more complex – it requires us to process the empirical data into information recognizable by our brains; it also requires us to be able to make links between knowledge or to explain them using legitimate reasoning. But ultimately understanding is invariably done by our individual minds and thus requires a personal input. Hence, when we accumulate in us a wealth of information we are “seeing”, but without the process of our consciousness interpreting the information we cannot truly gain new knowledge and insight into reality.
This renders our understanding of reality a subjective experience One may even question the objectivity of “seeing”, because perception as a way of knowing cannot work alone to enable us to see since it is often complemented by other ways of knowing. Even when perception is used alone, it can lead to subjectivity: our five senses tend to work co-ordinately to give us a general picture of reality, and this makes each of our perception an inner, personal experience rather than a direct exposure to stimuli.
I think in the end the question of whether we see things the way they are or the way we are does not have a definite answer, because these two viewpoints are interdependent – one cannot truly exist without the other. Our personal experience of reality relies largely on our own ways of knowing, yet without the existence of the outside world our senses would receive no stimulus and as a result our minds cannot construct any sense of reality.
The opposite can be said as well, since we need to use subjective means (such as reasoning, which everyone conducts differently) to attempt any objective examination, and this makes thorough objectivity impossible. Since both these point of views exist simultaneously, we should focus on their values and limitations instead. Only when we recognize their qualities and possible sources of errors would we benefit from knowing whether we are seeing and understanding more from our point of view or from that of our subject.
WORD COUNT: 1591 1 Diana Deutsch. (2006).Absolute pitch among American and Chinese conservatory students: Prevalence differences, and evidence for a speech-related critical period. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 119 (2), 719-722. 2 The Regents of the University of California. (2009). University of California Genetics of Absolute Pitch Study. Available: http://perfectpitch. ucsf. edu/study/. Last accessed 05 November 2009. 3 Deutsch, D. , Henthorn T. and Dolson, M. (2004). Absolute Pitch, Speech, and Tone Language: Some Experiments and a Proposed Framework. Music Perception. 21 (3), 339-356. 4 BBC News. (1999).
Congo witch-hunt’s child victims . Available: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/africa/575178. stm. Last accessed 05 November 2009. 5 International Baccalaureate Organisation (2001). Diploma Programme History. Geneva: International Baccalaureate Organization. 58. Candidate Name: Teng, Eva Yi-Chun Candidate Number: 001407-038 1 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge section.