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Can we know something that has not yet been proven true?

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Samantha Sabalis Candidate Number 031 1459 words 9. Can we know something that has not yet been proven true? One thing that mankind can never fully exploit is knowledge, as there is always something new to discover. However, the validity of this knowledge is uncertain, and naturally requires proof. This is where this question comes in- can we really know something that has not yet been proven to be true? According to the fundamental principles of Theory of Knowledge, knowledge can be defined as "justified, true belief", so if something is not justified (i.e. doesn't have substantial proof), then we can't know it, making the answer to this question a simple 'no'. However, this definition is not absolute, and it has been questioned in the past. My aim is to present an equal argument for both sides of the equation. A first argument lies in the epoch in which this question is placed. Our modern age is a stark contrast from that of the beginnings of our species. One key difference lies in the innate knowledge that we carry with us. We have the luxury of centuries of discovered knowledge to support our claims. For example, could James Watson and Francis Crick have discovered the structure of DNA without the amassed knowledge of past researchers? We also have a higher level of education than the generations that came before us. This means that we have more well-informed individuals at our disposal than ever before. ...read more.


This may seem crude and inaccurate when compared to the advanced astronomical technology today, but the fact that Aristarchus knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun without any substantial proof shows the point that I have been trying to make. There is also the example of proof that was not accepted at the time. This can be seen in the works of William Harvey in the sixteenth century, who discovered the workings of the mammalian circulatory system. Through detailed dissection and theoretical calculations based on the amount of blood pumped through the body on a daily basis, he showed that the heart, and not the lungs, pumped the blood through the body, and that blood was not manufactured and absorbed by the organs, but circulated through the body and returned to the heart. Although he had this substantial proof, his work was not accepted by many authorities at the time, as the previous writings on the circulatory system, by Galen of Pergamum, were thought to be the absolute truth. Some fellow doctors even denounced Harvey's proof as invalid, saying that according to their (incorrect) calculations of the amount of blood in the body, Galen's theory still stood. So, just because something is proven to be true doesn't necessarily mean that it is known and accepted. Moving away from the tangible truths of science, a fascinating example of knowing something that has not yet been proven true is found in the realm of pure mathematics. ...read more.


The examples that I have presented here show that in some cases justification is not found in proof. In the Ancient Greek model, it is found through rational thought and logic, and analysis of the surrounding world, and in mathematics it is found in the unquestionable (and unprovable) axioms that we are left with after stripping mathematics to its core. Even in the flawed example of early man's dogmatic tradition some support can be found, as the ancestors' word was considered to be the only justification necessary for something to be known. In the case of William Harvey, the only example where genuine proof was proffered, the use of proof as justification did not mean that his theory was known and accepted, as Galen's age-old theory was justified by its authorship and centuries of belief. It is therefore possible to say that something that has not yet been proven true can be known, even though the standard TOK definition of knowledge seems to refute it. 1 Tomkinson, John L., "The Enterprise of Knowledge", Leader Books S.A. (1999), pg. 23 2 Stern, David P. "May the Earth be Revolving Around the Sun?". NASA. Accessed January 14, 2004. <http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sarist.htm.> 3 Nagel, Ernest and Newman, James R. "G�del's Proof". Routledge (1993), pg. 12 4 Ibid, quoted on pg. 13 5 Quoted in Tomkinson, John L., "The Enterprise of Knowledge", Leader Books S.A. (1999), pg. 23 6 Clapham, Christopher. "The Concise Dictionary of Mathematics". Oxford University Press (1990), pg. 71 7 Ibid 1 ...read more.

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