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Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are. To what extent is this true in the Human Sciences and Ethics?

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[Kevin TOK Essay] July 6, 2013 ?Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are.? To what extent is this true in the Human Sciences and Ethics? Socrates once said, ?To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge? [1]. In similar vein, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ?Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know? [1]. A great Indian master, Nisargadatta Maharaj once quoted, ?To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not? [2]. What were Socrates, Emerson, Nisargadatta hinting at? Is there any such thing as ?knowledge? and if so, can this knowledge ever give us a sense of who we are? Is there one concrete sense of ?who we are? that persists all throughout our lives or is our sense of identity a montage of ever-changing psychological and behavioral dynamics? Is the knower even capable of using ways of knowing to grasp a sense of who he/she is? If so, which way of knowing is more trustworthy and which area of knowledge should these ways of knowing be applied to, to get a better sense of who one is? Human sciences provides a sense of how we behave in the social context but not a sense of who we are at a personal level while Natural sciences while Thesis (?.) ...read more.


All in all, over time, such cultural acclimatization forms one?s sense of identity. Even though, the cultural idiosyncrasies defined through diverse language interpretations are subjective, as part of a race, tribe or group in society, the language used is objective, unaffected by the growing circumstances of humans. Therefore, although humans are a specific species of animals, social and cultural knowledge gives us a larger sense of who we are as collective bodies. But does this Cultural and language identity, give one a sense of who one really is? Isn?t it wise to first understand what is this ?sense of identity? that we are applying this knowledge to ? In the first place, is there a common identity that we humans share? Or, are we individual bubbles with our own unique set of psychological and physiological identities? National and cultural identities aim to segregate humans to different sense of belongings, but knowledge about such social roles may not define who each individual really is. A certain culture of humans may have a sense of nationalistic or cultural identity, however, each individual is free and entitled to their own rights, opinions and unrestricted in their thoughts. Thus, knowledge in the human sciences does not give humans a sense of who they are but rather, it only gives humans a sense of who they are in terms of social position and function, but not what differentiates them from other humans as unique beings. ...read more.


On a more philosophical note, is there a part of one?s identity that is beyond of knowledge? In other words, is there a sense of the knower that isn?t derived from knowledge concepts? Enlightened mystics have claimed time and again that there is an unchanging ?self? that is devoid of all knowledge labels. In fact, Indian mystic U.G. Krishnamurthi, once said that, ?We are using the neurons, our memory, constantly to maintain our identity. Whether you are awake, asleep or dreaming, this process is carried on. But, it is wearing you out? The so called self-realization is the discovery for yourself and by yourself that there is no self to discover? [13]. If U.G is given the benefit of the doubt, then with what ways of knowing does the knower traverse on the inward path of self-realization? If Socrates? statement that true knowledge is knowing that one knows nothing is agreed with, then does Knowledge, in the TOK sense of the word, still give one a sense of what one really is? Having said this though, in the normal sense of who we think we are, Ethics, as an area of knowledge, by way of emotions/intuition, provides a strong sense of who we are. On the other hand, since reason, sense perception and language are part of knowledge acquisition in most Human Science fields, one has to exercise caution to prevent being a victim of fallacious deductive and inductive reasoning traps in one?s buildup of identity. ...read more.

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