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The vocabulary we have does more than communicate our knowledge; it shapes what we can know. Evaluate this claim with reference to different areas of knowledge.

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Introduction

Theory of Knowledge Essay IB Candidate Number: 003400-023 Scott Joel Heng ________________ ?The vocabulary we have does more than communicate our knowledge; it shapes what we can know?. Evaluate this claim with reference to different areas of knowledge. (7) Samuel Beckett, Irish avant-garde novelist, once said, ?Words are all we have? (1). When we look around us, we find that ranging from advertising, where words are sometimes used to deviant ends to scientific journals, where a more technical jargon is used to convey the logical nature of experiments, language and vocabulary plays a very important role. Literature boasts of powerful works by Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and many others who use words to weave grandiose images of fictional worlds. In fact, our current understanding of history and religion has only been made possible by the passing down of verbal accounts and written documents. Even in Mathematics, the progressive learning of higher order concepts depends on the acceptance of a certain basic syntax. It can?t be denied that the vocabulary we have does communicate our knowledge in almost all areas of knowledge but does it actually shape the limits of knowledge itself? In Arts, especially Literature and poetry, vocabulary is a powerful tool of expression and communication. ...read more.

Middle

If the words from the English language don?t suffice, then he would coin new words, invent new symbols or carve out pictorial representations. Eventually, the use and invention of new language words, symbols, nomenclature is inevitable and along with sense perception and logical reasoning, plays a key role in communication as well as shaping up new knowledge in the areas of Science. In other areas of knowledge like Ethics, one primarily depends on intuition and emotion, rather than logical reasoning. Famous American Novelist Ernest Hemingway once said, ?I only know that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after? (2). In fact, according to Harvard professor Marc Hauser, humans are born with innate ?moral machinery? (3). In that sense, ethical knowledge falls in the second branch of knowledge called ?Innate ideas? which do not require any proof of experience because they are already present at the time of birth. Do we read a book to realize that killing another is bad? Don?t we already ?know? that stealing is an unpleasant habit? In fact, trying to communicate such knowledge might be counter to the intended enlightenment of the individual and lead to larger scale havoc in society. ...read more.

Conclusion

E.g. ? If I go to the restaurant and eat a hot, medium rare steak but do not possess the definitional knowledge of ?salty?, ?soft?, ?hot?, will I be able to identify the experience in terms of enjoyable or bad or even ?taste? the steak ? In almost all probability, I wouldn?t be able to place this experience in my experience spectrum since I didn?t have the prior conceptual knowledge to identify with it. My experience is similar to giving a chilly to a baby who still hasn?t reached the age of learning language. The baby will undoubtedly start crying because the hotness of the chilly would fire a response from the neurophysiological system but it wouldn?t be able to identify or label the experience. As a knower, what conclusions can one draw from the above discussion? Accepting the worldwide uniformity in the grasp of vocabulary, language, symbols, and nomenclature, one can?t deny that vocabulary does indeed aid in the effective communication and shaping of knowledge in the areas of History, Arts, Natural Sciences and Mathematics. On the other hand, it has a weaker and in some cases detrimental role to play in the communication of ethics. In either case, what one can know should be not be shaped by vocabulary and language alone, but should also allow for intuitive, emotional, logical reasoning and perceptive tendencies. ...read more.

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