'We see and understand things not as they are but as we are. Discuss this claim in relation to at least two ways of knowing.

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‘We see and understand things not as they are but as we are.’ Discuss this claim in relation to at least two ways of knowing.

As humans, we instinctively turn to the belief that we are all unique and that our conceptions of the world are exclusive in their individuality. Being unique equates to being special, and thus our predisposition turns towards the idea of individuality; we are inclined to believe, as human nature entails, that we see and understand things not as they are but as we are. Yet consider child development: a child matures as they form an understanding of their life based on their surrounding influences.  And so, if all of our so-called “individual” conceptions are formed by exterior factors, to what extent can we truly consider ourselves unique? Who are we really, but a manifestation of everything around us? We may see and understand things as we are, but because we are essentially alike, conceptions of the things around us are not altered by our individual understandings.

Language is one of the predominant means by which different ethnic groups distinguish themselves. The theory here is that languages have different roots and therefore the meanings of each specific language differ slightly as the understandings between each culture alter. However, this is not the case – languages are inherently translatable and many languages do share the same roots. Take English and German, for example. Both languages share Latin roots, as conveyed through the similarities in their vocabulary. In German, the sun is known as “Sonne”, and may therefore be immediately translatable to an English listener, regardless of his understanding of German culture.

But, what of languages that don’t share a root, or cultures that place values on different amenities? Thais have a multitude of words used to describe the “moon” and “sun”, whereas in English, there is only one such word. While the terms may be translatable either way, some meaning is lost in the Thai to English translation as Thai speakers will use a certain phrases for certain moons (for example, “jantawa” may be used to depict a romantic mood as created by the moon, whereas “jan” may refer specifically to the moon itself). As such, doesn’t the actual translation change the understanding of the word?

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However, take Language as a WOK; etymology, which explores Language through the AOK of History, examines the theory that the development of languages came about as an evolutionary adaptation – one for the sake of survival. As such, it is shown that all languages – regardless of their roots, or the cultures at play – stem from the same need. Therefore, literal translations between languages that aim to encompass the entire meaning behind terms is unnecessary, due to the ability to paraphrase while keeping the overall intent of the phrase itself, and thus the understanding in each individual language remains ...

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