Although sometimes the words ‘know’ and ‘believe’ are used interchangeably, they are very different. A knower would say “I know” if it has a higher probability of being more certain that “I believe”. In this paper, I will explore the types of knowledge, gained through reason, and how they differ with beliefs.
One’s beliefs can also be described as one’s personal ideas or faiths, not distinguishable of right and wrong. Beliefs are not certain, and it is not supported by sufficient evidence. In other words, it contains the element of doubt, unlike knowledge. For example, when I say that “I believe it will snow tomorrow”, it is not the same as it will snow tomorrow, because it might. This becomes a very significant difference, changing the entire tone of the statement and thus making the statement appear weak and less trustworthy. Belief is a personal instinct, based on each person’s individual emotions. Therefore, there is no right or wrong in a personal belief. In the previous example, if there were snow on the next day, the knower can be said to have a strong instinct. It was just simply a presumption, not based on any real evidence. However, if there were no snow, the statement could not have been considered incorrect because it was not certain to begin with and by adding “I believe” demonstrates the possibility that snow would not fall. “I believe” shows one’s personal thoughts and one’s emotions, they do not necessarily need a rational justification because it is a type of knowledge on a personal basis. If it is the way I strongly feel about something, it has to do with my ethics and the way in which I was brought up. All the beliefs and values that I have make up the person that I am today. If another person were to tell me otherwise, that my beliefs are wrong or even force change upon my beliefs, then I would be assimilated. Everyone’s personal beliefs would be more or less the same and then no individual would be unique anymore. People would lose the ability to think without emotion and beliefs, and thus life would quickly lose its value. Belief has two components – to believe in, which is one’s faith, and to believe that, which is one’s emotions. To believe in yourself wuld be to have faith in yourself. Faith, to believe in, has certain expectations unlike “to believe that”. However, belief and faith are similar in that beliefs are biased, and it allows for individual interpretations. Belief is merely in the mind, it is not a kind of knowledge, but a requirement for knowledge.
Belief and knowledge are related in the sense that to believe in something requires the basic knowledge of that something. No ideas or beliefs in our minds can exist without being known. How can you believe in something that you do not even know? If I did not know what snow is, how is it that I can believe that it will snow tomorrow? The more that something is known, the more certain, or the higher the probability, it becomes. Knowledge, unlike belief, is void of emotions. For example, what we learn in our IB courses everyday, those are the basic knowledge of a knower. Everyone in that class share the same rudimentary knowledge. Knowledge, unlike belief, is distinguishable of right and wrong. In the example with the snow, if I say, “I know it will snow tomorrow”, it presents two possibilities. The possibility that I am right, that it snows tomorrow or the other possibility that I am wrong, and it will not snow tomorrow. Because knowledge can be differentiated between right and wrong, it is possible to gain knowledge from sharing. If others were to tell me something, it would add to my knowledge. From this, everyone can become more knowledgeable. Knowledge can be broken down into two components, perceptual knowledge and analytical knowledge.
Perceptual knowledge is strictly automatic and it deals with our senses – see, feel, touch, smell, and taste. With your sense perceptions, you can use reason and thus obtain basic knowledge. For example, I know that the grass is green because I see it or I know that I am cold because I feel it. This type of personal knowledge is more justified than belief because it is from experience, and based on reasoning. A clear distinction should be made between experience and knowledge. Even though knowledge can be obtained from experience, not all knowledge has to be based on experience. For example, I do not actually need to have experienced snow to know what snow is. Experience is only an aspect of perceptual knowledge. Why do I know that the grass is green? It is because I see it. Perception is a first hand knowledge, and by means of reason to obtain knowledge is thus more reliable and certain than belief. Using reason instead of emotion to gain knowledge can be more accurate. However, It is also true that your perceptions may deceive you. For example, you could be colorblind and the green of the grass you see is different from the green that I see. However, this is all relative because even for the color blind, growing up, he or she has learned that the name of that specific color for what they see is green. To the color blind, the grass will still and always be green. The important point is that the personal knowledge is gained using reasoning. For instance, warm water to a cold hand will feel hot. This is your perception deceiving you. The water feels hotter than it really is because of the cold hands. This deception can be in turn justified with reason. Using reason, the knower can justify knowledge by determining that the water is really hotter than it seems to their hands.
Perceptual knowledge is direct and immediate. It does not influence the way the information in interpreted. Thus, emotion is not used in gaining knowledge. Only in your mind is the direct knowledge translated into personal beliefs. Everyone can share a common knowledge, but the differences in the interpretations are between the personal ideas on an individual basis. There are many ways to know something, and the verb “to know” is used in a variety of conditions. The other type of knowledge, analytical knowledge, is based on logic. Logic is the study of the validity of reasoning, of what is correct or incorrect. Aristotle first used syllogisms to test reasoning and logic. An example of syllogism is if all men are liars, and Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is a liar. However, the truth of this statement depends on the word “if”. Only if all men were liars would then Socrates be a liar. This is using reasoning to attain knowledge, of the potential fact that Socrates is a liar. If there is sufficient evidence, or enough reason, to support this, then this must be justified. For example, if Socrates has lied in the past, this provides the confirmation that Socrates is a liar. This type of knowledge described is factual prepositional knowledge; it is to know that something is what it is. The two distinctive types of knowledge are both based on the use of reason instead of personal emotion.
Certain people have very defined view in which they are emotionally committed. They know that their personal view is the absolute truth, thus view everything else with a closed mind. However, emotions bias our perception, and the knower should keep an open mind for reasoned arguments. However, there are always exceptions in which we should use our mind to judge the morals to feel sympathetic, for example, and therefore use emotion over reason. In order to make the most rational decision, the knower should take into consideration the situation and use a balance of reason and emotion.