Posted: August 29th, 2013
Attaining Knowledge despite Bias and Selection
Knowledge refers to the information that a person has, which is acquired through learning, perception or experience. People usually gain knowledge through studying. Some people may argue that this is biased learning, since they do not have a choice concerning what they are learning. They enter into an education system, which has already been designed and selected for them. They therefore, have no choice but to study what they are taught. Knowledge goes through a process of selection, whereby some of the elements, which do not succeed the various tests that are applied to them, are eliminated, and those which succeed are retained (Geisler, 169). Human beings naturally choose what they want to learn. The idea that they have a choice in the matter, gives them the will they need to study. Bias means preference or favor towards a particular thing. Selection means carefully choosing someone or something that seems most suitable. Bias and selection have influenced the information that people acquire. I will argue that it is possible to acquire knowledge despite bias and selection by examining history and art.
My knowledge claim in history is that it is possible to attain knowledge despite bias and selection. Personally, I think that history is the main political events and structural changes that are especially linked to human affairs. History continues to permeate the society because human beings have the ability to record past events. Bias and selection play a crucial role in this case, since in most cases, people have to depend on memory to record the events. History is biased since not all the events that occurred at a particular time are recorded. Whoever records the events will choose, which accounts he or she considers important to record, and will omit other accounts that seem insignificant. Some of the examples of history include the French Revolution, the shooting of John F. Kennedy, World War I and II, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the recent account of 9/11. All the events have several things in common. They all happened in the past, they have had a significant impact on many people, and in our country, they have all been documented, they all have different interpretations, they all affected significant people, and they are all traced to a single event. In addition, these events had a significant impact, and they carried heavy consequences, thus they were documented.
Art is one of the most difficult terms to define because it has a broad meaning. It has various forms such as visual forms, music and literature. It means different things to different communities. Even people within the same community may differ concerning the true definition of art. The study of art that was created many years ago has revealed certain aspects of the society during the time. It has enabled people to know the culture, traditions, beliefs and practices of the people that lived in a particular time. This is represented in various art forms. A person can attain a lot of knowledge by observing different pieces of art from different periods in history. For instance, there is a clear difference between medieval, renaissance and classical art. By observing the art made by the medieval artists, one learns that religion was more prevalent in the society. The artists were more reserved in the sense that the figures in the paintings were fully clothed. Artists in the renaissance period were different, in that they had more freedom. The figures in the paintings were either nude or clothed. They explored the secular as well as the religious worlds. The artists were more interested in nature than in religion. Some of the famous artists during the time included Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo
My counterclaim is that the knowledge gained from art and history is not accurate and therefore it cannot be trusted. Historians usually record the historical events using information from different sources. This information can sometimes be misleading in the sense that different authors can have conflicting information. They also choose to record the information that seems most relevant to them. For instance, most history books record the victory of kings and presidents in war. They do not mention all the people who were involved in the war. One cannot trust the information from different art sources. This is especially the case in visual forms of art and literature, where the artists usually use their imagination liberally to create different forms of art. In some cases, it is not possible to separate the reality from the fiction. The interpretation of history and art depends on a person’s interpretation. This can be affected by the person’s perception, emotions, reasoning or language.
History that is learnt through books will depend on the perception of the writer. It is possible for two people to be present when one event is happening, but they will record different accounts of the events later. They have different perceptions concerning the event, and they will therefore record what they consider relevant and important. In the same way, a piece of art will depend on the artist’s perception when creating the art. Artists do not just paint or do other forms of artwork just because someone has asked them to do so. They will instead choose to specialize on the type of art that they are most comfortable with, and they will perfect it. Some people write fictional works of art such as novels. These novels depend entirely on the perception of the writer. The main argument concerning historical events is that they tend to have many different interpretations. People tend to trust the documented accounts since they were not present when these particular events were happening.
Emotion can be a problem when interpreting history. People are controlled by their emotions despite the evidence presented. This is especially the case when the subject is controversial or sensitive. Emotions are important in the interpretation of art and history. People have different emotions when they see acquire knowledge concerning an area that affects them personally. For instance, Jews are more emotional than others are when they remember the holocaust. African Americans react strongly when they read about slavery. Time also determines how people react. For instance, many historical events, especially those that happened many years ago do not affect me the same way as recent historical events. This is mainly because I have had the chance to experience the recent historical events. For instance, the 9/11 event affected me deeply when it happened more than the Pearl Harbor. Though both events were tragic and significant, I related more to the 9/11 event more than the Pearl Harbor. Time is therefore, an important determinant when interpreting history, as it makes the events more realistic and significant to me.
Some people interpret history and art based on reason. They want to understand the reason why things happened the way they did. They want to understand why an artist chose to do his or her work in a certain manner. They will therefore develop theories and arguments that will help them understand more. This has led many to interpret various art forms based on the intention of the artists. This can sometimes be misleading since in some cases-such as when the artists are dead-it is not possible to know what the artists’ intentions were.
Language affects our thinking process, in the sense that our thoughts are limited by our language. A person cannot think in a language that he or she does not understand. Language is an important part of history, as it is used to document historical records. People think in their native language, and this may present a problem in interpretation. In some cases, historical books are written in English, and the full meaning of the work is lost if translated to another language. This is because some English words do not have an equal meaning in other languages. Some languages do not have the right terms or phrases to use to describe a particular art form. Despite the shortcomings of language, it is essential to understand that something does not stop existing just because it does not have a name in a specific language. Meaning is a fundamental concept of knowledge. I do not think that a person can get any knowledge if he or she does not understand the meaning of something. The meaning of a piece of art is more subjective, since it depends on the viewers’ perception. Meaning in art, is the main determinant of the reaction and the response to art. A person will respond based on what a particular piece of art means to them.
We are able to know of the historical events that happened because they have been documented in historical texts by many different authors. Although the records are biased, they enable us to attain knowledge. This is enabled by the fact that people are able to read different accounts that happened from different authors. They are thus able to note some of the similarities in the texts. Artists create their works through imagination and reality (Worth). Their environment and their imagination are their main inspiration. This means that viewers of different forms of art have to be careful when observing different pieces of art. They have to separate imagination from reality. Over the years, many people have acquired knowledge from looking at different pieces of art. The different art forms have enabled them to know different things concerning the era the piece of art was created. It is therefore possible to attain knowledge using history and art despite bias and selection.
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