Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All knowledge comes from other knowledge...

This was a statement that was brought up not only in History & Philosophy, but also in the Inquiry class this week. I found myself pondering why I often find myself agreeing with this same statement, and why I sometimes question it.

In most of my formal education, you follow a (pretty) standard routine - learn the basics/theory and then put it into practice. I therefore consider the knowledge that is developed in my own head to be based on knowledge that was generated by another (books, lectures, etc) and/or myself (through reflection). This is evident in several instances such as reading Noddings and creating this blog. However there have been many instances where I did not have enough knowledge advance to "new" knowledge, especially when getting a research proposal together. This lack of knowledge preventing me from obtaining new knowledge - I couldn't just pull these ideas out of thin air.

However, my niece is eighteen months old and I am amazed at how quickly she is learning to interact with the world around her. She is engaged through sounds ("don't touch that"), taste ("icky"), touch ("that's hot"), sight ("grass is green") and smell ("yummy"). John Locke would whole-heartedly agree that in this knowledge came from the senses, and that as a newborn she was a tabula raza (blank slate). However, I always sensed that she had this innate understanding, even as a babe. I will also note that a lot of her understanding of the world around her comes from the people around her; her mother tells her not to touch something, her dad reads a book with the colors she recognizes. Is this knowledge after all, learned through sensory experiences or rather from the transfer of knowledge from her parents?

As an aside, if all knowledge comes from other knowledge, what is the root of it all?


Junaid said...

How you described your observations about the development of knowledge reminded me of how Piaget has described stages of cognitive development‎. His descriptions are quite elaborate and detailed. This web page I found through a Google search has a good summary of the four developmental stages that Piaget has identified: