What we can know and how we know it are questions that remain into the 21st century. Some believe that we understand by making associations and differentiations, a process that involves interpretation – a point of view in contrast to those who believe that they have a direct connection to knowledge that is whole and independent of interpretation.
Association, differentiation, inclusion, exclusion are fundamental to thinking. We know everything in association with other things. Everything we know is placed somewhere on our mental maps. If everything is of one color as in a world covered with snow and we cannot see a differentiating point of reference, we are lost.
We think by seeing connections between things, and to see connections we need to see differences. We process information, and some of us process it better than others. When we dream our associations run wild. When we awake we orient ourselves: "Its Tuesday morning, 6 A.M. and here I am at home in Oshkosh." We orient ourselves with our mental map. Information that we gather we place on this map. Our mental maps are built with experience – greater at the age of sixty than in childhood.
Our mental maps are personal, connected that is with our individual experiences. But we like to think that our mental map is an accurate replica of realities outside our head. New experiences we place onto our map, and if they do not fit well we redraw already existing lines so that they do fit. Sometimes, however, we distort our understanding of our experience in order to make it conform to lines already drawn.
But some of us occasionally examine, erase lines or redraw portions of our maps. We call that reason. This self-examination is a part of the "knowing thyself" that some thinkers view as important. It is a matter of questioning, akin to philosophy. It is something that one who believes that he has a direct connection to knowledge that is whole and independent of interpretation is less inclined to do.
Copyright © 2010-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.