What we can know and how we know it are questions that remain in 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, intuitive 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 bed in the city of 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. We like to think that our mental map is an accurate replica of realities outside our head. If a new experience does do not fit well within connections on our mental map, we redraw already existing lines so that they do fit. Some of us who are not given to flexibility and questioning what we believe may distort our experience to make it conform to lines already drawn.
Some of us occasionally examine, erase lines or redraw portions of our maps. We call that reason. This self-examination is a part of understanding the world around us as well as 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 © 2010-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.