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To interpret the title we must first understand the term “robust knowledge”, by defining knowledge as justified true belief, suggesting that knowledge itself already is of absolute quality. This makes the task problematic and so I have interpreted robust knowledge as a notion in which knowledge can be justified to certain extents depending on the presence of consensus and disagreement, making it justified to a greater extent and therefore “robust knowledge”. This essay will therefore deconstruct the acquisition of knowledge within the two areas of knowledge: Mathematics and History in terms of whether or not consensus and disagreement has been applied. I have made the assumption that there can only be consensus and disagreement in shared knowledge, and not in personal knowledge. This thought process has led to this knowledge question: “To what extent can some areas of knowledge be better in providing a more justified true belief?”. I will argue that Mathematics and History both can play a considerate role in obtaining knowledge, Mathematics however is still the one based.
Knowledge gained through Mathematics can be considered dependant on both consensus and disagreement through a formalist point of view, as it implies the knowledge acquired is analytic. Formalism is an analytic Mathematical proposition making it one true by definition, and is knowable (or known to be true) by a priori (no experience necessary for justification).Formalists believe that Mathematics is nothing but rules for replacing one system of meaningless symbols with another. By writing down some axioms and deduce from them a theorem, then we have correctly applied our replacement rules to the strings of entities that represent the axioms and get a string of symbols that represents the theorem. This means that a certain statement can be obtained from other statements through certain processes of manipulation, and not that some existing mathematical objectives have existence that we were previously unaware of or that the theorem is “true”.This theory therefore argues that Mathematics is solely a projection of the mind, making mathematical entities such as number and sets solely existing, meaningful forms when us humans give them an interpretation. To then gain more knowledge within Mathematics we have to combine our collective interpretations to e.g peer review a possible contribution that is then (if found to be reliable) added to a collective pool of information, making it shared knowledge. An example of As we have established Mathematics to be shared knowledge (through a formalist perspective) and as peers work collaboratively to eliminate error it suggests that consensus and disagreement is relevant to the acquisition of knowledge.
However, according to Platonists, knowledge acquired in Mathematics is not dependant on consensus and disagreement as it is a synthetic proposition (not analytic) and like Formalism, a priori (can be justified independently of experience). However, Platonism is more or less the antithesis of Formalism. According to Gödel, Platonism is the view that Mathematicsexists in a non-sensual reality independently both of the acts and of the dispositions of the human mind and is only observed, perceived or discovered by the human mind. As formalists view Mathematics as abstract, solely derived from the human mind, a Platonist would instead view mathematical statements such as “1+1=2” similar to statements about the physical world like “the book is on the shelf” even if mathematical objects are less tangible than physical ones. This could suggest that as Mathematics exists “out there” one does solely need empirical knowledge (related more to personal knowledge) in acquiring mathematical knowledge, as opposed to Formalism where shared knowledge is vital.
Despite Mathematics considered as the most pure forms of knowledge with its appealing sense of order and practical value my discussions highlight the uncertainties within this AOK, the eternal debate of the existence of Mathematics. In terms of my knowledge question: “To what extent can some AOK’s be better in providing a more justified true belief?”
The second area of knowledge that I will discuss is History, where acquired knowledge strive to be the closest to the truth about events of the past. The acquisition of knowledge within History can be considered independent of consensus and disagreement as it cannot be altered and stays objective. The purpose of acquiring knowledge in History simple in theory, that at the opposite extreme from scepticism, since the past no longer exists, it cannot be altered and is therefore completely objective. History could therefore be considered concerned with a focus of attention more objective and independent than that of the natural sciences. As History is in the past its objective reality is guaranteed; it is beyond being altered for any purpose whatsoever. This would suggest that a historian with great observational skills and experiential knowledge could extract justified true belief from a legitimate primary source without the need of a second one or the input of another historian (without the need of consensus and disagreement). A primary source is one that is written or composed by someone who was there at the time, and a secondary source being written later making it a more second-hand account of what happened. An example of an appropriate primary source would be one of the many diary entries, such as the famous Samuel Pepys diary, from 1347 to 1351 in Europe during the Black plague, resulting in the deaths of estimated 75 to 200 million people. However, despite the fact that the past is completely objective it does not guarantee it to be unaltered. We have to make the distinction between the past (e.g the actual event that occured) and knowledge of the past which is we can obtain from primary and secondary sources, where consensus and disagreement play a major role. To make an interpretation closest to the actual happenings of an event the more legitimate and varied sources there are, the closer the historian will get to the truth. Therefore consensus and disagreement plays a major part in finding the truth of an historic event or era, by applying the different (even at times opposed) evidences together the perspective is more honest.
The diary by Samuel Pepys only shows one perspective, whereas the other millions of people affected by the Black Death had different interpretations due to e.g class difference. However even when historians utilise different sources there can still be errors, such as lack of information or bias of the person which is important to note: Historians are humans meaning they can never be completely unbiased. This is referred to as historical revisionism, where knowledge is re-interpreted as new evidence is introduced or challenging orthodox views held by prior historians. Despite History’s history being objective and despite its clear-cut goal it is still knowledge of uncertainty as it is solely conducted through interpretation, making it possible for human errors.This solely emphasizes the great importance consensus and disagreement has within History to limit any bias and error that is most likely to occur.
In regard to the knowledge question “To what extent can some AOK’s be better in providing a more justified true belief?” my discussion suggests that despite the dependence on consensus and disagreement History will to some extent never obtain its purpose, as it always rely on the interpretation and judgement of a human which is not universal.
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