Essay example: The Quality of Knowledge


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Prescribed Title: “The quality of knowledge is best measured by how many people accept it.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge

The first knowledge question is; to what degree is knowledge quality established by the number of people that accept it? To contextualize this question, not every opinion, or an argument or a belief is a constituent of knowledge. Hence, it is important to differentiate propositions by quality. Quality is the extent to which knowledge is true. On the other hand, according to Plato, knowledge is a justified true belief. Furthermore, the quality of knowledge is to what level knowledge is termed as justifiable, to what extent is the knowledge acceptable? That means knowledge quality is determined by how accurate and valid it is a general piece of knowledge.

In various cases, the quality of knowledge is shaped by the number of people in agreement with it. Some of the examples from own experiences, articles, or within the chosen AOKs support this view. For instance, the quality of a peer reviewed article being the academic standard, in the fields of natural sciences and human sciences, is measured by the number of how many people accepted or approved of it to determine the ‘quality’ of the article published. This is in fact the manner in which the scientific community evaluates whether the article published is a peer review article or not by checking how many other experts in the field have reviewed and accepted the article written by an expert(s) before it is published in the journal to ensure that it is a quality article.

Another example of the degree to which knowledge is determined by how many people accept it is in the court or legal systems where testimonials in the legal processes are more justified when many people share the same knowledge. There is a high likelihood that the testimonials could be true. For instance, the more juries that agree to a testimonial, the more justified that testimonial is and this is mostly applied in law and human science where more people share reasoning process. The more judges that approve of a decision, the more it is justified.  If more people witnessed the occurrence of a crime, it is highly likely that it took place and that piece of knowledge is ‘true’. For instance, in the widely publicized case of Timothy McVeigh, who with the help of an accomplice, Terry Nichols detonated a bomb in Oklahoma that killed approximately 168 people, over 160 witnesses testified. As a result of the many testimonials, McVeigh was sentenced to death by all jurors who supported the death penalty.

This logic is also evident in human sciences. Models, polls and questionnaires are usually used to create knowledge. In any democratic system across the globe, laws are only passed when majority accept them. The more people that accept the laws the more it is regarded as justified. This is the best way of measuring whether the law is accepted because there is a high likelihood that it might lead to less social stability when not accepted by a majority.

Nonetheless, there are counterclaims to the notion that the number of people who accepts knowledge means its quality. It is not always true that the fact that more people accept knowledge it is true. There are some examples about pieces of knowledge agreed upon by many people even though they are not valid. Hence, the many people that accept certain claims may just be a by-product to the degree of validation of the knowledge but this does not imply that it determines its quality. Some scientific theories that were widely accepted by many people were later debunked. For instance, the aether, a mysterious substance was thought to emit light through the universe. This idea was debunked because of an experiment done in the diffraction and refraction of light.

Another theory that was not widely accepted when it was proposed was the germ theory proposed by Louis Pasteur. The view that disease was caused by bacteria or microscopic organisms was viewed as controversial in the 19th century, thus not accepted by many people. Most people used to believe that diseases were not caused by germs, thus surgeries used to be conducted without proper hygienic processes. This demonstrates that at times, sometimes more people accepting a piece of knowledge cannot justify that it is true, correct or quality.  The society in the 19th century understood that illnesses were as a result of bad luck but did not consider germs to exist. After years of controversies various evidences to proof the fact that diseases were caused by microorganisms, the theory gained acceptance.

Another great example is what takes place in company meetings by the board of directors when they want to make certain decisions such as change management. In most cases, emotions are usually employed as a WOK for the directors to make decisions. In cases where emotions are used as WOK, knowledge quality is assessed on the basis of personal values, priorities, and reactions with regard to experience as well as past experiences. As such, choices that directors make in organizations may be prone to biasness and not essentially in the interest of the business.

On the same note, emotions can be used in democratic elections as a way of knowing to pass bills. Cases of personal biases in this scenario are likely to arise which can lead to passing of unjust laws. One best example is homosexuality, a practice that most states in the United States viewed as illegal in the past, though it is now considered legal. Another example is the segregation laws, commonly referred to as the Jim Crow laws that were passed in 1950s. The majority of the US population had certain believes about the African Americans including the notion that they were cursed and God supported racial segregation. Because a majority accepted these assertions, they were passed into anti-black laws, hence accepted as valid. However, the laws were later abolished because they were unethical and promoted discrimination in line with race.

Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution in China is another best example. A majority of people supported his ruthless and dictatorial approach of leadership, closure of schools because he did not see the importance of education and killing of his opponents as justifiable. Yet, his actions resulted in millions of lives lost and damage to the nation. Later, his cultural policies were abolished. This indicates that not only does more number of people accepting an issue does it mean a law is ethical.  Thus, unjust laws can be arguably passed.

The second KQ in relation to the topic is how do various WOKs assess knowledge quality? While knowledge quality can be determined by the degree of the number of people in support of it, people can use a variety of ways of knowing to assess knowledge quality. Emotion is one of the ways used by some people to decide whether a piece of knowledge is quality or not using personal values, priorities, and reactions on the basis of one’s experience and his or her disposition. For instance in literature, pathos is a means used to persuade or appeal to people’s emotions. People evaluate the validity of information in narratives, and readings with regard to how they affect the emotional responses of the readers. These emotional appeals can be applied in enhancing an argument. If what the readers read is not in tandem with their identity, values, and how they view the world around them, it will be hard for them to accept such information as knowledge. Individuals justify information as knowledge basing on how emotionally invested they can get. The information can only be of use if such individuals use emotions as a WOK. Hotel Rwanda, one of the movies on Rwanda genocide is best in eliciting emotions about the incidents that took place in Rwanda. While watching the movie, it drew my attention to the knowledge of the happenings during Rwanda genocide. I was made to believe in the unimaginable horror that Rwandans went through. The emotions I encountered made me trust the knowledge regarding Rwanda genocide.

Additionally, people usually assess the quality of knowledge depending on their preferences in life, a factor that is in history. For instance, Chinese citizens are more likely to agree to information that the Nanjing massacre is the true analysis of history because of their status as victims as opposed to Japanese citizens who have a higher likelihood of disapproving it. But this is not a good approach of assessing the quality of knowledge as it may result in subjective and inaccurate explanation of information.

Nonetheless, when language is applied as a WOK, people tend to perceive the quality of information using its formality and diction. Normally, when writers use a carefully guided form of language and more formal language, it tends to be an education that enables others to weigh if the knowledge is provided in a rigorous way. For instance, in scientific research papers, the papers need to be written in a very formal and guided manner including proper citation among others because this will affect how people interpret its quality. People will measure its quality using how carefully it is guided and the formality of writing it, thus their perception of the validity of knowledge presented though this not a good WOK. There is a relationship between knowledge quality and the language used. But, language as a WOK is not the best method of evaluating the quality of knowledge because correct knowledge does not really require to be portrayed in a formal way; it can be represented in an informal way.

Also, faith has made me believe that Islamic religion is a violent religion and worships a wrong god considering the various insurgents and terrorists that the media has portrayed to be of Islamic origin such as bombing by Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and Al-Shabaab, who claim to be of Islamic religion. I have believed that this is valid and true because the terrorists use the name Allah in all their activities. As a result of believing that this knowledge is justified, I have developed fear of engaging or being close to individuals who are Muslims and detest Islam as a religion. But faith faces controversies as some people feel it cannot be used to measure knowledge quality as it does not have verifiable evidence.

In conclusion, assessing the quality of knowledge depending on the number of individuals that agree to it is arguably the best and effective method as it is the only best way so far to find out if a piece of knowledge is valid. An article can only be viewed as justifiable and of quality in academic standards when assessed basing on their peer reviews. Conversely, it is not safe for the society to agree to a claim as justified knowledge. There are fields that provide better ways such as natural sciences and mathematics. The fields comprises of empirical data which is a compelling determinant of the validity of a piece of knowledge as the data is usually used in debunking some scientific theories. With personal experiences, people measure the quality of knowledge with regard to the way of knowing. Ultimately, the only best way of measuring the quality of knowledge can be by determining the context in which it is presented.