Objective knowledge can be achieved even our experience and culture have been affecting us. However, it can only be achieved in certain areas of knowledge such as natural sciences and mathematics because the knowledge in these two is discovered. Other areas of knowledge are invented by us so objective knowledge can not be achieved in these areas because they are bias during the invention process. Knowledge can be defined as justified true belief, which means that if what we believe is true, and then we claim it to be knowledge.
We choose our beliefs, in other words, we justify the information we get to be acceptable or unacceptable, if the information is acceptable, we believe it and claim it to be knowledge. Reliability is the key to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable justification. For example, if a person tells you babies can not walk when they are born, you will accept that because you experienced this process, and others believe the same, therefore it is reliable.
On the other hand, if a person tells you he can fly, most likely you won’t believe him because personally you haven’t seen a flying man, and others also agree with that, so it is not reliable and you won’t believe it. Body We need experiences and culture to know because the four ways of knowing rely heavily on personal experiences and cultural background. For example, the knowledge we receive from our teachers are taught using a certain language, and it is a part of culture, so we receive knowledge under a certain culture. Experience is a process of personal observation, encountering or undergoing a period.
By experiencing, we absorb new knowledge unconsciously. For example the first time we put our hands in boiling water, we felt it hot so we learnt through reasoning not to repeat the same mistake. Therefore, experience can also be defined as knowledge gained by repeated trials. The prefix of culture “cult” meaning worship, and my interpretation towards culture is a system of what people worship in. Different countries and people have different culture even though it can be very similar. Culture and experience are interactional. A particular culture is formed by experiences of ancestors.
Our ancestors have experienced difficulties to figure out the way to do things. For example, our ancestors did not know cooked meat tastes better; they accidently found a burnt animal after a storm and then learnt that fire can make meat tastes better. Our ancestors learnt the easiest way to solve problems, and passed such knowledge to their children and slowly it formed a culture. This knowledge gained by experiences is not objective because experiencing is personal and bias, so people with different experiences have different methods to solve problems. Culture is formed in a slow process.
For example the Chinese studied the objects and looked for the characteristics, and they carved the objects using these characteristics, and gradually Chinese characters are formed. Therefore, I believe that culture is formed by experiences. However, we are always affected by culture since we were born. We are born under a specific background because the language spoken, food and etc around us belong to a particular culture. Therefore when we are small, we are affected by culture unconsciously. When we realize the existence of culture, we have already become part of it and can not be erased.
Although we are always influenced by culture, people with different living styles, ages, educations, and experiences have different values and understanding towards culture. For example, a kid grew up in rural area China with poor education and a kid lived in Shanghai with good education, although both of them only lived in China, they lived in different environment and have different education, therefore they value different things and have different culture because Shanghai is a globalized city so the kid who lived in Shanghai are partly influenced by other cultures.
Therefore, a person’s culture is also affected by experience, and I believe that there is first experience which then created culture. So is it impossible to have objective knowledge? Objective meaning impersonal and unbiased, so we have to consider things in relation to the object instead of our perspective. I believe there is a possibility that objective knowledge can be achieved because some knowledge already stands, for example the Sun rises from the North and sets in the South, such knowledge although does require observation which is experience, but this knowledge is discovered instead of invented.
Therefore, I believe that knowledge discovered is objective and inventions are subjective. Knowledge is divided into 7 areas but objectivity can only be achieved in two regions: mathematics and natural sciences. Mathematics can be defined as the search for abstract patterns, which means mathematics is discovered, therefore objective knowledge can be achieved. For example every even number is the sum of two primes and it is known as the Gold Bach’s conjecture. Although Mathematics can not achieve absolute certainty, they are discovered through observations and reasoning.
For example the statement 1+1=2 stands by itself because it is a fact which we discovered. What if someone proves that 1+1 does not equal 2? If the knowledge we discovered until now are incorrect, the new statements are still objective because it is not an invention. Mathematics is a subject which involves high accuracy, one mistake will cause your answers to be incorrect, so there is only one set of correct answers and therefore objective knowledge is achieved.
Natural sciences are similar to mathematics because some of the knowledge already stands. Discovery is a type of experiences, although our experiences and culture are always affecting us, objective knowledge can still be achieved because knowledge in Mathematics and natural sciences are statements which stand by themselves and will not be affected by others. Human sciences include studies such as psychology, economics, and etc. Human sciences are complex subjects and yet we can not master them.
There are still a lot to be considered and unsolved. For example, why do we dream? Sigmund Freud gave us an explanation, but it is generalized and only from his point of view. Since the explanation is an invention, so it is not objective knowledge because personal experiences and culture affected his thinking process. Like Freud’s explanation, all the knowledge we have currently in Human sciences are inventions and theories because we are not capable to handle our mind.
We learn history through other teachers and books, they are all secondary sources and therefore contain personal experiences, so the knowledge we receive is bias. Also we never experienced what happened in the past, so how do we know the information given are accurate? Therefore objective knowledge can not be achieved under History because we can not experience it by ourselves. Art is a subject which involves great personal experiences and cultural background. Art is closely connected with history because we have to study the past if we want to learn art.
For example if we did not study the past of artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso and simply looking at their drawings, a lot of us will not appreciate the art they created. But if we knew what they experienced and why they painted in such way, we start to understand the meaning behind it. We learn history through people and books which are secondary sources and contain personal experiences, so the knowledge we receive is bias. We never experienced what happened in the past, so how do we know the information given are accurate?
Different people have different interpretation towards the same painting. The color red for people who grew up in western culture is a symbol of blood and death, but for the Chinese red represents luck, wealth, and marriage. Therefore, objective can not be achieved in arts and history because our culture and experiences caused us to have different interpretations. Ethics is the study of moral values and there are always two or more sides towards it. The rules were set by our ancestors, but gradually they are improved by later generations to benefit us.
Ethics is highly subjective because culture is one of the key aspects to build up ethics. Different cultures have different definitions for what is good and bad. For example, in western cultures eating dogs are not allowed because some of them think dogs are the closest friend to human. However, as a Chinese, I think if we are allowed to eat beef, pork, and chicken, so why are we not allowed to eat dogs? Since both cultures have different interpretations towards some aspects, therefore ethics can not be objective because it varies from culture to culture.
Different cultures have different religions and direct us to do things differently. For example, both Christian and Buddhist indicated that killing is not acceptable but in Buddhist, believers are not allowed to eat meat because killing animals is forbidden, whereas in Christian meat is not banned. Since everyone is born under a certain background, we have different religions or beliefs which cause us to have different perceptions, and therefore objective knowledge can not be achieved in religion. Conclusion
Overall, we do need experience and culture to know, but even though they are affecting us consciously and unconsciously, objective knowledge can still be achieved because some knowledge are statements where sta means stand so they exist even if we don’t discover them. Referring back to the question “… is it impossible that objective knowledge can be achieved”, and since we can never achieve complete certainty so impossible can never be achieved so there is a possibility which objective knowledge can be achieved.