“We other elements of knowledge cannot be

“We know with confidence only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases.” – JW Von Goethe Knowledge is constantly augmenting, both in the minds of individuals and the collective mind of the human population. New events occur and are added to history, new discoveries are made and published for the world to see and absorb. However, with this growth of knowledge, there is intrinsically a growth of doubt, as JW Von Goethe stated: “We know with confidence only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases.” One of the most central concepts which help explain why this inverse relationship is true is the concept of empirical knowledge, which is knowledge gained from sense perception, a way of knowing, and experiences. Empirical knowledge is the source of all knowledge because the events and other elements of knowledge cannot be spread without first having been experienced. Sense perception, or rather empirical knowledge, pervades over several areas of knowledge, such as history, mathematics, and ethics, as well as a way of knowing like faith, and demonstrates how each area or way supports the statement that increasing knowledge parallels increasing doubt. In history, there are many events that a world consensus would state as true. Some of these events include the occurrence of the World Wars. The world went to war from 1914 to 1918 and from 1939 to 1945, and hundreds of thousands of people from various nations died- this is a fact that most people agree on. However, when people begin to look deeper into causes behind the World Wars, they begin to look at whether the two Wars are actually two separate wars or a single war resulting from the same chain of events with a span of static separating it into two parts. This investigation into the specificities and increasing detail of the World Wars causes doubts in beliefs, resulting in no single opinion on this matter remaining true worldwide. There is no single person who was present across the globe at the instances that all of the causes of the two wars came to be. There is no single person who has all the basic, empirical evidence necessary to make an assured statement as to whose fault the war was and whether it truly was one war or two. With increasing knowledge comes increasing opportunities for individual interpretations because there is a lack of personal experience and empirical evidence when details of knowledge come into play. Furthermore, with these individual speculations come doubts about what is the truth because, as an inherent trait of opinions, no one can ever know the truth behind opinions. When a parent first introduces religion to a child, the child will accept the simplicities of the religion that they can understand with no reservations. In my own personal experience with Christianity as a child, I accepted that Jesus was my Savior and that He loved me and all the little children. This was a mindset that I and many others in a similar situation have maintained for many years through faith, a way of knowing, because there is no empirical knowledge that can confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. Some people still operate on this ‘childlike faith’ because they have not tried to search deeper into the ‘fine print and specificities of Christianity, remaining satisfied with the underlying framework of Christianity and having little to no doubt. I know this because this was my own mindset for several years. While I believe ‘childlike faith’ has its place and is not wrong, there is a point in a person’s relationship with God in which he must begin to ask questions or risk remaining ignorant about the truth regarding not just Christianity, but religion as a whole. I have reached this point in my life and have begun seeing discrepancies and noticing certain principles in the Bible that I either cannot believe in or do not want to believe in at face value. These are aspects of the Christian faith which cause me to have doubts about the existence of God, the omniscience of God, the point of Christianity, and these are facets which I have to research further in order to appease my doubts. However, that research being done, I still require faith to remain solid in my beliefs because, once a person slips down the slope of pursuing details, there is no amount of research that can explain away all of those little elements of what he believes. The further a person searches, the more questions he finds which he is unable to answer. The growth of the knowledge in ethics is very similar to the growth of knowledge through faith. In terms of ethics and morals, there are certain simple regulatory statements that are widely accepted throughout the world as right and wrong, good and bad. For example, it is widely accepted that murder in and of itself, in its simplest form, is wrong- murder for the sake of murder is unacceptable. However, once new details begin encroaching upon the story of a murder, complications arise within the discernment of its morality. A man murdering a family in cold blood is ‘heinous’ or ‘corrupt’ , but the law murdering that man for this crime is ‘ethical’ because it is what justice entails. Without the context, murder is wrong, but with the introduction of additional knowledge regarding murder, the general public’s confidence in the basic fact that ‘murder is wrong’ wavers. If a witness was to experience the event first-hand, thus being exposed to empirical knowledge and pure facts as they occurred, chances increase that he would have a different opinion than others on the jury who only hear about the crime through biased rumors and curated testimonies. As with history, where we learn about events not empirically, but through schools which carry the possibility of both unintentional or intentional bias, opinion and individual assumptions begin to encompass and morph the jury’s beliefs regarding morality, as a result of lack of empirical experience during the actual murder. Mathematics provides a possible counterargument to Goethe’s claim and is an area of knowledge which connects both empirical knowledge and non-empirical knowledge in order to depict that more knowledge does not necessarily correlate to more doubt. Originally numbers came from the human need to quantify objects, people, etc. ┬áLess educated people in underdeveloped nations, or people in the past before math was a developed area of knowledge, could still sense units: they could see a rock and another rock and be able to recognize the concept of there being multiple rocks, even if there was no name for the actual amount. The actual quantification of objects simply became a way of naming the empirical knowledge that had already been gathered. A statement accepted as truth worldwide is that 1+1=2; however, while easily verifiable through empirical knowledge and quantifying units which exist in tangible reality, the statement ‘1+1=2’ holds its own meaning independent of actual tangible objects in life. Math is an axiomatic language which builds on its most fundamental concepts, such as addition, through a basis of human life, such as empirical knowledge. As a result, the population has complete faith in even the most detail oriented areas such as calculus, demonstrating that increasing knowledge does not always increase doubt. Conversely, the immutability of calculus only occurs if those who are themselves perfect perform the computations. Math in and of itself is a perfect concept- it is consistent and balanced, which human nature is not. As math can never be a 100% true concept because humans are the variable that causes discrepancies and mistakes in the language of mathematics. We must doubt these intricate calculations that are not visible to the human eye in real world space, these calculations that rely entirely on human interpretation and augmentation to fundamental concepts, because humans are those who developed these calculations. When discussing this quote by Goethe, we must not discount the factor of humanity that can cause these variations in a perfect concept like math because it is the knowledge of humanity that Goethe puts into question. Some would argue that increasing knowledge can only lead to doubt if one leaves that doubt unresolved- their doubts will only remain if the said party makes no effort to elucidate them. They believe that delving deeper and seeking answers will resolve any doubts stemming from new knowledge, and that if immortality was physically possible, so would be the acquisition of all the knowledge needed to finally have no doubts. On the contrary, the amount of information in the human mind constantly grows because, as time passes, people gain experiences through empirical knowledge. As a result, there would never be a single point when a person would have absolutely no doubts, because even if immortal and given enough time to learn everything in the world up to that point, they would still be acquiring new knowledge and experiences as their life continued. Doubt is such a common human principle, occurring in history, ethics, and even mathematics, and it even can corrupt our ways of knowing such as faith. Doubt springs from unanswered questions which in turn arise from a sum of knowledge with no cogent explanations to answer these questions before they emerge. The only knowledge that truly is steadfast in the human mind is empirical knowledge because it is a knowledge gained from personal experiences which are personal truths to the person who experiences them.


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