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What Is Knowledge? Essay

1389 words - 6 pages

Knowledge is “the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject” (Oxford Dictionaries). Many scientists and philosophers have studied the way in which knowledge is acquired, and how academic and scientific disciplines make sense of the world (McAllister). Three different categories or groups of sciences which produce knowledge have been established: natural sciences, humanities and social sciences (McAllister). This essay will serve to analyse the main distinctions between the three groups of sciences. To contrast these differences it will focus its' attention on how knowledge of the three categories makes a contribution to the field of International Studies in a broad sense. Finally, the example of the Sociolinguistic discipline will serve to indicate how both natural sciences and humanities can play an important role in the form and content of a certain discipline.
Despite the fact that knowledge is acquired through natural sciences, humanities and social sciences, these groups present many differences. Natural sciences emerged in Babylonia in 1200 BCE, following the discovery and circulation of astronomic methods (McAllister). Nevertheless, the modern concept did not develope until after the Scientific Revolution which took place in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (McAllister). Currently natural sciences include disciplines such as biology, astronomy, physics or mathematics (McAllister). Natural sciences are categories of knowledge which are interested in universals and regularities. Therefore, the study of these sciences tends to focus on classes of events in contrast to individual events, as studied in humanities. Additionally, natural sciences offer the possibility to acquire knowledge in concise and powerful formats (McAllister). Finally, as Kwa remarks in 'The Six Styles of Knowing', an important quality of natural sciences is the use of the deductive method, which defines true science as knowledge acquired from 'first principles that are necessarily true' (Kwa 2). Some examples of knowledge produced by natural sciences are laws of nature, scientific theories and mathematical models (McAllister). To conclude, natural sciences tend to generalise and explain outcomes with general rules and patterns; this is known as a nomothetic approach.
Humanities, in contrast to natural sciences, focus on individual events. The origin of humanities arose with the study of different 'ways of doing' in ancient and medieval educations. To acertain specific 'ways of doing', the study of liberal arts such as grammar, rhetoric or logic was indispensable (McAllister). The modern disciplines of humanities were first introduced in the 15th century through the spread of the Renaissance humanism across Europe. Subsequently, humanities became objects of study and led to present day disciplines such as history, study of language and literature and religious studies (McAllister). Currently humanities aim mainly to analyse human...

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