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Knowledge and Responsibility, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1413

Essay

Knowledge is considered to be valuable for all people. Knowing something, however, does not mean that someone would become more useful for the society than those who do not. There are three different types of knowledge: propositional knowledge, acquaintance knowledge and how-to knowledge. Some skills and types of knowledge need theoretical, others require practical knowledge. One’s general and factual knowledge would create no connection but a picture of the person or the thing in question. However, adding personal experiences would create acquaintance and add further information to the propositional knowledge. Being able to complete a task and having real life experience with the problem would provide the person with a “how-to” knowledge.

Example: The presence of ethical responsibility of knowledge is simple to spot in the legal system. Knowing of a crime and failing to report it carries a penalty. Another example can be the claim that by educating children about the environmental issues and pollution, we might be able to see them grow up to be more responsible adults. Most companies approach the question of social responsibility through education of staff and the public about issues. This is in line with the theory of epistemology; the possession of knowledge carried ethical responsibility.

The question of epistemic and moral duty states that there is a need for both subjective and objective justification when acting upon knowledge. Moral knowledge is also considered to be “how-to” as the person needs to know exactly know to react in a situation. If it is true that we are responsible for all our conscious actions and knowledge provides the individual with consciousness, the thesis statement of epistemology is confirmed. However, as the “rules” of behaviour are constantly changing, the ethical requirements also do. In the beginning of Christianity, the ethical rules were based on the Ten Commandments, and they were known by all Christians. However, later, additional regulations and church rules were added, and this meant that those aware of the “how to” of the right Christian actions had to follow these.

Some authors state that moral responsibility as a knowledge issue only involves ethics because in order to judge actions, the person needs to be able to determine who is at fault based on their existing knowledge.

Ethical responsibility and knowledge in psychology

Knowledge of psychological illnesses, understanding and the “how-to” knowledge of psychologists is extremely crucial in the ethical code of conduct. Procedures (“how-to” knowledge) are laid down by organizations in order to set up ethical standards.

Example: Knowing about the symptoms and the treatment options would mean that psychologists are bound to make an informed decision regarding treatment options, fairness and take into consideration the interest of the patient. This involves all three types of knowledge. Propositional knowledge is learned during the university years and through observation, acquaintance knowledge is also developed through interacting with patients during the practical training, and “how-to” knowledge is gained through practicing the profession.

When providing training for psychologists, it is essential to set high standards of knowledge for all three epistemological areas. As during treatments, practitioners need to use all three types of knowledge, the level of the knowledge would determine the level of responsibility the psychologist has towards the patient. Knowing the basics and the theories is the basis of the knowledge. Having a connection through interaction or observation of the different symptoms and illnesses would create an acquaintance knowledge. Getting involved with patients’ problems would result in a higher level of responsibility and understanding.

No matter if the psychologist works as a researchers or psychotherapist, the aim of their work is to develop fully working and reliable treatment options and ways of helping other people. This is a great responsibility for all professionals in psychology.

Ethical responsibility and knowledge in history

History studies and research have the power of teaching people about the main motivations of the human race, the development of countries, culture, politics and structures. Therefore, ensuring that the most relevant and true facts are revealed and patterns are identified has a great importance.

Example: Gaining knowledge and researching different historical eras would create an ethical responsibility of speaking the truth. However, in many cases, there are different, contradicting reports present. Determining which of these reports carries more truth and revealing the fact enabling people to learn from the past is a responsibility for humanity.

Wineburg (2000) concludes that public interest in history does mean that historians should be interested in what people want to learn as well. Preserving and passing on heritage is a responsibility of historians, and as such, it is not only the matter of providing facts but helping people achieve acquaintance knowledge as well. This would mean that people’s way of judging events, politicians and movements around the world would change thanks to historians. No science should be self-serving; studying history is not only useful for politicians, historians, sociologists and psychologists but all people. Serving the public through revealing the real events and the motivations behind them would help people gain acquaintance knowledge by understanding connections between events and movements.

A shared understanding can be created if all people are able to comprehend the same knowledge of the history, therefore, historians have a great responsibility in passing on knowledge.

Implications and significance

In the 21st Century, science governance was developed further, on the second Forum on Knowledge. (2005, online) The forum since then has met every two years, and developed a system that deals with the interdependence of science and society, focusing in particular on the social responsibility and education issues. Passing on knowledge is one of the forms of fulfilling responsibilities, and creating a sustainable environment for future generations based on the existing knowledge available for scientists and future research is crucial to express this.

Perspective

UNESCO is one of the partners of the World Science Forum, last met in Hungary, in 2011. Therefore, the work is not reduced to education and creating sustainable environmental projects, but also is able to influence decision-makers all over the word. The programme included creating policy recommendations and inter-disciplinary discussions. The World Science Forum truly believes that “The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility.”

Some authors argue that knowledge is a social responsibility, as well as a virtue. It is interesting to review one of the most commonly quoted example for responsibility of the knowing. The first person in the Bible, Adam became responsible for his actions, because he ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. He suddenly became “aware” of his actions. The root of epistemology can lie in this narrative, which is present in many myths and religious scripts as well. (Wineburg, 2000)

Epistemic justification and responsibility – Conclusion

Epistemic justification is an interesting approach to taking responsibility of knowing something. The question is whether the person who holds a belief can justify that belief based in their knowledge. There are different types of justifications, and the most common when one is pragmatically justified in that belief. This means that outside of their own interest or motivations, the ethical standards are true and unquestionable. Compared to a person who is morally justified, these justifications cannot be questioned by moving from one culture or belief system to another. A person is epistemically justified when holding the belief satisfies epistemic standards. Therefore, the criterion of being responsible for knowing is most relevant when epistemic justification is present.

The idea of being responsible based on knowledge is a belief which is pragmatically, epistemically and morally justified as well. This means that the statement is true, and has been confirmed by researchers, scientist and philosophers before. An example for this is the virtue epistemology approach, developed by Plato and Aristotle. The theory also includes virtue responsibilism, which values some intellectual traits more than others, based on knowledge and assigns people in the possession of knowledge with responsibility to guide and lead others. One of the theories within virtue responsibilism is developed by Lorraine Code, who says that the desire for truth is the main motivation for seeking knowledge, and knowing things about the world is one of the main goals of humanity. James Montmarquet added that the responsibility of those possessing knowledge is to defuse fanticism and dogmatism. Zagzebski, however, added that those knowing are responsible to unify moral and intellectual virtues. (McCord, 1996)

References:

Axtell, Guy, ed. Knowledge, Belief, and Character: Readings in Contemporary Virtue. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

Wineburg, P. (2000) Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives

McCord, G. (1996) Coherentist Epistemology and Moral Theory. Moral Knowledge. Edited by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Mark Timmons. Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 137- 189.

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