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How is Language a Way of Knowing?

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I am having some trouble pinning language down as a way of knowing.

For emotion, we can say that it is a way of knowing, for example, because sudden emotions of fear can help us to know if there is danger ahead etc. For sense perception, seeing the ocean can help us to know that it is blue etc. Although these examples are debatable (which is not surprising, considering this is ToK), they allow me to understand why emotion and sense perception are ways of knowing. But language is difficult for me. I know that we use language to order, culminate and communicate thoughts, but how do we use the simple function of language to know something? Of course, reading a book is language and it may teach me that apples grow from seeds, but it is not through language that the knowledge originates, but rather through the observations of the person that wrote the book, who planted the seed, grew a tree and saw it produce apples. Is language only a secondary way of knowing, that retains knowledge 'procured' by other ways of knowing? Can we only use language as a storage of knowing, rather than a method by which to obtain knowledge first hand?

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Language is the way you express something.

Simplest example, if someone's feeling bad or sad or whatever and doesnt show it. When they try to express it for you, if they express it wrongly, you wont know they feel bad. It also includes the words people use, certain words when used will be your key to knowing.

Always think about someone not knowing how to explain something and you end up not knowing whats going on. :D

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Everything we know is through language, dude. It's a way of knowing because language is the source of all meaning. You can see something, or feel an emotion, or rationalize something in your head, but by definition it's not knowledge until it can be recognized--which is what language allows us to do.

Edited by Mr. Shiver

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Thankyou! You are both wonderful!

Mahuta -- does this then mean that language is not a secondary form of knowledge? Because by the act of communicating how you feel to someone else, they gain knowledge? But isn't still the root of that knowledge the emotion itself, or is that true for you, the feeler, but not true for the person who listens to your language? Does this then mean that language is the most sophisticated way of knowing, as we say that sense perception tells us very little until we use reason to cognate our sensations? Is there then a hierarchy of ways of knowing through which we must pass before we can say we have knowledge?

Mr. Shiver -- if perceiving or feeling or rationalizing cannot be knowledge until language has been employed in a precise manner to 'order' 'develop' or simply put 'I know' before the information these senses give you, does that not then mean that sense perception, emotion and reason are not ways of knowing at all, because they are not precursors of the attainment of actual knowledge without language? Is that simply why they are called ways of knowledge, and not knowledge itself? But if ways of knowing are so distinguishable from knowledge itself, then what is so special about language, that it can create knowledge when all other ways of knowledge cannot? Is language often given a higher order than the other WoK, because not only is it a WoK, but a method by which to communicate ideas, which are the perusal of knowledge?

Tok! Ah! Bah!

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Mr. Shiver -- if perceiving or feeling or rationalizing cannot be knowledge until language has been employed in a precise manner to 'order' 'develop' or simply put 'I know' before the information these senses give you, does that not then mean that sense perception, emotion and reason are not ways of knowing at all, because they are not precursors of the attainment of actual knowledge without language?

Well, no. Because while language is the source of all meaning, perception is the source of all experience, reason the source of all understanding, and emotion the source of all intuition. So they all kind of work together to give us knowledge. But I mean, I'm just giving a rough approximation, so take that framing of terminology with a grain of salt. The point is that they're not discrete (which is what IB tends to make us believe with the categorization), but rather intertwined.

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I think knowledge is a way of knowing, because if you are able to talk about something then it means you understand it. I mean specifically schoolwise, if you can talk about a subject with ease and without needing to pause to think of the proper way to formulate the words of explaining it, then I know that I have a solid understanding of the topic.

I hope that made sense to other people XD

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Yes, you are right: While, emotion, reason and perception can "create" new knowledge, language only allows you to "acquire" knowledge that was either felt, reasoned out, or perceived by another person. Note, however, that when IB talks about Ways of Knowing, it means "how do you know something you know?" and not "how was your knowledge created?". So language is a valid Way of Knowing.

On the other hand, this is just my perspective. After all, a poet may very well think that he or she is producing new knowledge about human nature when crafting poetry and, if you believe in it, the Bible or the Qur'an or other holy books "produce" knowledge, through language, directly from God (technically, though, this would fit into the "lost" fifth way of knowing, which is revelation, but I think IB removed that one). So, like all ToK, this is debatable.

Edited by Referos

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Also, language is everything symbolic. That a football crosses a line is highly symbolic, but when it does we know that the team scored.

Language is NOT only spoken/written language

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On a small point about language, some people argue that it's more than just acquiring knowledge. For instance, could I have a complex thought without language? Although I'm explaining this using language, could I myself understand it and think about it without using language?

Could a logical argument exist without language? :)

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The most interesting thing I found with this sort of thing is that you think in the language you know, you can't think formally without having a discussion in your head. So the same way that emotion shapes how we understand things, the strengths and limitations of our language shape the way we understand things. Is it possible that multi-linguists have more scope for knowledge because they can relate in more than one language?

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I disagree with most of the comments here in that I think Language does inherently contain knowledge, as well as, of course, being a medium for the communication and recording of information acquired through other ways of knowing.

Language can reveal two main types of information:

1) Knowledge about the culture from which it comes in terms of their 'frame' (ways of thinking about things, dealing with concepts and abstract ideas, priorities and even belief systems). Think about idioms and clichés such as I haven't the foggiest(British weather? haha), acid test (scientific background), God knows (religion); the wealth of information that can be gleaned from even just these three trivial examples is astonishing.

2) Reflective information about the history of the language (and it's mother culture). The obvious example for this is the multitude of 'loanwords' from other languages you can find when you peer into any language. In English, for example, there are blatantly 'stolen words' such as déjà vu/café/avant-garde from French, wunderkind/doppelgänger/kaputt from German etc. but also words fully integrated into our language e.g. typhoon (tái fēng), gung ho (gōng hé), ketchup (qié zhī) from chinese, booze, anchor, slurp, tattoo and countless others from Dutch, flack, lager, rucksack, abseil from German...you get the idea... All this information offers fascinating insight into migration and trading patterns, intercultural relations and dominance (Latin, for example, is a mishmash of languages from cultures the Romans conquered) and can often even trace concepts and ideas back to their originating cultures with suprising accuracy.

Damn, that was more than I had intended to write...hope it helps :hug:

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Everything we know is through language, dude. It's a way of knowing because language is the source of all meaning. You can see something, or feel an emotion, or rationalize something in your head, but by definition it's not knowledge until it can be recognized--which is what language allows us to do.

woah woah calm down, everything we know is through language? really? that's a bit of a broad claim :)

OP you underestimate the fact that you on your own are not the only bearer of knowledge. your knowledge is limited, and hence so are reasoning, emotions and perception. Because of your paradigm you won't be able to gain the same knowledge or come to the same deductions as someone with a different paradigm.

So through knowlege you get to share and gain the knowledge of others, if phrased correctly in their own experiences... I think it's a much more reliable WOK than emotion anyway...

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