Knowledge is the accumulation of facts andinformation gained through study, investigation, research or also throughexperience. In my perspective, based on the given question adaptedfrom JW von Goethe quote, I feel that the quote only scrapes the surface of its true meaning. I believe that onedoes not have confidence only when they know little but, confidence can alsoincrease with the increase in knowledge. However, gain in knowledge which canlead to a rise in doubt, can also lead to a decrease in confidence. Reason andsense of perception could be interpreted as a combined form of one’s wisdom.
The relationship between knowledge and wisdom isthat, wisdom acts as a combination of the gained information and experiencesinto insights that deepens one’s understanding of certain events or situations;discerns and judges which aspects of knowledgewe have acquired are applicable to one’s life. By using the Areas of knowledge;Natural Science and History, and Ways of knowing; Emotions, Reason, Sense ofperception and Faith, I shall discuss JW Goethe’s claim, with the use of mycentral knowledge question, ‘To whatextent does doubt obstruct or trigger someone into expanding their ownknowledge?’From a historical view,doubt can be used as a way to widen one’s knowledge, when one knows less. APersian proverb states that ‘Doubt is thekey to knowledge.’ A seeker of knowledge must have an equal amount of doubtin order to come to reasonable conclusions. If the person does not affirm to acertain historical fact or event, this would result to the person searching forinformation in order to find and confirm its actuality. Based on sense ofperception as quoted by Philip Roth, ‘Seeingis believing and believing is knowing and knowing beats unknowing and theunknown,’ shows that the person may not believe the facts provided, as heor she did not see the event taking place. By seeing, then only will the personnow believe.
Searching for information through journals, historical books, theinternet or any other source material, would be the only logical reason as Historyis the story about the past. I can relate to this when in school, when I learnabout multiple conflicting theories such as TheCreation theory and The Big Bang Theory.Through faith, I would believe one theory being true and the other false, evenwithout strong evidence to prove its actuality. However, my sense of perceptionand reasoning will come to play, as the more I learn about the clashing theory,the more I will want to make sense of it, enticing me onto researching aboutit, which would give better understanding of what I have doubted, thus eventuallyleading to the expansion of my knowledge based on the event in question. Forexample, if a person could not believe that the Islamic religion was forcefullyplaced in certain countries such as in Iran, he or she would gain more knowledgeand awareness from conducted research, about the Islamic revolution in Iran,and also know the reason behind the revolution, as well as get acquainted withthe leader of the revolution and how he overthrew the Persian monarch. Hence,deriving the explanation and example given, doubt based on history, canincrease knowledge by shading enough information for greater understanding,however certain counter claims from research can lead to greater doubt, leadingto greater craving for more information about the matter.In Natural science, doubtwould definitely lead to more research, which would also lead to newdiscoveries or findings thus more confidence as a result from acquiredknowledge. Scientists will always conduct research on different existingtheories, if they feel that it lacks enough supportive information (lessknowledge), as resultant from doubt.
This action is called falsification, whichwas introduced by Karl Popper, a philosopher. This is when a scientist makes anassumption through logic and reasoning, based from the theory he felt uncertainabout. The scientist will then have to formulate a new hypothesis and design,as well as an appropriate experiment in order to prove that the existing theoryis false. The scientist will also have to come up with a new theory based onhis or her experiment replacing the previous one. However, before establishinga new theory, multiple practical experiments would need to be conducted, inorder to minimize the creation of doubt, in people, which could also lead tonew unexpected discoveries, thus, expanding knowledge. However, in some cases,certain theories will always seem doubtful linking it to doubtful knowledge.For example, in early Mesopotamian study, the Earth was believed to be a flatdisk with a dome, until Ferdinand Magellan managed to prove that the Earth wasspherical in shape after successfully circumnavigating the Earth in the 15th Century,which later on in the future was proved to be true, after space travel wasachieved. Another example would be of the Italian physicist Galileo Galileiwho, despite the endless controversy, criticism and denouncing made againsthim, proved false the long withheld notion of the geocentric view that theEarth was at the center of the Universe.
Using sense of perception and faith,people of that century believed that they were the only most important beingscreated by ‘the gods.’ Thus, it isevident that through the use of some scientific theories, unless disprovedotherwise, knowledge is updated and will remain as such through continualdoubt. Therefore, even after scientific theories are propagated into laws, newmethods will always be discovered which can be challenged as long as onecontinues to doubt. This can also be shown as a sign of increased confidence, asthe person having a new theory, is confident that his new theory will overthrow the old theory, due to his research and experiments, seen as a sign ofmore knowledge. Doubt in history, may becomea hindrance on gaining knowledge, if there isn’t enough proof and support withit. Due to certain draw backs such as emotions, one would realize how it canplay an important role in finding the truth because, being scared to be provenwrong makes some people close the way to develop their own ideas or refuse torelate their own assumptions with that of others, so that the real knowledge oftruth cannot be revealed.
In other words, people can also become their ownlimitations from gaining knowledge, and through pride, they will not want toaccept new facts or findings that contradicts from what he or she believes. Inrelation to the Islamic revolution, some would defend it as the better law throughtheir faith, while others will see it as a threat to their freedom, throughtheir own emotions and reasoning. This is given light to by Marjane Satrapi’schildhood experience in her graphical novel, The Persepolis. With emotionsclouding reasoning, it leads to ignorance. There would be no understandingbetween the two opposing sides in the revolution, as one side refuses tounderstand the other’s opinion, being somewhat bias, thus emphasizing on thequote, ‘Ignorance is Bliss,’ byThomas Gray.Ignorance is mostly seenamong historians, as they have different perspectives and theories, whichcontradict one another. When a new fact is revealed by another historian, hewould feel uncertain about the fact because the fact is completely differentfrom his or her own belief leading to less confidence. If the historian stillwants to stick with his or her belief, without investigating the otherhistorian’s claim, he or she will not advance on gaining any knowledge, as theyfeel confident in their own theory.
It usually takes time for a paradigm shiftto occur in history, as different historians will need to accept the claimplaced, however, some historians are usually reluctant to be open minded, whichwill prevent the true knowledge from being discovered. This is seen whenItalian physicist Galileo Galilei who also proved that the Earth orbits aroundthe Sun and not the Sun orbiting around the Earth. Endless controversy,criticism and denouncing were made against him, which lead to his persecutionby the Catholic Church, due to their emotions and lack of knowledge as pride, theysaw this as heresy, emphasizing JW von Goethe’s quote, ‘We know with confidence only when we knowlittle.’ The disputebetween the Church and Galileo has long stood as one of history’s great emblemsof conflict between reason and dogma, science and faith.Excessive doubt can also becomea hindrance on expanding one’s knowledge, especially in natural sciences.Excessive doubt can make something become more complex, especially amongscientists, if they are not certain about something, they might end up becomingtoo confused at the end and will not gain any information from their own doubt.
When the theory becomes complex, a practical experiment to falsify the theorywill become more complicated, and without suitable and appropriate apparatus,the scientist cannot make any progress from the theory being investigated. Anexample can be seen when scientists try to prove, if the existence ofextraterrestrial life is true or false. Despite continuous trials andexperiments conducted, the level of our present technology limits us fromfinding the truth behind the claim.
In conclusion, based on certain events,confidence does not only come about when one knows little but also through thegaining of knowledge, which can however even end up turning into excessivepride. With reason, sense of perception, as well as faith, an increase in doubtcan occur, with the increase in knowledge. Increase in doubt can either become acatalyst on gaining knowledge or a hindrance to acquiring it.