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What is to "Know" Something?

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Humans have the capability to “know” something to some extent, but it seems as though we can only grasp the basis of an idea with a few minuscule details. Even though we may know certain facts, I believe that contradictions can still be embellished within these supposed truths. There is a difficulty in truly knowing something to its fullest extent, despite all the sources one develops to support the concept. Different perspectives emerge as well, increasing the complexity of the situation. This primarily includes the ignorance of others to consider new opinions in their thought process. Even though we claim that we “know” something, we can never guarantee our comprehension of it as a whole. The uncertainty of anything promotes our curiosity. Without that uncertainty, the motivation to discover new information will eventually diminish.

To understand something can vary through the use of levels. While many individuals can understand the basic gist of an idea, others may have a higher knowledge of this same idea. Education can become an essential factor when distinguishing these levels, especially since both old and new information are in constant rotation. The mind is challenged and enriched with new material through education. We are given the opportunity to unlock new attributes of a general idea. However, no matter how superior the intellectual, there will always be so-called cracks that we humans cannot weave through when learning about a specific notion.

Even though education is a major contributor, personal experiences also possess an informal part in “knowing” something. To experience something is to evoke an idea on a more sensory level: touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. While some tackle an idea only through its scholastic state, others learn how to comprehend an idea through a more physical connection. An individual can identify milk chocolate as sweet based on common knowledge; Others allow that milk chocolate to dissolve on their tongue, gradually savoring the sweetness of it. By only understanding the facts, humans graze the surface of an idea––it becomes an artificial intelligence. We must unveil all aspects of an idea in order to crack that barrier. This can contribute some assurance to what we know, but still does not justify our capability to completely understand something.

Humans persistently unearth new ideas, but there will always remain a limit to how much can be fully processed. Current facts may not even be factual as society progresses. Cigarettes were deemed healthy for a certain decade, but now they are considered detrimental to one’s body. Every piece of information lies on a personal spectrum––some ideas will be more important than others based on one’s preferences. Although we may be certain of our grasp on a particular concept, most of our thoughts may derive false claims to support it. Whether we are oblivious to this possibility or accept that we are not capable of knowing everything defines us as individuals.