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NMSU PHIL 201G - Commentary

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Module 3.1 CommentaryWe continue our journey considering questions of knowledge and truth. This is a logical step forward from the questions of creation and reality we studied in the last module. Often, when one thinks about what is real, the next question that arises is, “Well, how do I know that something is real?” This is the question of knowledge. Module 3.1 asks, “How do we know whatwe know?” Can we ever be certain that what we know is actually true? The readings I have chosen for Module 3.1 represent views of knowledge and truth from Western as well as Non-Western philosophy. A few words about “Meditations on the Nature of Knowledge,” by Rene Descartes:I have been studying and teaching these readings from Rene Descartes for many years. Descartes is one of the “giants” of Western philosophy. His theories have influenced everything from medicine to industrialization. In his Meditations, a word which just means “thoughts,” Descartes conducts an experiment in his mind which questions what he knows. He wants to know if what he has known as “truths” are actually true. He takes his mind through a process that begins with Descartes deciding that he cannot trust that what he has accepted as “truths” are actually true. He then doubts or questions the truth of all he has known. After reaching a scary place of having nothing that he can claim is true, Descartes begins to rebuild his foundation of truth. He determines through reasoning what is most true. Reading Descartes canbe trippy! There have been Hollywood movies made with stories that are based on Descartes’ philosophy such as “The Matrix” (1999). For fun, watch “The Matrix” and you will see Descartes philosophy! A few words about “Navajo Ways of Knowing,” by Herbert John Benally: I chose this selection by Herbert John Benally, who presents a non-Western perspective on knowledge, as a contrast from Descartes, whose theories are foundational to Western Europeanphilosophy. In “Navajo Ways of Knowing,” Benally describes knowledge in the Navajo tradition as being built on the foundation of spirituality. Knowledge to the Navajo is organized around theparts of the day and the four cardinal directions. Benally’s descriptions include connections between each area of knowledge and the daily life activities that follow each area. Thus, knowledge provides not only truth, but ways in which actions in life are to be carried out in order to be consistent with the truths of each area of knowledge. There is also a strong connection made to the natural world in Benally’s description of the four areas of knowledge. As you read both of the selections, think about how they differ. Also think about your own experiences with knowledge and the ways in which you apply knowledge in daily activities of your


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