Throughout history, people have acquired knowledge in various ways. Some of which are:
1. The Method of Tenacity
Habit or inertial may induce us to believe a proposition is true because we have always believed it to be so.
Frequent repetition of such propositions is seen to reinforce their validity. As a result, we may close our minds to any evidence against that proposition.
In other words, people generally isolate themselves against opinions and beliefs, which are contrary to those held by them.
2. The Method of Authority
This involves the acknowledgment of knowledge through authority. An appeal tends to be made to some authority rather than hold on to one’s beliefs.
If our holy scriptures say so, it is true. If a noted authority on the subject says it is true, then it must be true. Sometimes, we accept some truths simply on the grounds of the authority of their proposers.
We do not see the necessity for trying to verify the truths therein either because of our trust and reliance on the experts of the particular field or because of the authority of those propositions or assertions that have lasted for a very long time without being faulted by any other person.
One thing we should bear in mind is that the mere fact that a particular person we hold in high esteem has pronounced something does not make such a pronouncement to be true or faultless.
Just as the case that the fact that nobody has faulted a proposition does not necessarily make it to be faultless.
3. The A Prior Method
This method, otherwise called the method of intuition, holds that people believe propositions if they are obvious or self-evident. Such propositions “agreed with reasons” and not necessarily with experience(s).
We sometimes gain insight into a particular problem that has been bordering our minds for a long. When this happens, we sometimes feel happy and enjoy some sort of relief and joy within us.
This knowledge that comes to us in the moment of insight is what we refer to as insight or intuitive knowledge.
4. The Method of Sense Experience
This involves knowing things through our senses. That is, knowing by seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting.
The problem with these sources of knowledge is that of perceptual error. However, it must be pointed out that when we make a perceptual error owing to incomplete or fragmentary sense experience, it is further sense experiences that lead us to discover our error.
Sometimes, we make claims to knowledge based on our belief in traditions and the use of common sense. This type of knowledge is associated with our societal habits, conventions, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas
When ways of acting and thinking are passed on from generation to generation by tradition, intuition, and instruction, we tend to develop a common way of looking at things, which we refer to as common sense.
This kind of group opinion or wisdom includes practical maxims, proverbs, opinions about practices that people are expected to follow, and the unarticulated beliefs held by members of the group.
This type of knowledge tends to be habitual and intuitive therefore it is often vague and ambiguous, not giving room for explanations or justifications.
On the verification of knowledge, Isreal Scheffler wrote in The Language of Education that for something to qualify as knowledge, it must fulfill the following conditions of knowledge which are: (A) knows a proposition (P) if and only if:
- Believes P
- Has adequate evidence, and
- is true
This can be explained as:
- Deola believes that philosophy of education is offered at NCE 200 Level
- Deola has adequate evidence that philosophy of education is offered at NCE 200 Level
- P is true (it is true that philosophy of education is offered at NCE 200Level)
Symbolically, we can say that A knows P if and only if A believes P has adequate evidence for P and P is true.
5. The Method of Revelation
Sometimes people claim to know something by means of revelation. Revelation may come from God through dreams.
It is the type of knowledge that is said to have been revealed to some holy or special individuals such as the prophets in the Bible or the Quran.
It is a knowledge given to man by divine inspiration. These divinely inspired truths are contained in different religious books. It is believed that such knowledge has been originally acquired through vision.
Trainee, meditation, or dreams and recorded for mankind’s use. Such knowledge is regarded as truth on absolute faith and this is not always reliable since it appears to be dogmatic.
6. The Method of Faith
This is similar to revelation. For instance, some people claim that they have special knowledge by faith.
However, when people appeal solely to faith as a way of knowing, they do so because there is no evidence that what they say is true, and yet they want others to believe it.
7. The Method of Science (Empirical)
The last method is the method of science or reflected inquiry. It is independent of one’s desires, wills and is radically different from the earlier methods.
A unique characteristic is possessed by this proposition without testing it. He has a number of built-in checks all along the way to enable him to adhere to the right path and arrive at the ‘truth’ because science ultimately appeals to evidence, and is subjected to an empirical test.
It involves the use of observation and experimentation. Sense perception and personal experience are taken as the sole basis of knowledge.
For example, this is the type of knowledge that is physical and social sciences. In scientific investigation, we use empirical knowledge in that our hypotheses are tested by observation and experimentation.
Sometimes, these perceptions of ours about things can be deceptive. This is the reason why our sense perceptions cannot be held to be cocksure.
8. Rational Knowledge
This is the type of knowledge acquired through pure reasoning, especially through deductive reasoning. The truth of such knowledge can be verified through logical reasoning.
Examples of rational knowledge are philosophy and mathematics. In philosophy, we make use of logic as our tool of argument.
It is logically sound to claim, for instance, that if every female who has birth at least a child, is a mother, then an unmarried lady who has just given birth to a child is also a mother.
In mathematics, we say that 2+2=4. This is logical and can easily be explained to others.