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Title # 7: We see and understand things not as they are but

as we are. Discuss this claim in relation to at least two ways of


knowing.
Word count: 1,483 words
Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales
Candidate number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales


number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate

The primary way of knowing for humans is our sense perception.


The statement claims that our sense perception and reasoning of what we
have sensed can be biased based on things such as the individuals
cultural background and past experiences which are what makes us who
we are and different from other individuals, thus we see and understand
things as we are. However, there is a difference between the words
seeing and understanding something. To see something corresponds
more our sense perception while understanding things may rely both on
our sense perception, reasoning and emotions.How about language?
Scientific models are made to make order of how our world works.
During the 17th century, before Galileo introduced the idea of heliocentric
view, philosophers and astronomers believed that the Earth was the
centre of the universe. They produced a model of the universe with the
Earth in the middle because that was what scientists have interpreted the
world to be based on their knowledge at the time. However, Galileo had a
different perspective and the truth behind which is the centre of the
universe was different thus things were understood as we are. I think
that many of scientific models today can possibly be different from what
things actually are. They might just be mere interpretations of what
scientists perceive the world right now based on what they know and this
knowledge can be subject to a paradigm shift.
However, in natural science, there are things that everyone will see
the same way. For example, I see mercury and I know that everyone else

Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales


number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate

will see it as mercury too, thus we are seeing the mercury as they are.
On the other hand, if we go more in depth on what seeing means, other
ways of knowing will come into the picture. For example, theres a school
in the Philippines1 that had a mercury leak and it has affected students in
2007. One of the students up until now received some brain damage and
has seizures due to the mercury poisoning and the parents of the child are
devastated. If we then look at my perspective, I will see the mercury as
something that is used inside thermometers and are useful to us while the
parents of the affected child might see the mercury as something that is
very dangerous, highly toxic and something that has ruined the life of
their child forever due to their past experience. ( good point)
Art is subject to many interpretations. In terms of paintings,
different people will have different responses to what painting is
considered to be beautiful. Art can be very objective and when
interpreting art, it is hard to be objective and we usually have an
emotional response to the work of art. Also, what if the work of art is
abstract or works such as Picassos? Do we all see it as the same thing? I
think not. Abstract paintings are hard to interpret and see what the
painter is really trying to paint, thus in this case, it is hard to see things as
they are but we have to see it as we are. This doesnt only apply to
abstract paintings. For example is the Spolarium by Juan Luna, a Filipino
artist during the reign of Spaniards in the Philippines. To someone that
doesnt know the history of the Philippines, the painting will only be seen
1

Roque, Anselmo. "Mercury poisoning fear closes school." Inquirer [Metro Manila] 14 Feb.
2007. Www.inquirer.net. Web. Feb. 2009.
<http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/regions/view/2007021449387/Mercury_poisoning_fear_closes_school>.

Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales


number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate

as what it shows, dead gladiators being dragged on the floor with some
spectators on the background. However, as for me and other Filipinos who
knows what the painting really symbolizes, will see the painting in a
different way because of our cultural background. The painting actually
depicts how the Spaniards have killed Filipino revolutionaries. This
supports the claim being discussed as cultural background can affect how
we see and understand things. ( another good example, can you find and
use a picture? Make sure you cite it and have a caption on the picture)
However, artists can also look for patterns in our natural world, such
as the golden ratio in nature, without bias therefore seeing things as they
are. An example is the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci wherein he
drew the human body in proportions for example, the length of our
outstretched arms is the same as our height. But going back to judging
and interpretation of the art, seeing and understanding works of art
depend on our past knowledge, cultural background thus, who we are.
In history, interpretation of evidence gathered can be different due
to the many historians that try to make sense of what they see.
Understanding of the evidences they see can then be tainted with their
personal emotion and personal reasoning therefore they understand
things as we are. It is hard to be objective as historians can interpret
evidence depending on what they already know or what they want to find
out. There are instances where historians can ignore some evidence due
to confirmation bias if it doesnt go together with all the other evidence.
What about the eye-witnesses of the event? There are probably many

Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales


number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate

different accounts of one event by different witnesses. When I was a kid,


my sister used to pinch me out of nowhere when no one is looking. The
only witnesses are me and her. When asked who started the fight, my
sister would say I started it while I say she started it. How then did my
parents know who to believe? My parents have two kids in front of them
fighting thus they are seeing the same thing but how do they understand
it? Did they choose to believe the one who they favoured more thus being
biased?
However, G.R. Elton argued that the past is a fixed reality and
therefore objective. He states that history, ...is beyond being altered for
any purpose whatsoever.2 On the other hand, after having what the world
has agreed to be a fact, historians try to make sense of why certain
people in the past did what they did. Empathy is used by historians to
make sense of things and understand it but levels of empathy can differ in
individuals. Take Adolf Hitler, a Jewish historian might find it hard to
empathize with Hitler due to the cultural background of the historian
hence understanding of Adolf Hitlers action can be biased on how we
are.
In deciding what is moral or not when making moral judgements, I
think, depends on who we are. For instance, I see child-labour ethically
incorrect and it exploits poor children. However, the families of these
children might see otherwise and see it as help for their family and a new
source of income. This supports the claim of different individuals having
Lagemaat, Richard Van de. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. New York: Cambridge UP,
2006. Print.
2

Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales


number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate

different understanding of a situation depending on who they are.


However, even if the family of the child sees it as a form of help and the
child is fine with it, this doesnt justify that child-labour is moral. Our
cultural and religious beliefs that define who we are can sometimes limit
how we understand and perceive things. For example, many traditional
Filipinos think that the use condoms is immoral and goes against the will
of God but for me, I think that they should reconsider this because
Philippines being a poor country with a problem of overpopulation should
try solve the problem by introducing condoms. How is it then that my view
is different even though I am both Filipino and a Catholic? Its because not
only does culture and religion affect how we perceive things but also how
we were brought up. Maybe if I stayed in the Philippines until now, I were
living in the Philippines today, I would see the same as the majority of
people who doesnt condone contraception but since I have been taught a
different curriculum than in the Philippines, it has changed my view on the
matter.
In conclusion, I think that seeing something to an extent may be the
same for all of us. A poet and environmentalist look at a jaguar in a cage
and see the same physical aspects of it. However, understanding the
jaguar for the two people may be different due to who they are. The poet
might feel the urge of writing a poem about it like Ted Hughes to express
his emotions towards the jaguar while the environmentalist might feel pity
towards the jaguar as it is caged in the zoo. When we see and try to make
sense of things, it is often hard to be totally objective and things we see
often we try to reason with what we see. Also, our reasoning is affected by
6

Candidate name: Jessa Marie Gonzales


number: 002114-009
Session: May 2010

Candidate

our emotion and both of these ways of knowing depend on an individuals


past experiences, cultural background and other beliefs which means
different people have different perception of things. Therefore, yes, people
can be able to see physical aspects of things similarly or as they are but
when we try to understand them and make sense of them, we have
different perceptions and understand them as who we are.

Bibliography:
1. Lagemaat, Richard Van de. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. New York: Cambridge
UP, 2006. Print.
2. Roque, Anselmo. "Mercury poisoning fear closes school." Inquirer [Metro Manila] 14 Feb.
2007.

Www.inquirer.net.

Web.

Feb.

2009.

<http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/regions/view/2007021449387/Mercury_poisoning_fear_closes_school>.
3. Woolman, Michael. Ways of Knowing An Introduction to Theory of

Knowledge (For Use With International Baccalaureate). New York: IBID,


2000. Print.
4. Dombrowski,

Programme

Eileen,
Theory

Lena
of

Rotenburg,

Knowledge

and

Course

Mimi

Companion

Companion). New York: Oxford UP, USA, 2007. Print.

Bick.

IB
(IB

Diploma
Course