- Axiology, Aesthetics and Ethics
Each section provides the simplified details of how the American Worldview answers these questions.
The Epistemology of the American Worldview
The Epistemology of the American Worldview answers the questions related to knowing, truth, and the phenomenon of knowledge itself. The capacity of human beings to “know” something is at the core of this field of study, and it includes the “ascent” to certainty in the validity of what one knows.
The Core Beliefs
- The essence to understanding knowledge and its nature is simplicity.
- Our words are connected to the realities they are used to convey.
- Truth is the measure of how comprehensively and accurately our words communicate the reality they are being used to convey.
- Facts are statements that are true and can be experienced to know that they are true.
- Beliefs are statements about reality which are accepted as being true based on evidence and reasons that compel a person to accept the statement as true.
- Faith is trust in what one believes so much so that one lives according to the truth of those beliefs.
- Knowledge is the content of one’s memories in the form of statements or images.
- To know something is to have knowledge of that thing.
- To know the truth of something is to have experience of that thing being true (certainty).
- Experience and retention of that experience constitutes the peak of certainty in the truth of the knowledge one has of the reality experienced.
There are many points from which a discussion on epistemology can begin. For the purposes of explaining the American Worldview’s position, we begin from what it means to know. To know something simply means to have memories stored about that thing. When a person states, “I know what that means,” they are merely stating that they have a memory which contains the meaning of whatever “that” is. Knowledge is the content of one’s memories in the form of statements or images. A person can have knowledge of the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket by Space X after having been informed by someone (in detail or generally) that it occurred. They can also have knowledge of the launch from having personally witnessed the event themselves. This provides an example of the gradations of knowledge.
It is this gradation of knowledge that the bulk of debate and discussion emerges in the realm of philosophy in the field of epistemology. The AWV holds to the position that simplicity is key in explaining anything related to knowledge, and as such, focuses on the real phenomenons of human nature that pertain to the subject. The most important of which is that our words are connected to the realities they are used to convey. This is why we are able to communicate, and through communication, attain knowledge of things we have not experienced. A person can know about some subject without having experienced that subject for themselves. However, just because they have such knowledge does not mean they “truly know” it, which is just another way of saying they have not experienced it, they just “know about” it. This is something trivial in its general use, typically used in trying to place one’s self in a better position over others by being the one who experienced the event, instead of just being told about it.
However, there is an area that is very important that falls into this situation. This brings us to the topic of Truth. The AWV holds that truth is the measure of how comprehensively and accurately our words communicate the reality they are being used to convey. Truth exists and is objective, that is, based on reality separate from the observer, not dependent upon the observer. Reality is what is regardless of humanity’s knowledge or awareness of it. So too is truth. What was true then is true now and will forever be true. The question becomes, how do we know what is true? This moves us into the realm of Facts. Facts are statements that are true and can be experienced to know that they are true. The quality of being a fact is based on the statement and how accurately and comprehensively it conveys the reality it describes when communicated. However, for the observer, something is not considered a fact until it has been experienced.
Going from a statement that may be true, to a statement that is certainly true, is based on the reality and the observer’s witnessing it (thus the objective nature of Truth). However, human beings have the capacity to accept something as true, whether they have experienced it or not. Indeed, a human being can experience something and still deny that it is true, or experience the opposite to be true, but still say that the other way is so! Given these habits of human nature, how then do we create a means to justify when a person is in their rights to accept something as true? This is where the questions surrounding what constitutes belief or “justified” belief comes into play. The AWV holds that beliefs are statements about reality which are accepted as being true based on evidence and reasons that compel a person to accept the statement as true. It is here that we come to have Knowledge, Truth, and Belief come together to help us understand how the AWV views justification for what one accepts as true and worthy of respect and warrant.
There are constraints upon the human capacity to know anything. We can know a lot about one subject and little about others. We can also know a lot about a subject, but have little knowledge of how to use what is known. There are also many things that we do not know, and to add to this point, there are many things we do not know that we know nothing about it! However, there are some things that we do know but our knowledge is insufficient or incomplete. In order to operate, we have to accept certain things as being unknown, or we must proceed under the assumption that one thing is true though we do not know if it is or is not. This is where we come to certainty and faith. To know something with certainty is to describe one’s confidence in the validity of some statement. Certainty can be used to describe the way a person feels about their knowledge of something being so, though they have not experienced it for themselves. This certainty compels them to push forward toward discovering the validity of that claim. Then there is the use of “certainty” to describe the degree of confidence one has in a possible outcome, or how a person can legitimately say they have a full knowledge that something is so.
Knowledge, being the stored memories of statements about or the experience of things, can have content that is either truth or false. A person can have knowledge that is incorrect or correct. A person’s beliefs are a form of knowledge. A person can accept a false statement as true or a true statement as false. When a person believes in a statement, they have reasons for why they accept it as true, whether they can express or communicate those reasons effectively is of no matter. Given these considerations, the AWV holds that Faith is trust in what one believes so much so that one lives according to the truth of those beliefs. A person is so convinced by the evidence for what leads them to accept the truth of something, that they will live their life according to that belief. A person’s faith in what they believe is not blind, but is based on the conviction established in their mind that the belief must be true. Such a belief is considered to be justified and worthy of acceptance (though not necessarily belief, but approval of another person believing it) if the person holding to the belief knows and understands the evidence and reasons that compel them to accept it and they are sound.
A person is said to be accepting the truth of something “blindly” if they believe in something without any knowledge or awareness of the evidence or reasons for accepting it. This is a very rare thing, given that at the very least, they accept something to be true without having witnessed it themselves because someone told them it is so. They had trust in the honesty of that person and that is what led them to accept the truth of the claim. This does not in anyway impact whether or not the claim is true, but is merely a description or judgment of the person who is “blindly” accepting something as true without having investigated the evidence and reasons. Given all of these considerations the AWV holds that experience and retention of that experience constitutes the peak of certainty in the truth of the knowledge one has of the reality experienced. If a person has not experienced the reality that some belief they hold is true, they are justified in accepting the truth of that belief if they know and understand the evidence and reasons for accepting it as true.
The American Worldview holds to the position of Realism, meaning that reality exists as it is regardless of humanity’s knowledge or awareness of it. Because of this, we can observe it and due to our ability to communicate, our words are used to convey the reality we observe. Truth is a measure of how comprehensively and accurately our words communicate that reality from one person to another. When we experience reality or have someone communicate the reality to us, we store the experience or statements in memory and this forms our knowledge. Our knowledge being memories stored in the mind, we can have knowledge that is true or knowledge that is false. We may know that the statements or experiences we’ve saved in memory are true or we may not know for sure. Only when we have experienced the reality for ourselves can we come to know with certainty that what we know is true or false.
Until we come to a point where we can experience the reality for ourselves, we may discover various facts which point us toward the truth of the statements we have in memory. As we collect these facts, we use our reason to draw conclusions and can be convinced by such evidence and reasons that our knowledge is true. If we then choose to accept such knowledge to be true based on the evidence and reasoning, then it becomes a belief. Once we have experienced the reality to be so, it then becomes a fact in our knowledge that we know with certainty is true. Until we experience it, if we live according to the truth of our beliefs, and are so convinced by the evidence that we defend the truth of what we believe, then we have Faith in that belief. However, it is always possible that what we believe in, and what we place our faith in, can be false. This human limitation in our ability to know some things but not all things leads us to determine what justifies our beliefs. Justified beliefs are considered to be those beliefs for which there is sufficient evidence and reasons. The belief itself does not have this quality, but the person alone is considered to be “justified’ in believing what they believe if they know and understand the evidence and reasons for what they believe.