Do you think that perception is a more important source of knowledge in some subjects rather than others? Are there any areas of knowledge in which it plays no role? Areas of knowledge, which represent a classification of knowledge into subject areas, include mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, the arts, and ethics; four main ways of knowing are identified as emotion, reason, perception and language. These ways of knowing all play an important role in every area of knowledge.
Since all ways of knowing have strengths and weaknesses, some are more reliable than others in the process of gaining knowledge. Perception, for instance, is a more essential way of knowing in some subjects rather than emotion, reason or language. However, it does not mean that other ways of knowing are not important. Perception can be defined as the awareness of things by means of our five senses – sight, sound, sound, touch and taste. It, indeed, plays a key role in almost all areas of knowledge ranging from history through the arts to the sciences.
Particularly, the arts require perception a lot in order to see things with new eyes in the visual arts. As perception is a tool of communication between ourselves and the outside world, the very first thing we do when listening to music or appreciating an artwork is using our senses. Thus, perception is a more important source of knowledge in the arts rather than other. It could be contended that all ways of knowing are equally important. The position goes on to further argue that the arts, for example, use all ways of knowing, and it cannot be said that one way of knowing is more important than others.
Painting itself is the language of an artist. The artist also needs to impose some kind of rational control on her creative insights if they are to be of lasting value. In addition, artists express their emotion throughout painting and we observe painting by using our sense perception. Even if one fully uses perception, language and reason to gain knowledge from art, but does not use emotions, one cannot gain knowledge from the arts thoroughly. However, does it really mean all ways of knowing are equally important?
Although it is valid that all ways of knowing are essential, it is problematic to say they are ‘equally’ significant because importance is a concept that varies based on the individual. Different areas of knowledge employ different ways of knowing in more effective ways. One example is that we rely more on perception and emotion when we paint or draw. That is why it is often suggested that the arts are a way of expressing emotions. Another example is that reason plays more important role in Mathematics because it uses deductive reason to derive theorems.
Therefore, it is clear that every area of knowledge appeal more to a particular source of knowledge. All four ways of knowing play an important role in areas of knowledge, and they all have strengths and weaknesses. That is why subjects that we learn at school are not limited to only one. The emotions are sometimes an obstacle to knowledge, and strong emotions can colour our perception, distort our logic and inflame our language. Language also is not a perfect medium of communication.
When a person says something, some people can interpret it differently. Furthermore, perception is no always correct. The fallibility of perception is relevant to issues in the real world. In term of reason, people sometimes get trapped in the prison of consistency and find it difficult to change their minds. Since these four – emotion, language, perception and reason – have drawbacks and benefits, people use them all to gain knowledge effectively. It might be maintained that studying Mathematics does not require emotion at all.
The logic in this argument is flawed because Mathematics requires intuition which is a part of emotions. Intuition is an immediate insight into something and a feeling that we cannot explain. Even if reason is the most important ways of knowing in Mathematics, emotion is also crucial because when we solve Mathematics problems, we need intuition to understand the phenomenon. Henri Poincare, a mathematician working around 1900, wrote in his diary: For fifteen days I strove to prove that there could not be any functions like those that I have since called Fuchsian functions.
I was then very ignorant; every day I seated myself at a worktable… and reached no results. One evening, contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. As his diary shows, he suddenly saw the solution to a problem without going through any conscious process of reasoning. Mathematics needs emotions as well as reason. Other areas of knowledge such as natural sciences also require all ways of knowing, even emotions.
Like Aristotle (384-322 BCE), or Isaac Newton, they discovered scientific facts by using intuitive emotion. Thus, there is no area of knowledge which ways of knowing play no role. In conclusion, although natural sciences appeal more to reason, and art more to perception or emotions, reason ad imagination play an important role in both areas of knowledge. All ways of knowing are significant in the process of gaining knowledge. In order to learn areas of knowledge in a efficient way, all four ways of knowing are required.