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Essay on Personal and Shared Knowledge

6 pages
1536 words
Boston College
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We acquire knowledge through many ways. Broadly, knowledge is classified into Shared Knowledge and Personal knowledge. Shared Knowledge is what we know which is objective. In this case, the field of education is a shared knowledge system wherein individuals from different cultural backgrounds are imparted collectively with ideas based on the various areas of knowledge, which contain theories, facts, information and so on collected from different places, in different time periods and from diverse cultures. Alternatively, Personal Knowledge refers to what an individual knows, indicating an individuals knowledge. Hence it cannot be shared, but can be only described. For instance, when an individual feels hungry, his vagal nerve, signals the brain, that the individual needs food. While the individual experiences hunger, he cannot share that knowledge but can merely describe his feelings to others. However, it is possible that this knowledge can be known and experienced by others too, in a different manner and at a different level. This is the reason why we all can feel hunger. Likewise, many other individual experiences and feelings that we classify as our ways of knowing can have a similar outcome.

Ever since our childhood, in general, we are raised in a society which is set culturally, religiously believed and educationally and technologically influenced. So, these are all some of the examples of shared knowledge systems, and every individuals ways of knowing are influenced by those policies. Therefore, shared knowledge systems surpass and shape individually perceived experience. Religion is a shared knowledge system which has the collection of different individuals and their respective faith per se. Thus, every individual has such a strong and blind faith in their religion that that has hindered their experience from developing their knowledge in areas wherever religion has influence, like food habits, relationships, lifestyle, and etcetera. The two most practiced religions in the world are Christianity and Islam. As I have been living in Dubai since my childhood, I have many Muslim and Christian friends. They have significantly enlightened me about their religions, and I had noticed a parallelism between their beliefs. Both the schools of thought strongly condemn gay acts. The holy book Quran, states in Surah al Araf, (7:81):Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people (translated version) similarly, the Holy Bible, states in Leviticus 20:13: If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination (translated version).

As some individuals have a strong belief in Islam or Christianity, hence they have developed a shared faith that homosexuality is wrong and they should refrain themselves from having gay relations. Few of my friends who were earlier gay, have given up their gay relations, due to the strong Islamic faith and laws; Dubai has against homosexuality. This example shows how our faith, is grouped by religious institutes, thus creating a shared knowledge that has surpassed and shaped our knowledge, to the extent that without any scientific proof, we are pessimistic about homosexuality. On the contrary, this shared knowledge generated by religion, may not influence the personal knowledge of atheists and individuals with little faith. I came across this view while watching the movie Imitation Game, based on the renowned mathematician and war hero, Alan Turing. Turing was credited for saving Britain during World War II, as he successfully decoded the encrypted messages of the German forces. However, in 1952, Turing was prosecuted for having homosexual affairs, as it was an illegal practice as per the religiously influenced laws. Turing was sentenced to be treated by chemical castration, and he eventually committed suicide, out of humiliation.

However, in 2009, British citizens initiated an internet campaign, pressurizing the royal family to apologize for the decision taken against Turing. As a result, in 2013, Queen Elizabeth announced a royal pardon and acknowledged Turing for his contributions. His story inspired many individuals to develop a common faith which advocated homosexuality, and this enhanced further the nation-wide movement for homosexuality! In 2014, England legalized homosexuality, going against the previous religious faith. Thus, an individuals faith surpassed the shared belief that existed for centuries. Similarly, although I have faith in my religion yet, decisions like whether to be homosexual or not must remain a personal whim. Similarly culture and belief system can also shape an individuals knowledge by affecting the way he perceives the world.

I happened to read different scholarly articles from the realm of Psychology. One of such a report that impressed me most was: Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, This piece consisted information of research conducted by Denise Park, a Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois and Mr. Michael Chee, from Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Singapore. Through several tests and use of same functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanners, researchers were able to analysis the lateral occipital complex in the brain, the part that processes visual information.

Their analysis, of 37 young and old East Asians, and 38 young and old Westerners, found significant cultural differences in how the brain responds to visual stimuli. While all younger participants showed similar brain activity, there was a contrast between the older groups. In Westerners, the lateral occipital complex remained active whereas, in East Asians, it responded only minimally. According to Professor Park, East Asian cultures are more interdependent. Thus individuals focus more on the environment, whereas Western cultures tend to be independent and self-focused, making their individuals focus on central objects. The conclusion showed that culture could alter and influence our brains perceptive mechanism (perception). So much so, an individual may develop an independent opinion on his experiences, then controlled by any culture.

During English colonial period in India, there was a culturally shared perception of attaining independence, which was through violence. Mangal Pandey, Lakshmibai, Pazhassi Raja were some of the famous Indian freedom fighters that in different time periods sacrificed their lives while fighting for freedom. However, surprisingly at a time where many had lifted weapons, there emerged a different fighter Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi through his speeches and protests gave a new perception to millions, that only through nonviolence and truth will India attain independence. He initiated the Satyagraha movement which required every Indian to boycott all British made goods and use only indigenous products, thus causing financial crisis to the East India Company. Eventually, his perception turned into reality, and on 15th August 1947, India became independent. Thus one mans perception wasnt influenced by the shared culture and belief system but instead created a new belief system. Likewise religious institutes and cultures can affect an individuals way of reasoning.

In India, there is a shared cultural and religious belief that a girl child is a bad omen. In one episode of my favorite reality television show Satyamev Jayate, (Truth prevails) Amir Khan, a Bollywood actor, and host interviewed a middle-class house-wife, Amisha Yagnik, Amisha revealed that during her pregnancy, she was taken to a hospital by her husband for her regular checkup. The doctor, injected anesthesia into Amisha without her consent, and when she regained her consciousness, her pregnancy was terminated. Later on, she found that the doctors were bribed by her husband, as she was carrying a girl child. In India, there is a cultural belief that a girl child leads to a financial crisis throughout in the form of dowry and so on. Amishas husband too felt that he will have a financial crisis in the future. This shows how the cultural beliefs can influence the way an individual reason. Alternatively, religious institutions and cultural dogmas may not influence people who have a pragmatic way to reason. In Pakistan, according to some Muslims, it is against Islam, for the girl child to get an education. Although this belief has influenced the way of reasoning of many Pakistanis, yet, it did not influence the youngest Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who is a Pakistani. Despite getting shot by the Taliban for schooling, Malala still opposes the orthodox beliefs and claims that it is a fallacy for girls to be uneducated, as more educated females lead to overall economic development for a country. Although there are many like Malala, culture and religion still largely influences many individuals way of reasoning. As a result, about 500,000 girls abortion take place per year in India and only 26% females in Pakistan have an education.

In context to religion and culture, our ways of knowing can be grouped to establish a shared knowledge which surpasses individually perceived experience. However, individual can develop personal knowledge that may differ from the grouped knowledge. It is important that we know about this because its our culture and religion which groom us, thus most terrorists arent terrorists because of their will but because of a shared knowledge that has shaped their faith, perception and reasoning. It is important that we improve the culture and religious system which influences an individual, than improving the individual. The implications of this finding are that shared knowledge has strongly shaped the personal knowledge of many, in context to religion and culture.


Works cited

Cultural Experience Affects Perception." N.P., 2017. Web. 19 Dec. 2017.

"Education for All | Education | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization." N.P., 2017. Web. 19 Dec. 2017.

Yates, Diana. "News Bureau | ILLINOIS." N.P., 2017. Web. 19 Dec. 2017.


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