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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-04

0608- KNOWLEDGE: SOURCES, CRISIS, METHODOLOGY

Background reading material for PPSD session on 09th August 2006 for Year 1 Medical Students Institute of Medicine University Brunei Darussalam by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule

NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE

Epistemology is a discipline that studies the theories and philosophy of knowledge. Each civilization or society has its own epistemology but there are many concepts that are shared. Knowledge can be absolute, relative, or probabilistic. The 3 sources of knowledge are religious revelations, logical inference starting from given premises, and empirical observation of the universe. Knowledge can be innate or acquired. It can be auto-generated rationally or can be transmitted from others. Knowledge of the seen world is accepted by all but some do not accept the existence of knowledge of the unseen. The unseen can be absolute (i.e. can never be discovered by human faculties) or can be relative (can be discovered by scientific exploration). Some knowledge is individually obligatory (i.e. each individual citizen must know it) whereas other knowledge is collectively obligatory (for example if some people know medicine, the rest of the citizens are not obliged to learn it). Knowledge can be useful or can be useless and some types of knowledge may be positively dangerous. Knowledge can be basic knowledge or applied knowledge. There are many different disciplines of knowledge. Human knowledge is limited because human senses and human intellect have limitations.

 

CRISIS OF KNOWLEDGE

The most important manifestation of the knowledge crisis is dichotomy in the education system: traditional vs. modern. Integration of the 2 systems has not been a successful venture with the result that some people stick to one type of knowledge and neglect or even oppose the other. The ideal aim of education should be to produce an integrated well-rounded individual who is rooted in his/her own cultural traditions but is at the same time able to absorb and use creatively all the available modern knowledge. The vision of a proper knowledge strategy is an upright balanced person who understands the creator, knows his place, his roles, his rights, and his responsibilities in the cosmic order. Such knowledge will have positive moral values, objectivity, universality, and serving the larger causes of humanity.

 

METHODOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE

The type and quality of knowledge available depends on the methodology use in research. The ancient Greek methodology was criticized because it was conjectural, hypothetical, despised perceptual knowledge, and was based on deductive logic. The modern scientific method of formulating and testing hypothesis is the best in its essence but can sometimes be used inappropriately because of the following philosophical presumptions: rejection of revelation as a source of knowledge, rejection of the duality between matter and spirit, lack of human purpose, and lack of an integrating paradigm. In practice the following strengths of modern methodology have not been followed: being open-minded, methodological, accurate, precise, objective, and morally neutral. There is also the problem of treating as absolute probabilistic and relativistic empirical knowledge based fallible human observation and interpretation. The task before us therefore is to use the empirical methodology without philosophical presumptions that can lead to bias and lack of objectivity. An ideal methodology must be universal, objective and unbiased. It must emphasize the following precepts: all disciplines of knowledge are united in looking for the same truth, causality is the basis for human action, human knowledge has limitations, the universe is governed by natural scientific laws that are constant and are universal, the seen and unseen must exist in harmony, collection and use of knowledge must be accompanied by moral accountability; creation and existence have a purpose, truth is both absolute and relative, and human free will is the basis of accountability.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

DISCUSSION #1

  1. How do humans and animals differ in acquiring and using knowledge?
  2. What is the seat of knowledge in the human body
  3. Comment on the statement that any human knowledge is public property
  4. Define 3 terms as they relate to knowledge: absolute, relative, and probabilistic
  5. What do you understand by the term ‘knowledge is power’; is it always true?
  6. What is the difference between knowledge and information?
  7. Which is the dominant source of knowledge: innate or acquired knowledge?
  8. Explain how sense organs and human intellect are used to acquire knowledge

 

DISCUSSION #2

  1. Explain the difference between deductive and inductive logic
  2. Are dreams, sorcery, astrology, and fortune-telling sources of knowledge?
  3. What instinctive knowledge does a child have on birth?
  4. How do you define intuition; how reliable is it as a source of knowledge
  5. What is your opinion about extra-sensory perception; is it a reality or an illusion?
  6. What is meant by evidence-based knowledge?
  7. Explain how human knowledge is limited by imperfect sense organs
  8. What do you understand by the term ‘dichotomy of education systems’

 

DISCUSSION #3

  1. How does methodology protect researchers from inconsistencies and personal bias
  2. How are natural physical laws a basis for scientific investigation
  3. What were the main weakness of Greek science
  4. What is the major strength of the empirical methodology
  5. What are the actual weaknesses in the use of the empirical methodology
  6. How can personal feelings lead to biased empirical observations
  7. Describe the statement that frontiers of human knowledge are wide but finite
  8. Explain how natural physical laws are a basis for an orderly and stable universe

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule August 2006