An epistemological essay on knowledge constructed by the media

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Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 09:49 am
Hello. I am Tempest. I am a grade 12 student who is currently writing a philosophical essay. I would love to receive your suggestion and to discuss with you about the topic of my essay to gain more insight.
My essay is about how media constructs knowledge of global events. Our knowledge is greatly influenced by the media (newspaper and televisions). Thus, I am interested in knowing how we obtain the knowledge of an event, especially a global one, through media. For instance, our knowledge of the existence of Gulf War mostly came from the media. What if the event did not happen and it were a fabrication of the media? How can we say that we know the event, if we use the principle of justified true belief?
Furthermore, I am interested in knowing the nature of this kind of knowledge. Can it be considered as absolute truth? Is it changeable?
I would love to discuss with all of you on this topic.
I would also appreciate suggestion on some reading materials.
Thank you so much for your help.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 10:41 am
@stormmonarch,
stormmonarch;65827 wrote:
Hello. I am Tempest. I am a grade 12 student who is currently writing a philosophical essay. I would love to receive your suggestion and to discuss with you about the topic of my essay to gain more insight.
My essay is about how media constructs knowledge of global events. Our knowledge is greatly influenced by the media (newspaper and televisions). Thus, I am interested in knowing how we obtain the knowledge of an event, especially a global one, through media. For instance, our knowledge of the existence of Gulf War mostly came from the media. What if the event did not happen and it were a fabrication of the media? How can we say that we know the event, if we use the principle of justified true belief?
Furthermore, I am interested in knowing the nature of this kind of knowledge. Can it be considered as absolute truth? Is it changeable?
I would love to discuss with all of you on this topic.
I would also appreciate suggestion on some reading materials.
Thank you so much for your help.


Hello, Tempest.

1. If knowledge is justified, true belief, as you are supposing, then if the Gulf War did not happen (which is highly unlikely) then, of course, since it would then not be true that the Gulf War happened, it would be impossible to know that the Gulf War happened, and if anyone believed that he knew that the Gulf War happened, that person would be mistaken, since his belief that he knew that the Gulf War happened would be a false belief, because he could not know the Gulf War happened. So, such a person would have two false beliefs: first, that the Gulf War happened; and second, that he knew that the Gulf War happened. And the second would be a false belief because the first was a false belief.

2. As I wrote, if the Gulf War never happened, then no one could know it happened. But that does not mean, of course, that because the event might have been a fabrication of the media, that it was, in fact, a fabrication of the media. Just because it could have been, or it might have been, that doesn't mean that it was (does it). And, if it wasn't a fabrication of the media, then (I suppose) it did happen, And, so, if we believe it happened, and we are justified in believing it happened, and it did happen (whether or not it might not have happened) then, if knowledge is justified, true belief, than we know it happened. And the unlikely possibility that it was a fabrication of the the media is irrelevant. After all, just because it might not have been true the Gulf War happened, does not mean that it did not happen, isn't that right.

3. The upshot of this, it seems to me, is that, although we cannot be absolutely certain, without the possibility of doubt, that the Gulf War happened, that does not mean that we cannot (and do not) know that it did happen. Knowing something is one thing, but being absolutely certain (without the possibility of being wrong) is a very different thing. So, that we can know that Gulf War happened, even it is might have been fabricated, but that it might have been fabricated means that we cannot be absolutely certain that it happened.
 
stormmonarch
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 11:32 am
@stormmonarch,
Thank you kennethamy (Is this how I should address you?) for your insight on certainty of knowledge.
I agree with you that we can know something without absolute certainty. As mentioned, if we view knowledge as justified, true belief, we need to have substantial justification. However, we are unlikely to be sure that the justification is adequate. Common method of justification is to look for coherence, cohesion and collaboration. Of course, even if we conduct all of these, we are unlikely entitled to be absolute certain about the knowledge.
Back to my question on the essay, I am curious about the process of obtaining knowledge (justified, true belief) from media (focuses mainly on televisions and newspapers).
My initial thought is that from televisions and newspaper, we gather all images and sounds as "crude information". After that, we collaborate the information with existing knowledge to build up our understanding of the event. For instance, we see soldiers firing their rifles on television and hear the sound of bombs. Then, we link back to our ideas of war and conclude that a war is happening.
Then, we proceed to justification. For instance, we hear the news from our family and friends. We see our President talk about it. It increases the certainty of the event until we see it as a justification and conclude that we know a war is happening.
That is my rough idea of how we know through media.
When you are watching television or reading an article, how do you know? Do you have any feedback on the process of obtaining knowledge through the media.
I would like to hear more from you.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 02:53 pm
@stormmonarch,
stormmonarch;65838 wrote:
Thank you kennethamy (Is this how I should address you?) for your insight on certainty of knowledge.
I agree with you that we can know something without absolute certainty. As mentioned, if we view knowledge as justified, true belief, we need to have substantial justification. However, we are unlikely to be sure that the justification is adequate. Common method of justification is to look for coherence, cohesion and collaboration. Of course, even if we conduct all of these, we are unlikely entitled to be absolute certain about the knowledge.
Back to my question on the essay, I am curious about the process of obtaining knowledge (justified, true belief) from media (focuses mainly on televisions and newspapers).
My initial thought is that from televisions and newspaper, we gather all images and sounds as "crude information". After that, we collaborate the information with existing knowledge to build up our understanding of the event. For instance, we see soldiers firing their rifles on television and hear the sound of bombs. Then, we link back to our ideas of war and conclude that a war is happening.
Then, we proceed to justification. For instance, we hear the news from our family and friends. We see our President talk about it. It increases the certainty of the event until we see it as a justification and conclude that we know a war is happening.
That is my rough idea of how we know through media.
When you are watching television or reading an article, how do you know? Do you have any feedback on the process of obtaining knowledge through the media.
I would like to hear more from you.


I think that is substantially how we decide how much credence we should give to media reports. Of course, is it extremely unlikely (although not impossible, of course) that a major news outlet would say that there was a war going on if there were not. After all, there are lots of news outlets nowadays, and no one outlet could get away with it for even a minute, and they would have to be crazy to try to do so, don't you think? What do you think CBS would do if NBC reported a war which CBS knew did not occur? These outlets, after all, are in heavy competition with each other.But, of course, it is true that one news outlet might distort its reports, so as to give misinformation, or even disinformation. So that we always have to employ critical thinking in the evaluation of news reports. And consider, as people say, "the reliability of the source" and of course, what we know of any biases it may have. And, also, reporters make mistakes, and are often in a hurry to meet a deadline, and may skip over important facts. Someone once said that when you have no personal knowledge of what is being reported, the report is reliable, but when you do have personal knowledge of what is being reported, the report you hear and watch bears little resemblance to what you, yourself, know what happened.

By the way, one correction: The word you have in mind is, I believe, "corroboration", and not, "collaboration", which means something different.

You can call me, "Your excellency",Smile
 
LWSleeth
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 02:58 pm
@stormmonarch,
stormmonarch;65827 wrote:
Hello. I am Tempest. I am a grade 12 student who is currently writing a philosophical essay. I would love to receive your suggestion and to discuss with you about the topic of my essay to gain more insight.
My essay is about how media constructs knowledge of global events. Our knowledge is greatly influenced by the media (newspaper and televisions). Thus, I am interested in knowing how we obtain the knowledge of an event, especially a global one, through media. For instance, our knowledge of the existence of Gulf War mostly came from the media. What if the event did not happen and it were a fabrication of the media? How can we say that we know the event, if we use the principle of justified true belief?
Furthermore, I am interested in knowing the nature of this kind of knowledge. Can it be considered as absolute truth? Is it changeable?
I would love to discuss with all of you on this topic.
I would also appreciate suggestion on some reading materials.
Thank you so much for your help.


I don't think the media fabricates entire events, but without doubt the media at times attempts to shape how we interpret certain events. A good way to observe this is simply to compare the political coverage between, say, Fox News and MSNBC. Most often the difference is what facts are included and omitted, what facts are emphasized most, and even the tone of voice reporters use to describe events. There's little doubt that Fox subscribes to a conservative view, and MSNBC offers a more liberal take on things.

Regarding "knowledge," anytime we rely on reports from others we must listen with the understanding that the reports may be skewed to support some ideology of the reporting agency. Such "spin" is so common that if a subject is important to me, I make sure to read many reports. For everyday knowledge of current events, I seldom resort to that kind of rigorous study, but I also don't assume I have real knowledge.

For those reasons and others, "absolute truth" should never be expected from media reporting. In epistemology, "truth" is an exact correspondence (exact as possible) between a concept about reality and the aspect of reality the concept describes. Besides bias, even the most objective report can suffer from innocent misrepresentations where someone gives an impression they didn't intend, honestly report false facts, etc.

If it were my essay, I might start by comparing two news agencies like Fox and MSNBC, and then contrasting the relatively more neutral perspective of CNN. Possibly I'd take a world story and check out how the many news agencies online report it. Here's an interesting world news site where you can see news from everywhere: World News
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 03:28 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65834 wrote:
Knowing something is one thing, but being absolutely certain (without the possibility of being wrong) is a very different thing.


There are two kinds of knowledge, certain knowledge and probable knowledge. As Vico puts it, "we know what we make". We make logical systems so we know them with absolute certainty. We are not the makers of the world so we can only have probable knowledge of the world.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 04:18 pm
@Satan phil,
Satan;65866 wrote:
There are two kinds of knowledge, certain knowledge and probable knowledge. As Vico puts it, "we know what we make". We make logical systems so we know them with absolute certainty. We are not the makers of the world so we can only have probable knowledge of the world.


Still, Descartes, for instance, held each one of us could know, with certainty, that he exists. And that is not something we make true.
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 04:27 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65874 wrote:
Still, Descartes, for instance, held each one of us could know, with certainty, that he exists. And that is not something we make true.


Cogito, ergo sum is a logical argument and therefore based on logic, which we make.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 06:16 pm
@Satan phil,
Satan;65876 wrote:
Cogito, ergo sum is a logical argument and therefore based on logic, which we make.



No. Descartes said that for each of us, I exist, is absolutely certain. We never made it true that we exist. I am not talking about any argument. I am talking about a statement which was the conclusion of the argument.
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 07:02 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65892 wrote:
No. Descartes said that for each of us, I exist, is absolutely certain. We never made it true that we exist. I am not talking about any argument. I am talking about a statement which was the conclusion of the argument.


P1. Thinking things exist.
P2. I think.

C1. Therefore I exist.

P1. is true by definition of what existence means, which we make. P2. is true by definition of what thinking means, which we make. The conclusion shows us only the relationship between the terms existence and thinking as we have defined them. It's a completely closed system. That we can't doubt that we are doubting is a limitation of our particular system of logic, which we make. It doesn't tell us anything outside of that.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 31 May, 2009 09:20 pm
@Satan phil,
Satan;65906 wrote:
P1. Thinking things exist.
P2. I think.

C1. Therefore I exist.

P1. is true by definition of what existence means, which we make. P2. is true by definition of what thinking means, which we make. The conclusion shows us only the relationship between the terms existence and thinking as we have defined them. It's a completely closed system. That we can't doubt that we are doubting is a limitation of our particular system of logic, which we make. It doesn't tell us anything outside of that.


Everything exists. Descartes certainly did not hold that only thinking things exist. Chair exist, but they do not think. What Descartes held is that if X thinks then X exists. And that is clearly true. X could not think unless X exists. That is because, X cannot do anything at all without existing. X could not walk, if X did not exist either. So, it is a necessary truth that if X has any property, the X exists, for nothing can have any property without existing. Existing is a precondition of having properties.

If I doubt that I doubt (anything) then it follows necessarily that I doubt. That is not due to any particular system of logic. To doubt that you doubt is clearly to doubt.
But, Descartes argues that if someone doubts that he exists, then he doubts, and, since he cannot doubt without existing, it follow that he exists. Do you know of a different system of logic which does not come to the conclusion that if one doubts he exists, and if one cannot doubt without existing, then that person exists? If so, what is it?
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 06:56 am
@stormmonarch,
stormmonarch;65827 wrote:
My essay is about how media constructs knowledge of global events. Our knowledge is greatly influenced by the media (newspaper and televisions). Thus, I am interested in knowing how we obtain the knowledge of an event, especially a global one, through media. For instance, our knowledge of the existence of Gulf War mostly came from the media. What if the event did not happen and it were a fabrication of the media? How can we say that we know the event, if we use the principle of justified true belief?


That's a good subject. What we're told by others - media and otherwise - not being directly experienced, is definitely open to question. One could even make a good argument that even those things we experience directly (sensory input) could be 'false' as well since they're subject to our interpretations. So you're right; we can't completely (and without question) 'know'.

As others have mentioned, it comes down to the amount of trust we place in these sources. It needn't be across the world either; yesterday my neighbor related a story about his sister and the disaster of their home remodeling. This only twice-removed information; I can't 'know' it happened beyond all doubt, I ascribe to this being knowledge to the extent that I trust (or otherwise identify) with the source(s).

I think both Kennethamy and Satan's posts in this thread outline a good, relatively supportable construct for examining this issue.

Good luck!
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 07:06 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65914 wrote:
Everything exists.


Tautologically.

kennethamy;65914 wrote:
Descartes certainly did not hold that only thinking things exist.


Again, it appears you are correcting something that was never said.

kennethamy;65914 wrote:
Do you know of a different system of logic which does not come to the conclusion that if one doubts he exists, and if one cannot doubt without existing, then that person exists? If so, what is it?


Logical systems are human constructs. Descartes' argument does not give us knowledge about anything other than our own closed system of logic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 07:17 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;65975 wrote:
Tautologically.



Again, it appears you are correcting something that was never said.



Logical systems are human constructs. Descartes' argument does not give us knowledge about anything other than our own closed system of logic.


So, you will be able to explain how it is possible for a person to think he exists even if he does not exist. Use any logic you like. Be my guest.

By the way, I have read people who have denied that everything exists. They point to unicorns and mermaids, which do not exist. Let alone, square-circles. Some claim that such things do not exist, but that they subsist. I think that even Plato may have been one of these people.
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 07:22 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65978 wrote:
So, you will be able to explain how it is possible for a person to think he exists even if he does not exist. Use any logic you like. Be my guest.


That's not remotely a challenge at all. If I can create my own logical system then I am free to toss out any axioms I like, such as the law of non-contradiction.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 07:35 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;65906 wrote:
P1. Thinking things exist.
P2. I think.

C1. Therefore I exist.

P1. is true by definition of what existence means, which we make. P2. is true by definition of what thinking means, which we make. The conclusion shows us only the relationship between the terms existence and thinking as we have defined them. It's a completely closed system. That we can't doubt that we are doubting is a limitation of our particular system of logic, which we make. It doesn't tell us anything outside of that.


I am not clear how 1 is true "by definition". How is it true by the definition of "thinking" that all thinking things exist? I never thought, and neither does the dictionary that a part of the definition of thinking is existence. Is it part of the definition of "walking" that what walks exists too? After all, just as no one can think without existing, so no one can walk without existing either. Could you explain more how existence is a part of the definition of thinking?

And I am also having trouble understanding how I think is true "by definition of what thinking means". After all, if the "I" referred to a chair, it would not be true by definition, or anything else, that I (a chair) thinks. (That is why I thought you were saying that whatever exists also thinks).

But I find it difficult to understand how I think is "true by definition" (since when if I were in a coma I would not be thinking). And although I agree that all thinking things exist, just as I agree that all walking things exist, I don't see how either are "true by definition". I am surprised you find it so clear.

---------- Post added at 09:40 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:35 AM ----------

Satan;65980 wrote:
That's not remotely a challenge at all. If I can create my own logical system then I am free to toss out any axioms I like, such as the law of non-contradiction.


Right. But, without the law of non-contradiction, you are permitted to have contradictory premises. And, from contradictory premises, everything can be deduced, including any statement, and its contradictory. I am not sure how useful such a system would be. Or, even why it would be a logic system. A requirement for a logic system is that it be consistent. Indeed, I think that is the kind of thing you like to call, "true by definition". So, even if it is not remotely a challenge at all, it seems to be a challenge.
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 07:45 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65982 wrote:
And although I agree that all thinking things exist, just as I agree that all walking things exist, I don't see how either are "true by definition". I am surprised you find it so clear.


It seems you know exactly what I'm talking about, as you've already stated as much yourself.

kennethamy;65982 wrote:
Existing is a precondition of having properties.


There are two ways that something can be true; by corresponding with the facts or by being true by definition or axiomatically, in other words.

kennethamy;65982 wrote:
A requirement for a logic system is that it be consistent.


Why is that? Who says?

Paraconsistent Logic (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 08:03 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;65986 wrote:
It seems you know exactly what I'm talking about, as you've already stated as much yourself.



There are two ways that something can be true; by corresponding with the facts or by being true by definition or axiomatically, in other words.



Why is that? Who says?

Paraconsistent Logic (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)



Right. Just as there is fringe physics, there is fringe logic. I don't do it, since I think it is pointless. If you want to think in contradictions, do so.

---------- Post added at 10:07 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:03 AM ----------

Satan;65986 wrote:
It seems you know exactly what I'm talking about, as you've already stated as much yourself.



There are two ways that something can be true; by corresponding with the facts or by being true by definition or axiomatically, in other words.



Why is that? Who says?

Paraconsistent Logic (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)



Right. Just as there is fringe physics, there is fringe logic. I don't do it, since I think it is pointless. If you want to think in contradictions, do so. In any case, walking things exist is not "true by definition" although it may be a necessary truth. But then, some necessary truths are not true by definition. Every event has a cause may be a necessary truth, but it is not true by definition.
 
Satan phil
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 08:13 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;65989 wrote:
Right. Just as there is fringe physics, there is fringe logic. I don't do it, since I think it is pointless. If you want to think in contradictions, do so.


Well that's fine but you can't pretend they don't exist just because it suits your argument.

kennethamy;65989 wrote:
In any case, walking things exist is not "true by definition" although it may be a necessary truth. But then, some necessary truths are not true by definition. Every event has a cause may be a necessary truth, but it is not true by definition.


If it's not true by definition then it's true by corresponding with the facts. I don't know of any facts that are necessary. I don't see how you could either.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 08:26 am
@Satan phil,
Satan;65992 wrote:
Well that's fine but you can't pretend they don't exist just because it suits your argument.



If it's not true by definition then it's true by corresponding with the facts. I don't know of any facts that are necessary. I don't see how you could either.


How about, every event must have a cause. No person can have parents other than the parent he has? How are those "true by definition"?
 
 

 
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