Ways of Knowing In Natural Sciences and Ethics

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Waysof Knowing In Natural Sciences and Ethics

InGaining Knowledge, Each Area of Knowledge Uses a Network of Ways OfKnowing

Humanbeings use different ways of knowing to gain knowledge to enable themcarry out their day-to-day activities. According to the Theory ofKnowledge (TOK), the knowledge we possess can be divided into severalcategories (2006). The reason behind dividing knowledge is becauseknowledge differs depending on what purpose it serves. For instance,the knowledge required to make a viable scientific conclusion isdifferent from the knowledge required to make an ethical decision(Theory of knowledge, 2006). Each of these categories uses differentways or methods to gain knowledge. However, although the nature ofknowledge within these divisions varies, they significantly overlap.Therefore, it means two or more areas of knowledge may share similarways of gaining knowledge. This essay aims to discuss two areas ofknowledge namely natural sciences and ethics and the various ways ofknowing used in acquiring knowledge in these fields.

Thesisstatement: Itis vital for every person to use various ways of knowing such asreason, sense of perception, emotion, and language to acquireknowledge in natural sciences and ethics. The various ways of knowinginteract to ensure the knowledge gained is true and unbiased.

Natural sciences are the study of the natural world. It is importantto point out that natural science, as an area of knowledge is broadand can be broken down into three sciences: Chemistry, Physics andBiology. One way of learning in natural sciences is through the senseperception. Perception is the process of gaining knowledge of theworld around us through the use of our five senses. In naturalsciences, the main methods of learning are through observation andexperimentation to trove hypothesis either right or wrong. Thereforeour sense such as sight, smell, taste and touch are important incollecting data from the various occurrences in the natural world.However, in gaining true knowledge in sciences, we do not onlyrequire our five senses but also our minds to interpret the data thatis collected.

Accordingto Kim (2009), perception is a process made up of two stepssensation and interpretation. Sensation is our reactions to thevarious occurrences in the natural world as perceived by the fivesenses. Interpretation on the hand, results from our minds such asvisual illusion formed in our minds not from the collected data butfrom psychological interpretations of various occurrences.Interpretation as a component of perception is significantlyinfluenced by our beliefs, expectations and what we already know. Forinstance, in an experiment to observe the reaction between an acidand a metal, a person can make a biased observation because of his orher expectations. Since the person expects to hear some noise, he orshe can claim to have heard some noise during the experiment, eventhough in reality, the reaction did not produce any sound. Therefore,it means that sense of perception as a way of gaining knowledge innatural sciences May sometime lead to biased knowledge.

Totake care of the various limitations of sense of perception as a wayof knowing in natural sciences, Kim argues that it should beaccompanied by reasoning. Reason is another way of gaining knowledgein natural sciences (2009). Both inductive and deductive reasoningare used to make meaning of the various phenomena occurring in thenatural world. Inductive reasoning is the process through which wemake generalized conclusions from the various observations of thenatural world. One way of learning in natural sciences is throughobservation. Inductive reasoning enables us to make manyobservations, identify a recurring pattern and make a generalizationof the observed pattern. For instance, in Biology, doctors makeseveral observations on how various patients react to drugs ortreatments, and make general conclusions. The generalized conclusionsare used to come up with theories. One good example of a generalizedtheory in Biology is that exposure to extremely traumatizingexperiences among the military personnel causes Post-Traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD). The theory of PTSD can be said to be generalizedbecause it is not true for all the members of that class. There arevery many armed forces personnel who are repetitively exposed totraumatizing experiences and yet they have no signs of PTSD. The manyobservations made through the sense of perception are generalizedthrough inductive reasoning to come up with theories in naturalsciences.

Whileinductive reasoning makes general conclusions, deductive reasoning onthe other hand makes specific conclusions to ensure valid reasoning.In deductive reasoning, a scientist comes up with a general statementand makes a logical conclusion (Kim, 2009). In natural sciences,deductive reasoning is used in testing hypothesis and theories toensure the knowledge gained through the sense of perception isunbiased. When doing research to gain knowledge, Scientists come upwith theories and even go ahead to predict their outcomes. Theobservation predicted can only be true if the theories were true.Therefore, in deductive reasoning as a way of knowing in naturalsciences, we go from the general (theory), to specific (observations)to make logical conclusions (Kim, 2009). Here is a good example ofdeductive reasoning is to gain knowledge in natural sciences.

“Allmammals take care of their young ones, a woman is a mammal, andtherefore, she takes care of her little one.”

Lookingat the sentence above, unlike in inductive reasoning, the hypothesisin deductive reasoning must always be true. Any conclusion made fromdeductive reasoning is viable and logical science the hypothesis isalways true. According to Theory of knowledge (2006), deductivereasoning is an important way of gaining true knowledge ion naturalsciences.

Anotherarea of knowledge is ethics. Ethics is a branch of knowledge thatdeals with moral principles. Ways ok knowing such as: reason, emotionand language play an important role in gaining knowledge in ethics.In ethics, proper use of reason allows us to assess the consequencesof our actions and arrive at logical decisions that guide ourbehaviour (Theoryof knowledge, 2006).Many people argue that in many situations we are caught up inemotions that do not allow us to use reason to gain knowledge inethics. However, people who have the ability to control theiremotions can use reason to arrive at ethical conclusions. Accordingto Kim, reason as a way of knowing in ethics is vital formulating amoral code (2009). Reason enables a person to compare consequencesfrom similar examples leading to consistency in behaviour.

Similarto natural sciences, reason in ethics is based on hypothesis. To givean example, a person gets injured through a road accident as a resultof over speeding. Through the use of reason a person will gainknowledge that over speeding is bad because it can cause motoraccident. Therefore, a person reaches an ethical conclusion that overspeeding is bad and this acts as a guide to his or her behaviourwhile driving. Moreover, reason enables a person to respect otherswho value it. Therefore, we can say that reason promotes respect, oneof the fundamental values of ethics.

Fromits definition, ethics guides the moral principles that govern ourbehaviour. People’s behaviour is not only influenced by our beliefsand values but also the use of reason. In our day-to-day lives, weare faced by conflicting situations that require us to choose acourse of action. For us to choose an option, we weigh the cost andbenefits of all the choices through the use of reason. However, somepeople allow their emotions to override their reason and end upmaking the wrong choices. A good example is a banker, who is temptedto give a loan to a client, who does not meet all the requirements inorder to meet his sales’ targets. Through the use of reason, thebanker can weigh the benefits of achieving the sales’ targets andconsequence of losing the job enabling him to make an ethicaldecision.

Fromexperience, it can be argued that it is difficult to gain ethicalknowledge through the use of reason only. In such situations,emotions play a big part. Emotions as a way of knowing in ethics areimportant in reinforcing good behaviour. We gain ethical knowledge bythe effect of our emotions. For instance a person will feel very hurtwhen deceived by another person. Therefore, the emotional experienceallows him or her to gain knowledge that deception is unethical. Onthe other hand, a person feels valued and appreciated when respectedby other people. Therefore, through such emotional feelings, a persongains knowledge on the importance of respect and embraces it as amoral value.

Languageis another way we can gain knowledge in ethics. Small children areable to embrace morals and good behaviour as they grow up becausethey are taught through the use of language by their parents or caregivers. According to Kim (2009), language is the building block ofany ethics in a society because it enables people to share values,beliefs and communicate their logical thoughts. The choice ofpowerful words to communicate thoughts and opinions can significantlyimpact on the knowledge of individuals in ethics. Language andemotions are two inseparable ways of learning in ethics. The languagea person uses greatly depends on the emotions of that person at thatparticular time. Therefore, the ethical knowledge we gain fromlanguage as a way of knowing can be influenced by emotions.


Fromthe essay it is clear that to gain knowledge in natural sciences andethics, several ways ok knowing are used. Sense of perception allowsus to observe and make conclusion to understand the various phenomenain the natural world. However, perception can be significantlyinfluenced by our beliefs, expectations and what we already know.Therefore, it is necessary to use reason to make viable conclusion ofwhat we perceive through our senses. Similar to natural sciences,people require reason to gain knowledge through comparisons ofsimilar situations. Besides reason, emotions influence our behaviourand enable us to gain knowledge on various ethical issues. Languagealso plays a big part in enabling people to gain knowledge in ethicssince it determines how logical conclusions reached through reasoningare shared among people.


KimO. (2009). Whatare the Four Ways of Knowing (WOK)?Retrieved from: http://www.toktalk.net/2009/12/06/what-are-the-four-ways-of-knowing-woks/

Theoryof knowledge guide(2006). InternationalBaccalaureate Organization. pp.&nbsp6–35.

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