To tackle the second question, we first have to understand what is considered as ‘knowledge’. In rationalism, there is something called ‘A Priori Knowledge’ i. e. ‘Knowledge that is independent of experience’ E. G – Mathematical proposition like 2+2=4 or things that are true by definition E. G – All bachelors are unmarried. Then there is second branch of knowledge which falls under the category of ‘innate ideas’ i. e. ideas or concepts that do not require any proof of experience because they are already present at the time of birth.
So, for example, one of Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God is that the idea is present in the mind from birth, left there almost as if an artist had signed his work or left a trademark. The third aspect of what can be considered as knowledge by rationalists is logical necessities i. e. things or situations that cannot be conceived of otherwise. E. G – In order to have three things, you have to have more than 2. Boy 1: So, let’s look at the case of the children in the video where they are able to pinpoint exact locations where they were in the past lives and who their parents were and name them etc.
When researchers do go to that exact location and find out that the facts do match, this might be a case of ‘innate ideas’ and ‘logical necessities’ since this knowledge couldn’t have arisen from any sort of experience and were present at the time of birth, and this situation cannot be conceived plausible by any other explanation other than re-incarnation. So, in this case, for the boys in the video, re-incarnation is a form of true knowledge. Boy 2: Precisely. Then there are the empiricists who believe the main source of knowledge is the senses.
Aristotle, one of the most famous philosophers of all time said, “There is nothing in the mind except what was first in the senses”. So, from that point of view, some spiritual beliefs like personal visions of ghosts etc are considered as knowledge for that person because he/she has personally ‘sensed’ it. Experience itself is considered as one of the key ‘ways of knowing’. Boy 1: But which faculty of knowing do you consider superior? I am pretty sure knowledge by way of reason should be superior to knowledge by way of emotion or intuition? Boy 2: That’s a good question.
That depends on the area of knowledge in question. For the arts, knowledge by way of emotion and sense-perception is the pivotal way of knowing, for the sciences, logic and reason hold supreme, for religion and alternative medicine, it is faith or revelation that is the primary way of knowing while, for history, memory is the main way of knowing. One cannot compare the ways of knowing just because one way of knowing is the majority. For all you know, in a future utopian society, knowledge might be considered outdated as compared to intuition. I wonder what the aliens use as their primary form of knowing:)
Boy 1: Going on step further, do you think that denying a certain spiritual belief the status of knowledge decrease its value or significance? Boy 2: What do you think? Boy 1: I think that once it falls out of the status of knowledge, it automatically falls into the ‘realm of doubt’. It would not only be foolish but also counter-productive to partake in such a belief. A person with decent knowledge will know better. Boy 2: For most part, I agree with you because most of the cases out there can be broadly put under the realm of rationalist, empirical and perceptive knowledge.
But there is the case of an extreme skeptic who will question: Can we know anything at all? Or is it possible to experience reality as it is? Boy 1: Yes, I have read about a similar skeptical account by 17th Century philosopher Rene Descartes. He had said that, “There is no way you can be certain that even your most ordinary experiences do not radically misrepresent the real shape of the world. No matter how vivid your experiences, for instance, they might simply be the product of a vivid dream, or of the deceptive influences of some malign force.
” This is a theme that science fiction in the last decade or so has had an especially fun time exploring, with great Cartesian movies such as The Matrix and Inception. However, this problem of the external world, as it is called, calls into question more than just whether our experiences accurately represent the external world-it calls into question the very existence of any external world at all. Perhaps, for all you know, your mind is the only thing that exists, and the surprising or seemingly out-of-your-control aspects of “the world” are just produced by your own unconscious mind.
What possible evidence could disprove such a thesis, or even render it improbable? Boy 2: Wow!!! That is highly skeptical. Maybe the class has something to say. Can anyone help answer my partner here? Class Discussion ensues for the next 2 minutes. Boy 2: That was an interesting input from you all. I would like to continue further but I am afraid that we have come to end of our allotted time period for our presentation. Before we end our discussion, I would like to leave you a rather interesting re-incarnation account.