May 26, 2021
Prompt 18: “Are some things unknowable?”
Object 1: My Dog
This is a photo of my dog, who has been living with me for more than 10 years. Like most of the pets, she was trained to behave well from a young age by me and my parents, yet, she takes an action which has never been taught, such as showing their belly every time she meets humans. This has questioned me, how does my dog gain knowledge, and whether they are unknowable for us humans.
The definition of knowledge here is the “information, understanding, and skills that you gain through education or experience”. 1 When we taught my dog to come when called by her name, my dog was able to do so after we praised her with treats. The repetitive experience has enabled her to gain knowledge, that when she hears the sound of her name, it means that she must come, and that if she does so, the human will praise her.
But does she know that that is her name? Or why she has to come when called by her name? The ability to talk has enabled us humans to gain knowledge from past to the future from person to person. However, because animals lack the ability to speak or recognize a word, it is impossible for them to pass on factual or historical information. Coming back to the example, even if she hears her name, she does not recognize the word in its definition, but the sound and the reaction to the sound. If she does not know what the word means, then consequently, she will not know the purpose of it, and the reason for the action taken.
Applying to the prompt, we can visually see their knowledge being applied when my dog comes towards me when she is called by her name, but we do not know to what extent she recognizes the word, and how she thinks about it when she is called by it.
Object 2: Bible
This is a photo of a Bible, which I received from my parents in order to help me learn English and the knowledge of the Bible itself. Growing up in Japanese heritage, I was very far from knowing what is Christianity, or who Jesus is. However, this book has enabled me to unlock the knowledge about Christianity and about God in depth. Reading this book did not just allow me to know, but to be inspired and taught me a number of life lessons, such as being open-hearted and forgiving or helping anyone in need. While the stories have influenced me, it has come into a question, on whether God has really existed, and how is that knowable.
The question came up as I was reading Luke 4:40, where Jesus has healed all the ill with his hand. “At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid his hands on each of them and cured them”. 2 This has made me wonder how it is possible for a person to cure an illness with a miracle. Even if Jesus was the son of God, how can we prove that he was able to use miracles? Even if the Bible is accurately passed on from generations, we do not know if the stories recorded in the Bible are accurate, or whether it has happened or not because there is no historical evidence which backs them up.
Furthermore, it has made me think If God has created all men equally, there shouldn’t be anyone suffering from illness. If every man had equal right, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, why do we fight against each other?
Applying this to my prompt, we could argue that some elements remain unknowable, however, in religion, I believe what is important is acceptance. Like how I was inspired by the story of Jesus, I believe the purpose is to learn, be guided, and be faithful, therefore it does not have to be knowable.
Object 3: Sea Glass
My final object is the sea glass which I found in the seaside of Ehime, Japan, where I used to visit every year to see my grandparents. It is a piece of broken glass in different colours drifted from a far distance, drifted in the sea, changing its shapes and surface over years. But where does it come from? Who did it belong to? This object enhances the exhibition, as unless there is a specific label on the object, there is no way to be certain about this information, therefore, it is unknowable.
The only information we have on this object is that it was found on the shore of Ehime, its colour and shapes, and the fact that it now belongs to me. Therefore, it is knowable to an extent where we can touch, see, smell, hear or taste, and to know the events after it was found. However, this information is limited, as there is no way to receive the knowledge on the journey of the piece of the sea glass, unless there is a way to communicate to the past, such as letters, language or a specific product that is easily identified.
Red sea glasses for example, are from a glass produced by Anchor Hocking Glass Company around the 1950s. Because red glasses are rare, and were not produced a lot, only 1 in 10,000 sea glasses could be found. Therefore if a red sea glass is found, there is a higher chance that it is from Anchor Hocking Glass Company. However, most of the glass I have found is in the range of light blue to green, which is a common colour of glass produced such as wine or beer. Therefore it is almost certainly impossible to identify where it was produced.
Applying to my prompt, the origin of the sea glass is therefore unknowable as there are no way to trace back the past of where and when it has drifted to this place, however, this could be considered as a fact that we know this is unknowable in addition to the information I have after it was discovered.
- (1) Definition of Knowledge; @2021 Oxford University Press. “Knowledge.” Accessed May 12, 2021.
- (2) Luke 4:40. The Bible (New International Version). Bible Gateway. Accessed May