The recurring theme of my life right now is “How do I know that I know something?” This all started in my 10 am philosophy class, where my professor was giving the usual introduction to the class and syllabus stuff, then she posed the question “How do you know when you know something?” and no one could answer. This question has been on my mind since that day and has popped up in my five other classes, and I began to truly investigate how do I know when I know something. I thought back to finals last year and tried to figure out what was the point in time that I knew I could stop studying because I had learned all that I could from the material that I had on hand. Was it going through my thick stack of flashcards and knowing them back and forth? Or was it doing the practice questions getting them all right? But recalling how I studied is much clearer than the material I was memorizing. So, does that mean because I was not able to retain the knowledge, that I didn’t learn it? So, if I was able to look back and recognize that I don’t know that information, does that mean I know when I don’t know something?
So, if I can figure out when I don’t know something theoretically I should be able to figure out when I know something, right? For example, I know how old I am because I know the date I was born, but I only know my age in years I don’t know I in hours or days because that’s a whole lot of math I don’t want to do. But I know how to do that type of math so does that mean I actually do know my age in day or hours? While I may not retain all of the information I have learned in all of my years of schooling, there are some topics that I do remember how to do — in other words, I know that I know these topics. However, this discovery poses a new question, “Do we have to learn something for years on end to truly know that we know them?” Because if that is true then we don’t know as much as we think we do.
To make this argument more confusing, we could look at the way the question is asked, “How do I know that I know something?” Do we actually know the meaning of each of these symbols that are strung together to construct what we call words that are placed in an order to create a sentence in a language called English? There are ways to deconstruct this sentence, which I know and my professor, who taught me this technique knows, but do you the reader know how to do it? Is the reason that my professor and I know how to do it, is because we have taken classes on it, and that’s why you are not able to do it. Or is the reason you don’t know how to do it, is because I told you that you probably don’t know how to do it? Which opens another question, “Do we only believe we only know a certain amount because we have been told our entire lives that we have to go to school to get educated in order to attain knowledge and a degree which means that we know things?” Is it actually the overarching system that dictates what we know that we know? So what do we actually know?
If you notice this article has more questions than answers, because, I the author have more questions than answers. I only know the questions, not the answers. At this point, I’m only confident in knowing what I don’t know, rather than what I actually know. Now I implore you to ask yourselves, “How do I know that I know something?”