Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Arcadia and Knowledge

After all of the conversations and presentations on Arcadia, I'm boiling it down to one simple question that we would like ALL TOK students to comment on...

What is Arcadia saying about knowledge in general?

Discuss...

22 comments:

A-Dog said...

While I think that Arcadia says a very great amount about knowledge, I tend to think that Acadia reveals that knowledge is merely a concept. By this I mean that since knowledge is immaterial and will vanish with our deaths anyway, it does not have as much significance as many believe it to have. From my perspective, it seems that Arcadia sees the process of gaining knowledge as a healthy practice (found in many different ways) which will benefit one in their lifetime, but in the very large picture, knowledge has less meaning since everything ends in chaos anyway.

Simone said...

Arcadia says lots of things. The most interesting thing I think it says about knowledge is that knowledge as we know it is discovered, not created. And that statement in of itself makes you wonder about thee nature of knowledge. Is it like energy, in that it cannot be created or destroyed, but merely changes form? Is there a finite amount of knowledge in the world and the universe? Does the act of creation even exist if we as humans in this time are merely discovering ideas that have already been thought of or ideas that existed before time itself?
(gasp, the depth of it all. my head hurts)

Nels said...

I think Arcadia is all about the process toward knowledge. Septimus says that it doesn't matter that the lost plays were burnt because they were eventually going to be written again. It wasn't the plays that were important but rather the writing them (unless I am completely off the mark). Same with Hannah later in the book when she says that it is the process that is important, not the end result.

Nels said...

I mean, it isn't going to affect our lives very much if we know what crime and punishment means. However, it is going to change us if we know how to look at a work of literature and see what it means. I think that is what we discussed in class, but I am not totally sure (sometimes I zone out).

Sophia said...

I agree with Nels. I think that Arcadia is not about what knowledge is gained, but how you can apply it towards other things within your life. It may also be a commentary of being satisfied with knowing something without the need to prove it. Thomasina was only a teenager and came up with the theory that all unnatural shapes can be graphed using equations, and then she dies without being able to prove it. I look at this as an acceptance of knowledge, and others can believe what they want as long as YOU know what you believe is true.

Bismah A. said...

I think that Arcadia is commenting that knowledge is subjective and that everyone can extrappalate different perspectives using the same evidence in different ways. It also illustrates (like Selina said..) that a thirst for knowledge can spur subesequent investigations, like Thomasina's idea of an equation for the universe. Arcadia shows that past knowledge is built on by new knowers, and that knowledge is always changing, and new interpretations are being made constantly.

Laura Jo Washle said...

I believe one of the things Arcadia says about knowledge is that it is not something easily acquired. Many people (especially in our TOK class) are quick to make claims of knowledge without having taken much time to justify their supposedly true belief. Through the extensive conversations and arguments between the characters in Arcadia, it is obvious that knowledge is an accumulation of many smaller beliefs (usually coming from different people), that must be supported by evidence or proper justification before being brought together to form a greater understanding – knowledge. This is not a speedy process, and in this case with Arcadia, it takes a great amount of research, work, and discussion in order to bring these beliefs together and form the knowledge discovered at the end of the play.

Callie said...

I agree with those of you who basically said that Arcadia's message about knowledge is that the methods for acquiring and justifying knowledge are important. Many of the characters use different methods to reach the same conclusions, or they use methods typically used in one area of knowledge and apply it to another. For example, Thomasina uses mathematical methods and applies them to nature and art(plotting the leaf). Bernerd uses a statistical analysis of a poem and applies it to history. In terms of historical knowledge, Arcadia is saying that we can never know what really happened in the past, which is shown by how the characters from the present day are trying to justify what they think happened in the past.

Kelsey B said...

I think that, like everyone said, that Arcadia is saying a lot about knowledge. However one of the things that I find most interesting is the idea that knowledge is not as easily aquired as is sometimes thought. That maybe simply going to an encyclopedia and looking something up doesn't always count as knowedge, and it might not always be accurate. Like with Bernerd, he had a reletivly easy time discovering what he wanted to discover, but he was wrong. I think that it's interesting that is seems that Arcadia is suggesting that the knowledge that you get easily is maybe not as valuable or accurate as what you have to work for, since it suggests that more is gained from the actual process of looking and seeking out knowledge than from simply the final solution. It also suggests that everyone brings a different perspective to the search knowledge and that this is a valuable thing, but only if you ackowledge and become aware of this fact. I think that Arcadia also suggests that aquireing knowledge, that process, requires you to be wrong ocasionally and it requires that you be willing to accept that, which I can understand and agree with, even if it is something that I personally have some trouble with.

Tae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tae said...

Arcadia seems to emphasize the role that the pursuit of knowledge seems to play in the anthropic experience. Each character seems to be immersed in a quest for knowledge. However, some characters, especially Hannah, Thomasina, Septimus and Valentine, seem to seek knowledge as its own end, rather than Chater or Bernard, who use knowledge as a means to fame or pecuniary recompense. However, Chater and Bernard seem to ultimately fail in their quest, their work either inadequate and banal, or spurious. Thus, the book advocates seeking knowledge as its own end. However, this is not a pragmatic viewpoint, given the nature of society, and if all one seeks is knowledge, they may starve. Additionally, sex and love are portrayed as a distraction along the path to knowledge. But what if love and pleasure are the true end that ought to be sought and knowledge is merely a distraction?

rachelchipndale said...

Although Arcadia is saying knowledge is not easily acquired for every individuals, i think knowledge can be everything. People can gain knowledge from experiences, books and teachers. Everyday knowledge can affect the way you think and belief. When you have limited amount of knowledge, you may not have enough knowledge claims to justify your true belief. However, through experience and learning, you will gain more knowledge; then you will have different perspectives about things, and provide more support to your true belief. However, i think it depends on how people think of knowledge as a daily life or only at school.

Michael W. said...

I think that Arcadia says that although knowledge seems to be continuously changing, over all, there is still only one truth. It may be that our perceptions of that truth are flawed at times that make us change our opinions and it may be new justifications that make us change these opinions, but in the end that truth has never actually changed.
I think Arcadia also says that this search for the truth is meaningful because although it can never be truly "proven," as we continually strive to gain knowledge, we are always moving towards some form of truth, and that movement is meaningful.

christine said...

I think Arcadia is simply stating that although knowledge about the universe is generally unattainable because of human limitations, we can still try to strive towards understanding the truth as best as we can. If we use logic and emotion correctly based on accurate premises, then we can end up like Thomasina: not really knowing where we're heading, but knowing that we're somewhat heading in the right direction. If we make hasty assumptions and make a knowledge claim based off of false premises like Bernard, then what is claimed as knowledge is false. Life is all about obtaining more knowledge. When we make the right justifications in obtaining it, then it leads us to the truth... eventually. Sometimes it just takes some time, and other times there's no way we'll know some truths.

Fred said...

Perhaps it bases its claims on knowledge in the whole theory of entropy. As new knowledge is gained/created/however you want to believe knowledge comes about, it piles up and becomes more and more chaotic, ultimately - not the little bits of information themselves, but the categories, and the knowledge pit as a whole. Take, for example, politics (because that's obviously my favorite topic). As you learn more and more about a candidate, you assemble a Pit of Knowledge about said candidate. However, the more knowledge you receive, the more conflicting evidence you find. So in the end, when all the information is assembled, then you have a big chaotic Pit of Knowledge Soup, and it is your job to sort through it and find what you believe to be true. This becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. If this were applied to ALL knowledge, there would be so many conflicting views on what is "true" that that would create its own little subcategory in the Pit of Knowledge, and things would go downhill from there.

Maybe?

Fred

Matt Beall said...

I think that Arcadia brings light on the issue of truth...that there is always one truth, and people can claim to have certain knowledge, but it may not be knowledge at all in actuality. This is why Arcadia is such a great example of TOK, because it really exemplifies the core themes and messages of the TOK curriculum. The book deals with the issue of knowledge, looking at knowledge issues, perception, in all areas of knowledge spanning from English to Science to Mathematics.

Taylor G. said...

Arcadia simply states that knowledge is never created, it is only recovered. Arcadia doesn't only state that knowledge is recycled, but also that knowledge consists of differing integrities. Through the comparison of the present knowledge of Valentine, and the old knowledge of Thomasina, the universality of concepts such as mathematics are rendered true. (It is also notably mathematics that can make sense of the chaos that is all too common within the other areas of knowledge.) Where as concepts such as art and history are expressed as abstract and often inaccurate, as seen with the accusations of Bernard. In the end though, as Cloe and Thomasina surmise, there is more to life than the simple areas of History, Art, Science, and Math, but a fifth area, the one representing what is human and what cannot be explained in structured terms. The fifth area considered which is sex, takes into account that it is the cause for human nature's unpredictability as well as our nature to forget and relearn; as alluded to with the burning of the Library of Alexandria. Although the book makes somewhat wild accusations that mankind's own lust drives a perpetual cycle of self-destruction and rediscovery, the overall commentary on the history of knowledge is abstract and provocative to the extent that existentialist questions such as "If man simply continues a cycle of relearning, what is the point?" arise.

And the book also answers the same question with the familiar Stoppard concept that all is fate-driven and nothing is decided, and as soon as one comes to understand his choices, it is too late, and the cycle repeats itself.

So is there a point? I don't know. But is Stoppard is right, then I won't know until the end.

the bee gee said...

I personally did not retain much from this play because I found it to be fairly incomprehensible as the incessant allusions and references to so many things scattered throughout made the play's subtleties as difficult to follow as this very sentence. However, I probably just should have paid more attention while reading it.

My interpretation of the play's commentary on knowledge is that knowledge is relative; the truth is absolute. The dual time periods allow for the reader to see how easily the truth can be misconstrued to fit one's interpretation of an event. For example, Bernard claims to have knowledge about the past, specifically regarding the alleged murder by Lord Byron. However, while he seeks to prove this as valid, the truth is meanwhile known to the audience that he is incorrect. Through Stoppard's clever presentation of events, the play delves almost paradoxically into a commentary on mankind's ability to claim knowledge with limited evidence. The audience shares with Hannah ignorance as to truly who is the hermit, although evidence suggests that it is Septimus. This raises a knowledge issue of confirmation bias. Despite a lack of actual proof, the audience could potentially claim knowledge that Septimus is the hermit because it would allow many aspects of the plot to make sense. Therefore the truth still exists and is unchanging, but it is ultimately unknown.

Erin said...

I agree that the play's dual time frame is an exceptional device for reiterating the impossibility of ever wholly comprehending all knowledge. However, by contrasting Hannah, Valentine, Thomasina and Septimus with Chater and Bernard it also makes the claim that the search for knowledge, for knowledge's own sake, is itself a worthy goal. Despite the impossibility of knowing truth in its entirety, it is possible to knowledge, and inaccurate knowledge, thereof. By exploring a search for knowledge, both well justified and riddled with knowledge issues (confirmation bias, the limitations of sources), Arcadia warns against relativism.

Vincent said...

Arcadia is saying that knowledge is only attained when you accept that you literally know nothing at all. After you know nothing, you can get on with your life trying to attain knowledge. Through this, we can understand the world better and make assumptions about how the world works, even though we know we wont ever actually know how it all works

firefeather said...

Arcadia as a whole functions to underline how impossible it is to possess all knowledge in one mind. Like the Allegory, we as a species may hold all of it, but one individual cannot. With the two times, as Erin said, it reinforces this point. Also, i believe Arcadia's opinion on knowledge is neatly summed up by Hannah, that everything is trivial and it is only the wanting to know that matters.

tucker said...

i pretty much agree with what tae said...like almost everything. i would also like to add, that i think arcadia is just pointing out that knowledge is knowledge, nothing more. and that the journey of life goes on with or without it. <3 Sarah