I did the same exercise in Ms. Barnes’ class today as I did in Ms. Mazaheri’s class on Tuesday. I ask the kids to tell me things they know and we wonder together about how they know those things. Then, I pass out to them something to eat—a Hershey’s kiss or a strawberry—and have them tell me everything they know about that item and how they know it. Typically, they know what they know because they’ve seen it, or touched is, or heard it from somebody else. But then, we wonder together about times their eyes, or their sense of touch has deceived them or about times when someone has told them something that isn’t true. How come, therefore, we can say that our eyes, our fingers, or our teachers and parents are reliable sources of knowledge? And consequently, how can we ever say we know anything?
The students in both classes mainly wanted to tell their stories of times they thought they saw something that turned out to be something else. (At least half a dozen kids have, at one time or another, mistaken someone else’s car for their moms’ and most of them actually climbed in and sat down before realizing it.)
In Ms. M.’s class, we sort of stayed there; in Ms. B.’s class the students did a more complete job of connecting the business about unreliable sense information to knowledge claims.
But those kids have had nearly a year of philosophy, not just with me, but with a student from the UW. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised (but I was), when I asked the class, “What can you be sure you know?” and one girl responded, with a half-smirk on her face, “Well, I know I exist, because every time I doubt that, it proves that I do.”
(This marks the last entry in Sabblogtical; I’ll probably start posting again more regularly to my personal weblog, 327 Words.)