A and B

K and K (see previous entry) offer brief comments on the two interviews.  They write that for respondent A:

            …the problem itself is not a perplexing one; it is one for which a correct answer exists or will exist.  Finding the right facts will lead to certain knowledge.  Interpreting the facts is not mentioned as part of the process of arriving at a decision. (3)

 Of the second respondent (B), they write:

People who use this reasoning style acknowledge the uncertainty of knowing, but even though they accept the uncertainty they also argue that a judgment that is “reasonably certain” can be constructed on the basis of available data and existing methodologies

Tarrowsignhese seem remarks seem adequate summaries of the epistemologies implied in A and B.  But what, if anything, can the remarks of A and B tell us about their psychological development. 

Looked at in this way, I think it worth noting that A is involved in a contradiction.  First A says she cannot know because she did not make it (chemical additive) and later says that a final absolute answer is possible and will come forward.  This though may not be so much a logical contradiction as it is an expression of the individual’s embeddedness in time.  I, at present, do not know, but, in my opinion, in the future an answer will be forth coming.  Additionally, A’s attitude towards knowledge appears relatively passive.  Some one with the guts to examine all the data will produce the answer; but A will not be that person. Further, A appears to equate the knowing of a thing with the making of it.  I don’t know, she says, because I did not make it.  And, finally, A seems to feel that knowledge is the product of the efforts of individuals.

B is not however involved in even the appearance of a contradiction and shows no sense at all of being embedded in time or of knowledge being generated in time.  This may be the case because her response, as K and K suggests, rests on an acceptance of “uncertainty” which as part of the attitude of skepticism is perpetual.  Uncertainty has not and will not be resolved at any particular moment.  While, in other words, A approaches the question with the attitude that an absolute answer is possible, B approaches the problem with the attitude that no absolute answer is possible.

Further B does not believe that the person who knows a thing is the person who makes a thing.  Or, more precisely, B does not believe that the person(s) who make a thing necessarily know the effects of a thing (whether it is safe or useful or lives up to its claims).  And B knows that one cannot necessarily trust the claims (tobacco) of those that make the thing.  B’s attitude towards “knowledge” or “expert opinion” is much more active.  Indeed, one might say that for B “knowledge” is “expert opinion” as generated by certain assumptions and methodologies.

How does one get from A to B.?  Well, one might logically answer, by going to college and onto graduate school.  To which, I might answer quite logically, why yes of course, but that makes education simply a social or socializing process and doesn’t tell us anything about what an individual might have to go through emotionally to move from position A to position B.  Additionally, if one takes a social approach, as do K and K, one is unable to tell if B is able to apply the uncertainty principle to areas of life other than the epistemic (are chemical additives safe), or if, indeed, she should (do you drink beverages with NutraSweet).

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