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“Without the assumption of the existence of uniformities, there can be no knowledge.”
On Friday night, I was talking with my roommate about human beings and animals. His thesis was, “Human beings are not rational, they just follow their more developed instinct ”. I decided to add that knowledge was a human construction. Therefore, he thought that knowledge was produced because of curiosity, as any other animals explore new things. This prompted me to wonder about rational behavior and logical patterns, knowledge for me was derived from a serious and exhaustive process, and because I assumed that we generally decide which knowledge to produce or acquire, I started to wonder what if we do not assume that something can be cognized then why do we even try to produce knowledge? It would be irrational. Parallelly, I was writing a critique for my TOK Essay, and the prescribed title just popped up in my mind, “Without the assumption of the existence of uniformities there can be no knowledge.”
My first thought was, we as human beings assumed that people behave in a rational way, and thereby the methodology to produce knowledge was designed in the Human Sciences. We assumed the existence of uniformities. On the other hand, I could not neglect that knowledge was also the result of explorations in unchartered fields such as the Arts as an Area of Knowledge, and that knowledge was the result of individuality, imagination, for the sake of curiosity. Hence, this made me ask, to what extent would knowledge authorities perceive the reality as a uniform? This drives my exploration of the prescribed title because the assumption hidden is that knowledge cannot be produced if does not follow patterns and that every time a knower decides to undertake a question, the knower oneself would imply the existence of a uniformity.
For instance, in the Human Sciences the fact that social interactions were defined as uniform, it opened the room for deeper explorations, but I would question to what extent are human interactions uniform? In fact, once I had a conversation with a Chilean friend about how the Westernization of Latin American societies have impacted our understanding and pride resulted from our cultural identities, for example, the failed attempt to recognize the Indigenous law in Guatemala concerning public punishments was due to the State which did not consider the legal pluralism as a recognition of the multiculturality that is expressed in the Constitution and only considered how Western societies understand the legal procedure . This prompted me to think that cultural relativism is an important factor to produce knowledge when there is a diversity of knowledge claims and every case needs to be studied individually. In fact, Anthropology considers the understanding of practices, and behaviors from the cultural background to avoid the problem of a fallacy of generalization. This suggests that social interactions are not uniform in general, but depend on multiple local factors such as climate, indigenous knowledge, and culture.
Although, cultural relativism would fail to conclude knowledge of social interactions in a natural state without excluding some of the knowledge explored, and would rather focus on an individual basis because of its methodology. Then, how do we find a conclusion that could comprehend a comparative analysis to understand the development of all human societies? Nevertheless, I can mention how Westernization somehow started with Max Weber and his “rationalization” of the West, whereby he did not only classify social actions into four major types but also established the Ideal Type method that would feature social institutions and behaviors as “logically consistent .” The fact that he established a methodology, by assuming logical consistency in social considerations, opened the opportunity to cognize what seemed to be an amorphous concept in all societies: human interactions. Hence, with the assumption of the existence of uniformities knowledge in Economics, and Sociology was produced. Thereby, uniformities are used when it can be categorized or quantified an equivalent measurement.
Therefore, the assumption of the existence of uniformities through the categorization of the elements studied may lead to the production of knowledge. In this case, without the categorization of the different factors considered, or the homogenization of the different knowledge acquired, there would not be a conclusion where when it is deconstructed, it could reflect all of the initial knowledge claims. However, there is a conflict of how do we determine the validity of a uniformity and when do we need a paradigm shift? Hence, the difference in the methodology of different disciplines in the Human Sciences creates a conflict on the existence of uniformities.
Figure 1 La Conferencia de las civilizaciones en las Américas. Carlos Mérida
Once clarified that the assumption of the existence of uniformities depends on the methodology used, what if the construction of knowledge is through imagination, is it also shaped by uniformities? For instance, in Arts the discussion of “How do we determine something as art?” popped up in every TOK class about arts, and it is because art can be as rigorous as much as expressive and elusive. Therefore, for the study of art, there are multiple schools of thought that uses concepts or language in different forms. For example, the formalist theory states that true art is a world on its own, with no responsibility to copy from the life, by which it creates its own reality. However, this theory also classifies what is aesthetic of the art piece, whereby the form and style are analyzed and compared. For example, Figure 1 is a mural from the artist Carlos Mérida. I used to study his work in my former school, and what I learned about this work called, “Estilización de motivos Mayas”, was that this paint represented the transition and exploration of a new technique from the Constructivism with abstract geometric constructions as seen in the figure.
Hence, it can be said that without the existence of a set of techniques or uniformities the creation of this artwork would not have taken place. But Constructivism was not solely based on the visual representations, otherwise, it would be similar to the Cubism and Futurism where it was rooted in 1913, but it was concerned in the construction of art as a symbol of a new world, built and shaped by the people and its relation to modern machines. This iconographic analysis had a closer link to the instrumentalist function that Mérida was not concerned, but rather a more emotionalist perspective. In effect, Carlos Mérida always used to claim that in every artwork of his, it could be found a source, remote associations or musical feelings that come from far away, which means that the creation of his artworks was not alienated to the existence of prescribed uniformities, and even in his early life Mérida, along with a Mexican muralist, they started a new artistic movement called the Mexican Renaissance , and indeed he intended to create his own set of techniques, and subconsciously he started a paradigm shift at his epoch. The creation of new uniformities did not result from the inability of the prior uniformities, but rather because of his feelings towards the indigenous culture, the memory from his travels around Europe in his youth; thereby the creation of this new set of techniques came from the imagination and creativity that both artists decided to have.
This type of iconographic analysis is what the emotionalist theory claims as an aesthetic and critical theory primarily concerned with the expressive qualities of the artwork. From this perspective, the production of “Estilización de motivos Mayas” derived from the representation of different faces, some only with eyes and other with sad faces, along with the extensive use of abstract figures that depicted the diversity, the suffering and the colorfulness of the Mayan cultures that at his time would still live undermined by the Guatemalan society’s prejudices, and the History of slavery after the colonization of America. In this sense, the production of knowledge is derived from the author’s feelings, memory and imagination while creating his own reality, and the depiction of such reality is conveyed through the use and transformation of some preexistent uniformities.
Moreover, the artist understands that how they master their technique would only depict the aesthetic as the medium of comparison, but the knowledge produced would be what the artist conceived, and the individuality and creativity would rely on how aesthetics and knowledge are handled. On the other hand, the artist is also influenced by new movements, such as Carlos Mérida, and the creation of knowledge might be influenced from these ways of thinking or perception of the world, but still, the individuality of the author would shape the use of the prescribed cannons.
Throughout this essay, it has not been questioned the existence of uniformities but rather the relevance in the production of knowledge. This is because the assumption of uniformities is like the border that divides the production of knowledge as independent or as a dependent of uniform conceptions; although, sometimes knowledge is an oscillation back-forth. Moreover, knowledge authorities would rather focus on how to effectively convey shared knowledge, they would prefer methodologies that could be conceived in a similar way, rather than abstract concepts that would lead to conflict; however, there is also the case that broadens conceptions would avoid generalities and would secure the extensiveness of knowledge. However, I would always be cautious in understanding that uniformities are not the cause but rather the justification for the abstraction of knowledge, and eases the cognition of it. The major implication of uniformities is that they are forever, and paradigm shifts show that knowledge is independent of uniformities because it creates its own uniformity as Shakespeare did, when the existent language was not expressive enough to convey his knowledge, then he transformed and developed the existent language of his time.