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Tesch 1!

Julia Tesch
Frances McCue
What We Know and How We Know It
12/9/12
Reviewing the Quarter
In entering this class for the first time, I really didnt know what to expect. While the
course description had informed me to some extent what I was getting myself into (I saw a lot
about writing, reading, and examining how we come to know), I wasnt exactly sure what the
specifics of the course material entailed. However, I was pretty sure I was making a good
decision by choosing to take the class. Id heard from several people that its a great class, and I
knew it was going to be a true challenge for me; Im very unconfident with my reading and
writing skills, and could tell this class was going to push me past my comfort zone. Additionally,
in a philosophy class I took during high school, I had dabbled a little bit in epistemology, and
knew the subject interested me. I figured this class would give me an opportunity to further
explore that, though I wasnt sure in exactly what ways.
And here I am now at the end of the quarter, having attended ten weeks of class and
feeling very satisfied with my overall experience and the indications it has for my future
experiences in college. Through this class, I had the opportunity to explore different ways of
coming to knowledge. Exposure to so many new ways of knowing helped me to better
understand myself and how I personally come to knowledge, in addition to gaining a better
perspective on how others ways of coming to knowledge differ from mine.

Tesch 2!

We studied six main ways of coming to knowledge in this class. Learning about some of
these affected me and seemed to match more closely with my life perspective than others. Both
ethical and philosophical knowing, for example, rely on very clear-cut formulas and rules for
making a decision based off logic. In order to come to a conclusion through either way of
knowing, one must explore all facets of an issue, trying to understand multiple possible
perspectives then choosing which makes the most logical sense. Both ethics and philosophy felt
to me to be very true ways of coming to knowledge. In my life, I tend to try to make decisions
fairly objectively and logically, and these ways of knowing feel familiar and valid. This ties in
very nicely with the scientific-rational way of knowing, from Walter Truett Andersons article
Four Different Ways to Be Absolutely Right. He describes truth as being found through
methodical, disciplined inquiry, a way of knowing that I have appreciated and applied to my life
from before the beginning of this course.
On the other hand, however, our studies of religious ways of knowing didnt have a
drastic impact on how I view the world or how I come to knowledge. I am an atheist, and the
lecture and our readings on Islam did not convert me to a Muslim, nor did they make me feel
more spiritual, inclined to believe in a God or gods, or to make life decisions based on such
beliefs. Coming from the Seattle School District, Ive received a fairly in-depth education about
Islam and some of its values since about eighth grade, so I also didnt learn too many new facts
about the religion. However, this was one of the first opportunities Ive had to hear a Muslim talk
extensively about his faith, and I gained a new perspective on the religion and the ways it can
have a role in ones life. I learned that while religion isnt necessarily something I feel to be a
true way of knowing, for others it feels very valid.

Tesch 3!

While I do find myself to be a scientific-rationalist, as mentioned before, I had a hard


time relating to the scientific knowing we discussed in class. This was surprising to me,
considering Id already established to myself my appreciation of logical, methodical thought.
However, upon closer reflection, I realized that I just dont tend to be particularly interested in
hard sciences. I discovered that I appreciate the scientific and scientific-rational method of
knowing, which, as Anderson explained, views the main sources of evil in the world [as] sloppy
thinking and a lack of respect for hard facts. However, Im not particularly excited by the
subjects to which this kind of thinking is usually applied. Rather, I prefer to use a scientificrational lens to view many different subjects.
Similarly, I had a hard time relating to literary ways of knowing at first. Ive always been
extremely uncomfortable with creative literature, both reading it and writing it. I never felt I had
the necessary tools to understand what it means or how to create it. Now, at the end of the
semester, I still feel very confused about how to approach literary knowing. However, I am
slowly becoming more comfortable with the concept of approaching literature with an open
mind, accepting the fact that I may not understand the authors intention or other pieces of
information, but still trying to gain from it anyway. Im learning not to be embarrassed by
writing creatively and seeing what I can learn about myself through trying different writing
styles.
Some of the greatest transformations in my thought processes occurred during our unit on
indigenous ways of knowing, which focused in particular on the disparities between Western and
ethnic mental illnesses. Because my mother is a psychotherapist and talks a lot about her
practice, I felt I had a fairly good idea about psychology and what it means to be mentally ill.

Tesch 4!

However, upon hearing Dr. Mick Storck talk to the class about different cultural ideas of what it
is to be mentally ill, in addition to reading about the topic both for this class and in a chapter in
my Psych 101 textbook, I came to shift my opinions about what mental illnesses really are. I now
am less sure of whether theres a concrete definition for the term, and understand that different
cultures worldwide have different perspectives on the matter.
Becoming less sure has been a theme for me throughout this class. I came into this class
as a student who had always driven class discussions during high school; along with two or three
others, I often would speak several times more often than most other students during seminars.
However, that completely changed upon entering this class. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by
peers whose ideas I felt far out-shined mine. Upon listening to other speak, I was impressed with
everyones insight, and fairly intimidated too! In order to participate, I had to push myself to
come up with more complex ideas and train myself to speak up in an environment where Im
anxious that my thoughts could be seen as obvious or unhelpful.
Reading texts has also been a great challenge for me in this class. Some of the articles
and excerpts we read were easier than others, but several significantly pushed the boundaries of
my vocabulary and general reading comprehension, an area in which I struggle. However, I feel
my reading comprehension has improved in several ways this quarter. General practice of
reading difficult texts, which we got plenty of in this class, contributes to my improved ability to
read texts, as does the increased exposure to new topics and vocabulary that I received in this
class. Additionally, Ive been practicing active reading, underlining and annotating texts as I
work my way through them.

Tesch 5!

By far, the most challenging aspect of this course for me was the writing. Our first
assignment was to write a poem, a form of writing I have always been far too embarrassed to try.
We then wrote a philosophical essay, a format in which I had no real prior experience. After, we
moved on to a memoir, another format which Id never tried before, and then onto a short story,
which Id only had to write once in my life during eighth grade. There were several difficult
aspects of writing in these new formats. One of the hardest things was to accept that its ok to
write in first person. Id had it drilled into me over and over throughout my elementary and
secondary schooling that one never uses the words I or me when writing. However, I learned
to become comfortable with writing from my own experiences and perspective, rather than
anonymously. I also had to learn how to get my ideas across clearly and efficiently, even in
completely new styles of writing. In the past, when writing an essay, Id do some thinking, create
an outline, and write from there. However, in this class, I adjusted my organization process. I
began brainstorming by way of free-association before creating an outline, which allowed me to
better organize my thoughts and to come up with even better ideas. My organization process
became less of a way to put my ideas on paper and more of a way to come up with new thoughts.
Overall, my experiences in this class have pushed me think about knowing in new ways
and to improve my writing and thinking skills for later in college. While Im certainly not at a
place in my life where it will be easy for me to understand and know everythingnor do I ever
think I will beIm now better-equipped to tackle information that will come my way in the
future.