Epistemology and Disagreements Essay

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Moreover, there have been debates present in the field, with regards to if epistemological development was based on evolution throughout development (i.e., steady increases with age) or based on specific knowledge domains (Kuhn & Park, 2005). Early work by numerous researchers was focused on the age-related generalizability of epistemic beliefs across domains (Muis et al., 2006). However, there has been a shift now to domain-specific epistemic beliefs that differ across domains and were no longer solely age-related. Muis and colleagues (2006) revealed that epistemological beliefs were supported based on domain-specific methods and differed with age. Thus, children, adolescents and adults at different epistemological levels (i.e., realist, absolutist, multiplist or evaluativist) had different beliefs about what it meant to know, with regards to their perception of facts and values, in terms of “personal taste, aesthetic, value and truth [judgements]” (i.e., which were all differing knowledge domains; Kuhn et al., 2000, p. 309). Henceforth, the focus will be on explaining facts and values, as well as children’s domain-specific beliefs at varying epistemological levels and how this shifts with age.

Facts and Values. In this vein, there has been a long line of research in both psychology and philosophy on facts and values. Hatch (1983) defined facts and values based on the “judgement of reality” and the “judgement of value” (p. 4). Particularly, “judgements of reality” involved beliefs about what is, since the judgement comes from information present in the world (Hatch, 1983). Whereas, “judgements of values” were dependent on what ought to be in the world. Hatch (1983), as well as Wainryb (2004), further mentioned how facts (i.e., what is) and values (i.e., what ought to be) can be distinguishable from one another, but also intertwined.

Particularly, with regards to the developmental age-related trajectory, as early as 18 months old, children were able to determine the intentions of an individual, ultimately allowing them to recognize their own and other’s mental states, which is further developed as they got older (Thompson, 2014). By 2 years old, children were able to take into consideration other’s welfare and by 3 and 4 years old they were able to take into account issues of right and wrong when making moral considerations (Dahl, 2019). Thus, by this age, children were already able to make sense of moral issues, as they were capable of making judgements regarding fairness and welfare (Wainryb, 2004). Therefore, as children developed, they were learning to make moral judgements based on their factual beliefs about a situation (i.e., using is to infer on the ought; Hatch, 1983; Wainryb, 2004). This demonstrated that any child and/or adult could consider an act, depending on the context, to be morally right or wrong, due to their understanding of subjective facts (i.e., is belief), which lead to moral interpretations of the situation. Ultimately, Wainryb (2004) was able to explain that there was a constant interplay between what is and what ought to be when trying to understand moral concepts, due to the fact that one’s factual beliefs are subjective in helping the child and adult consider moral issues. Therefore, the following section will further shed light on how facts and values impact domain-specific beliefs.

Children’s Domain-Specific Beliefs. In addition, children’s domain-specific beliefs at varying epistemological levels differed with age. Particularly, Kuhn and colleagues (2000) wanted to address this issue by trying to relate knowledge domains within the epistemological levels of understanding. The researchers assessed the opinions of participants in fifth grade, eighth grade, twelfth grade and undergraduates, with regards to their perception of the knowledge domains, in order to link their responses with specific epistemological levels of understanding (i.e., realist, absolutist, multiplist and evaluativist). More specifically, Kuhn and colleagues (2000) hypothesized that subjectivity would be most present in personal taste and aesthetic judgements, due to the fact that these judgements dealt with personal preference and were least likely to be present in judgements about social and physical truths (i.e., factual judgements). On the other hand, objectivity would be most present in judgements about social and physical truths and least present in judgements of personal taste and aesthetics. However, with regards to judgements of values (i.e., what ought to be), this may be based on both subjective and objective opinions. Kuhn and colleagues’ (2000) hypotheses were proven to be true, due to the fact that they found that individuals were more likely to use subjective reasoning when making decisions about their own personal taste and aesthetic, as opposed to when making decisions about truths which was based more on objective reasoning. Thus, there was a shift from absolutist to multiplist in the domains of personal taste and aesthetics (Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn & Park, 2005). Thus, subjectivity was more present in personal choice domain judgements, as opposed to fact and value judgements (Spence & Helwig, 2013). Whereas, decisions about social and physical truth judgements (i.e., what is) were more likely to be evaluativist in nature, due to the fact that the goal was to determine if one claim was better than another by evaluating the arguments and evidence present about the fact (Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn & Park, 2005). However, the lines were blurred for all participants when they had to make decisions based on value judgements (i.e., what ought to be), which was found to be neither always subjective or objective, but both, depending on the context of the situation (Kuhn et al., 2000).

Similarly, Mansfield and Clinchy (2002) were also interested in domain-specific beliefs throughout the varying stages of epistemological development. In particular, they aimed to determine how 10, 13 and 16 year old children followed at all three time points interpreted vignettes of two individuals disagreeing on certain scenarios. The researchers asked the participants to rate four main scenarios, which included “Do those clouds mean rain?; Would a juju be a good pet?; Is that teacher nice or mean?; and Who is the better artist?” (Mansfield & Clinchy, 2002, p. 232). The researchers found that the children were able to differentiate the objective external world with the subjective internal self. Thus, throughout the scenarios facts and opinions were differentiated as objective facts or subjective opinions (Mansfield and Clinchy, 2002). However, the participants had a harder time explaining their opinions on the scenarios involving the pet and the teacher, as it was based on facts (i.e., what is), which required trying to obtain what is true and what is false (Mansfield & Clinchy, 2002). On the other hand, with regards to the scenarios related to the clouds and the artist, the children at all three time points remained subjective in their responses. Overall, as a result of the small sample size, Mansfield and Clinchy (2002) could not make concrete generalization, although, based on their study, the researchers could conclude that it was difficult for the participants to think objectively when they had subjective opinions in mind. Thus, this demonstrated that depending on one’s mindset when judging these domain-specific categories, this had an impact on the individual’s judgements.

Therefore, in order to relate epistemological understanding research to specific age-related shifts, Kuhn and colleagues’ (2002) findings help shed light on this issue. The researchers found that adolescents and adults were most likely to be in the multiplist level of understanding across domains. However, the pattern was consistent with the notion that adolescents and adults could transition to the evaluativist level of understanding in certain domains (i.e., social and physical truth judgements) or remain absolutists in other domains (i.e., aesthetic judgements). Additionally, males were also more likely to have an absolutist epistemological understanding compared to females with regards to their domain-specific judgements (Mason, Boldrin, & Zurlo, 2006). Thus, this shed light on the age-related shifts in epistemological understanding present in the varying domains, where young children were most likely to be absolutist and multiplists in the majority of their judgements across domains; adolescents were most likely to be multiplist and evaluativist in their judgements across domains; and adults were most likely to be evaluativist in all domains except when making aesthetic judgements, dealing with personal choice (Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn & Park, 2005).

In addition, Banerjee and colleagues (2007) were also concerned with differentiating between facts (i.e., what is) and values (i.e., what ought to be) in relation to epistemic levels. Specifically, the researchers studied how elementary school children were able to distinguish between objective facts and subjective opinions. Hence, in the first experiment, Banerjee and colleagues (2007) asked 88 participants (aged 8 to 9 years old) to look at images of faces and answer a factual question (i.e., rating the age of the individual), as well as a subjective value question (i.e., rating the niceness of the individual). The researchers found that 8 and 9 year old children were able to recognize the objectivity present in the factual belief questions, but were unable to recognize the subjectivity present in the value belief questions (Banerjee et al., 2007). Specifically, children only acquired a multiplist point of view on subjective matters of personal choice in middle childhood. Therefore, children developed subjectivity in their understanding of personal choice judgements between the age of 5 to 11 years old and in middle childhood, children become more aware of the distinction between facts and subjective opinions (Banerjee et al., 2007). Thus, by 8 to 9 years of age, children were transitioning from an absolutist standpoint (i.e., everything was seen as right or wrong, due to the certainty they had in knowledge) to a multiplist standpoint (i.e., which was based on having differing opinions, where knowledge was uncertain).

Furthermore, in the second experiment, Banerjee and colleagues (2007) tested 81 participants aged 6 to 10 years old, in order to determine their judgements of 4 ambiguous factual photographs and 4 opinion based photographs. The researchers found that as early as 6 years old, children were more likely to change their judgements when dealing with factual questions (i.e., what is) as opposed to opinion and value questions (i.e., what ought to be). In addition, when children had difficulty answering opinion based questions, due to the fact that they they did not rely on expert judgements, however, when dealing with difficult factual questions, they heavily relied on expert judgements. Overall, the findings from these two experiments demonstrated that when dealing with opinion based situations (i.e., questions of aesthetic or personal taste) children were able to transition from an absolutist model to a multiplist model, although, when dealing with fact based situations, most children remained in an absolutist mindset, where the focus was on finding a right or wrong answer, in order to have certainty in one’s knowledge (Banerjee et al., 2007)

Overall, children, adolescents and adults understanding of domain-specific judgements vary with age. Specifically, children were most likely to be absolutist in their understanding across domains, which then shifted in late childhood and adolescence (Banerjee et al., 2007; Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn & Park, 2005). Once children grew older, they were able to move passed the notion that they needed to find one right or wrong answer and understood that individuals could have varying opinions about the same thing. This allowed for the transition into the multiplist epistemic level of understanding across domains (Banerjee et al., 2007; Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn & Park, 2005). Finally, adolescents turned into adults who shifted their understanding into evaluativists across domains, where they began to evaluate differing opinions, in order to determine which claim was better than another through justifications based on evidence (Banerjee et al., 2007; Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn & Park, 2005). Therefore, these age-related shifts in epistemological understanding across domains did have some exceptions, due to the fact that in certain domains, transitioning from one level of epistemological understanding to another may have not always been feasible.

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Epistemology and Disagreements Essay. (2022, Apr 04). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/epistemology-and-disagreements-essay/



What are epistemological arguments?
An epistemological argument is an argument that is made in order to gain knowledge about something. Epistemological arguments can be used in order to gain knowledge about the existence of something, or the nature of something.
What is the problem with epistemology?
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and how we acquire it. The problem with epistemology is that it is difficult to say how we can know anything for certain.
Why epistemology is important in our life?
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and it is important in our life because it helps us to understand what we can know and how we can know it. It also helps us to understand the limitations of our knowledge and how we can improve our methods of acquiring knowledge.
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