Well, a brand new term has begun here at the University of Oregon, and just two days in I’m already encountering nifty little nuggets of wisdom and information that I’d never encountered or considered before. (Quick side note that is directly related to this: I’m taking four courses this term–yikes–so my postings here through March may be even more infrequent than usual, but let’s hope that isn’t the case.)
I quickly wanted to share the “four methods of knowing” that Kerlinger and Lee1 identified (these are, by the way, taken and paraphrased from Mass Media Research: An Introduction2, which is our textbook for Quantitative Methods). They are:
- The method of tenacity. The idea that “something is true because it has always been true.” This is dogged stubbornness and can comprise a refusal to acknowledge new ideas.
- The method of intuition. Also called the a priori approach. This is a reliance on intuitions or “gut feelings.”
- The method of authority. This is a belief in something because someone in a position of power, whether that be a religious, political or some other type of leader, says so. This can easily be problematic when said authority figure is wrong (see this list of known cult suicides, for example).
- The scientific method. Ah, fresh air! Knowledge comes from a process of incremental tests and hypotheses; the “truth” is found through “a series of objective analyses.”
While there is nothing wrong, per se, with the methods of knowing via tenacity, intuition and/or authority, they can’t and shouldn’t be the only ways we acquire our information. I do fear, however, that many Americans are doing exactly that–and as an academic, I will endeavor to change that as best I can.