It was July 26, 9:47 PM. This night, believe it or not, my life changed. It was in the afternoon when I was informed that the International Space Station would be visible to the naked eye, starting at 9:47 pm local time and for five minutes from then. I was, of course, very excited. My whole life, I have been fascinated by space and the unknown. I was and I continue to be passionate about space and I am constantly watching new documentaries about one of my favorite topics.
The University of London International Programmes (UoL) has just begun releasing exam results for students who sat for exams in May. Suppose that on the day that results are released for your program, you access them in the way you’re officially instructed to by UoL, which involves entering your personal information into a UoL-supplied web form. You do precisely as you’re instructed, and as you pull your results up, you learn that you scored a 71 on exam X. ‘Excellent!’ you happily exclaim. And from this information, coupled with your awareness of the fact that all scores of 70 and over merit a first, you validly deduce,
(B) ‘I scored a first in exam X’.
Most of us, on the basis of the information provided above, would unhesitatingly say that you know that you scored a first on exam X. That is, we would ascribe knowledge of (B) to you. And the reason we’d be inclined to say that you have knowledge in this case is because you have excellent reasons for holding a true belief. For you validly inferred (B) from two powerfully supported premises, viz. (1) I scored a 71 on exam X (which is supported by the results you received, in a legitimate way, from a highly reliable source), and (2) all scores over 70 merit a first (which is supported by information received through legitimate sources like student handbooks etc.).
What do we mean when we say “I know”?
As so often happens this seemingly simple question opens a Pandora’s box of more questions which are too important to ignore but too difficult to answer – even more so when the context of the question is theological. For a general discussion on what is knowledge you can check out Wikipedia – what follows is a very short and of course inadequate attempt to highlight some differences, as I see them, between just three kinds of knowledge (Latin scientia, Greek gnosis): scientific, philosophical and theological.
Beverly Sills said, “While performing my concentration is intense. When I finish singing an aria I am so disoriented I do not know where I am”. I thought a lot about the mastery of material required to achieve that level of concentration while planning my revised study plan this year.
My study plan needs to incorporate knowledge of material and expression just like any other great Diva. For me, performances like opera, dance, or sport are great examples for directing study efforts; you have to master basic skills which make exceptional expression possible. For example when you sing and hit a wrong note you must start over from the top or else you train yourself to make the same mistake again and again. This year I reviewed my past exam results then studied the difference between my consistently 2:1 exam scores and my 1:1 goal. I decided to approach the task like Beverly Sills rehearsing Lucia.
Artists who perform intensely emotional roles like Lucia go about it in very logical and disciplined ways. They define what they want to achieve then decide how to achieve that level of performance. Using their example I based my study plan on a thorough review of the ‘Regulations 2010-2011’ publication from The University of London International Programme. It states very clearly what answers for each degree classification are expected to achieve. Comparing the descriptions for answers earning 1:1 and 2:1 marks was very revealing; it immediately showed me what was required and where my efforts should be directed. I decided to use a logic model and work backwards to organize my efforts.