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Nawaraj Thakuri

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can we have knowledge or beliefs which are independent of our culture? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

The question assumes that knowledge or beliefs are dependent of any culture throughout world. Can we apply same thing in natural science, mathematics, and history? What about sense perceptions being affected by our culture? Can it happen?

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  • Aug 23 2012: Yes and No.

    Yes if you define the influence of your own culture narrowly enough.

    No if independent means 100% independent.

    We can certainly have new thoughts, like David's "black holes are big bangs." But if you consider that the idea of black holes and the idea of big bangs are both products of David's culture, then this new thought is not completely independent of his culture.

    Suppose a person from the UK whose only language is English picks up a new piece of knowledge about bricklaying in India. To make this knowledge his own, the Englishman must have it translated from Hindi. Does the translation compromise the 'independence' of this knowledge?

    My point is that independence is not 0% OR 100%, but is relative.

    But if we can agree that anything that is x percent or more independent is 'independent' then yes, of course.
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    Aug 22 2012: There's a book called "On identity" by Amin Maalouf. It basically argues that a person is an amalgamation of all whom he interacts with or the places he visits.
    So, the more well travelled or the more receptive a person is of other cultures and people, the more that person would evolve into a worldly being, and has knowledge or beliefs that are above and beyond his or her own culture.
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      Aug 22 2012: I absolutely agree Imad and Edward,
      The more receptive a person is, the more that person might evolve, with knowledge that may be different than his/her own culture. People who do not consider information which is not consistent with their personal culture may be at a disadvantage, and valuable information may be overlooked.

      As I always say, with a closed mind and heart we deprive ourselves of information which may widen our worldview. Open mind and heart are gifts we can give to ourselves....it is a choice:>)
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      Aug 22 2012: Hi Imad, Surely there are people who travel the world and take their limited vision with them, no?
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        Aug 22 2012: Hey Debra,

        Unfortunately, there are plenty of those. I call them the Marriott and Intercontinental victims of the world that are not willing to try on indian pan or pani puri from the street, dance with the people there in ganesh festival, or stop for a minute or an hour and listen to the wonderful violin player in rome, or help clean up a shore in beirut from an oil spill, or watch the great impromptu band in helsinki, or humbly accept a fisherman's invite to his own house in galle in sri lanka, or play a game of football with the local kids in accra, and maybe help build a house or two there.

        Their loss. Hands down. Definitely. : )
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        Aug 22 2012: :D
        It would definitely appeal to you more if you were in the middle of it! You get so much endorphin rush from this to cut away through life's thick n thin, and we were just a few dozen people in some green park in the desert : ).
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        Aug 22 2012: Unfortunately, too many ".......travel the world and take their limited vision with them". Did you ever read the book " The Ugly American"?
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          Aug 22 2012: Colleen. no I honestly never did.
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          Aug 23 2012: Wait, I've watched one "The ugly american" with Marlon Barndo quite some time back. Hmm come to think about it, contextually (limited vision), this movie is spot on. Not sure if its the same plot as to the book that you're referring to Colleen, but i'll bet some of my stocks that it is.
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          Aug 23 2012: I'll bet some of my "few" facebook stock. pffft (so much for the IPO). haha.

          I've developed a taste for good old movies. They dont make them like they used to anymore. The harry potter's and spiderman's of today arent just cutting it for me, for some very weird reason. : )

          On a separate note, I do not get TED's idea of limiting replies depth. Or they need to adopt facebook's model. I'll stop the #subjectDigression for now.
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        Aug 22 2012: haha, prepare yourself, March 2013. worse comes to worst, we skype!
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          Aug 22 2012: Its a DEAL! Thank you!
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          Aug 23 2012: Yes Imad, the book was made into a movie staring Marlon Brando, and I agree that the context is "spot on" as you insightfully say....which is why I brought it into the discussion:>)

          How much of your stock are you betting? LOL Yes, I believe it is one and the same.

          You do not look old enough in your profile pic to be aware of it however!
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        Aug 22 2012: Hi Debra,
        "The Ugly American" is a very old novel (1958) with some historical background regarding this topic, and your question. I read it as a very young lass, and decided NOT to be an "ugly american" when traveling...or any other time for that matter:>)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_American
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          Aug 23 2012: Thank you Colleen, i have stated before that i believe NO nation has a monopoly on rude travellers. I travelled through Europe with a group of Americans when I was 18 and we were studying History and Politics. I loved my companions.
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        Aug 23 2012: Of course Debra,
        There are wonderful people everywhere...that has been my experience traveling throughout our world:>)

        I was responding to your question in a previous comment on this thread...
        "Surely there are people who travel the world and take their limited vision with them, no?"

        Yes, there are...you are correct.
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    Aug 22 2012: Absolutely we can have knowledge and beliefs which are not in perfect harmony with our cultural doctrines. In fact, people who refuse to consider information that is opposed to, or not consistent with, their personal cultural environment are at a distinct disadvantage. Much valid and valuable information will be deliberately overlooked. The potential for embracing error is increased when information friendly to one's culture is readily accepted without proper scrutiny.
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    Sep 6 2012: There are probably no absolutes in this regards.
    Can we be 100% independent of our culture.
    Where does our culture end.
    Perhaps the whole planet is more or less part of our culture now we are connected

    Also possibly a circular argument
    We are part of our culture, so if we have an idea it is automatically part of our culture.
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    Sep 4 2012: I'm going to approach the question from a slightly different perspective, and propose a new idea that (I don't think) has been presented here yet.

    B. Tylor in his book, Primitive Culture, published in 1871, said that culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."

    But I think we alll live in a multitude of cultures today. We don't really have just "one culture" we draw upon. Here is a totally layman's example.

    I live in the USA. That is one culture...I am "an American", with an American culture. But I also live in a State within the USA that can have a different culture. In my example of the "laws" I have to decide to follow, I have 3 different cultures creating 3 different laws I must follow about the "same thing".

    My federal government allows each state to determine it's own level of DUI (Driving While Intoxicated). I can be "legal" at say .05 in one state, but if I cross the border in my car into an adjoining state, I may immediately be illegal based on their cultural belief and limit. So there are two different cultures I have encountered, based on two different beliefs about my alcohol consumption. But wait...I'm also a Private Pilot, and my federal government (FAA) says it is illegal for me to act as Pilot In Command if I have ingested ANY alcohol within 8 hours. Third cultural law I have to abide by, indicating ANY alcohol consumption degrades my ability to function normally. Hmmm...

    So, who's ONE culture am I believing in at any given time? I would have to say I MUST be independant of MULTIPLE cultural influences on me every day of my life, even in the same areas the cultural differences may exist, depending on the circumstances. "...as a member of Society" as B. Tylor indicated, is the driving factor. But how many different "societies" influence you every day, even within your own country? Or in the world today?
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      Sep 6 2012: Agree there can be many layers to culture, and they don't all stop at the border of a suburb, town, state or nation
  • Sep 4 2012: If a person has knowledge and a belief that is separate from what others in their culture have, then that knowledge was bestowed upon him/her was by definition very rare. This is very possible and, ironically, quite frequent. What is nearly impossible is to reflect on this knowledge/belief outside the context of one's culture. So it is nearly impossible to have a meaningful belief that is not shaped by one's culture.
    My question to you is "Are you referring specifically to religious revelations?" I believe it is very possible to have a religious revelation, but one's interpretation of it is totally dependent upon one's culture and religion.
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    Aug 22 2012: I think black holes are big bangs, and I did so before a scientist wrote a book about it. I think matter, is having sex with other matter, at the center of suns... and I think that when the library at Alexandria burned, humanity lost solar concentration technology first discovered by the Egyptians, or their predecessors. I've never heard anyone else suggest any of these things.
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    Aug 22 2012: Hi! I am not really sure we are very good at getting past cultural indoctrination. it is after all the medium in which we have our being and our lives.
    We are born with abilities and temperaments and for the few that are sufficiently open to experience there is opportunity to become aware of the greater world but it takes dedication to swim out of one's own waters.
    The one great hope for it lies within the grasp of those who read widely in far flung fields so that they can cross polinate at the level of thinkers or with world travellers who see how it can be and is done with other people.