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Knowledge, Power and Control

Satisfactory Essays
Knowledge, Power and Control

In this paper, I propose to examine some of the issues that arise as a result of the relationship between knowledge and power, and specifically those that concern who should control knowledge and disseminate it in society. This subject is discussed in the writings of Plato and is also commented on by such medieval thinkers as Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Moses Maimonides and St. Thomas Aquinas from the Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions respectively and their views will be briefly outlined here. Despite the religious, historical and cultural differences which distinguish their approaches from one another, what is remarkable is the similarity in the conclusions that they reach about how noetic power and control is acquired and exercised. They all insist that knowledge should be made selectively available to certain individuals and groups according to noetic ability and social position in the context of the envisaged socio-political model of community that is in operation. Knowledge is perceived as a conserving influence on individual and political life, to be transmitted preferably in an essentially unaltered state in order to maintain sustain the desired socio-cultural value system and power structure. The emphasis is on respect for tradition and for the origins and status of the noetic content to be transmitted through the expertise of those delegated to act as transmitting agents. The content of knowledge is frequently portrayed as mysterious and mystifying, only capable of proper interpretation by appointed specialists. The role of teaching is consequently important since the teacher is the community's appointed expert for disseminating knowledge, as and when appropriate, according to the receptive abilities of those who learn.

This epistemological approach appears to be in sharp contrast to the contemporary view of someone like Paulo Freire who insists that knowledge must be democratically available to everyone in order to politically transform society transformation through social justice.(1) This aim is achieved when the noetic process becomes a critical reading of reality, a reflection in action which is applied so that traditional ways of thinking constitute a permanent subject for reinterpretation. Knowledge is perceived in Freirean epistemology as a medium of communication between human beings, a process in which there is no permanently unaltered noetic data but rather an ongoing dialectic strategically pursued through contradiction and constantly aimed at radically redefining how people can coexist in a state of social equality. According to this view, knowledge offers everyone the possibility to think more critically about the world so as to act on it in a more humanising way.
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