Practical Cognition Essay Research Paper Practical CognitionTheories

Practical Cognition Essay, Research Paper Practical Cognition Theories of Knowledge (Karl Marx) In his early years of writing, Karl Marx’s ideas were similar to American

Practical Cognition Essay, Research Paper

Practical Cognition

Theories of Knowledge (Karl Marx)

In his early years of writing, Karl Marx’s ideas were similar to American

Pragmatism, especially his ideas about epistemology. He defines truth in a

pragmatic fashion and explains cognition in terms of practical needs of the

human being. While some of his ideas were not followed to their logical

conclusion, nor made sense, the fundamentals of his epistemology contain

valuable ideas which can be viewed as furthering pragmatism as a respectable

philosophy. His theory of cognition states that cognition is a biological

function of the human which is used as a tool for his survival.

Marx defines truth in a pragmatic way. The truth value of a judgement is due to

the usefulness of accepting or rejecting the judgement. A statement is true if

accepting it makes a positive difference or has a helpful influence and it is

false if accepting it causes difficulty or dissatisfaction. The meaning of a

statement is the practical result of accepting the statement. In general, then,

the truth or falsity of a statement is relative, not only to the individual

accepting or rejecting the statement, but also to the circumstances in which

that person finds himself. Truth is relative, but Marx is not an extreme

relativist (no one to be taken seriously is) because there is a constraint to

how relative the truth can be; Humans are making the truth judgements, and

humans have a common element, viz . their needs, which do not vary greatly

between people.

Humans are in contact with nature at a fundamental level. The human

understanding of nature is a consequence of the fact that nature confronts

humans when they try to fulfill their needs. This is the case with any organism,

and each species reacts according to the tools of that species. One of the human

tools is the intellect, and it works through the cognition of the perception of

elements of nature. Cognition occurs as the organizing of sensory data into

categories. Without the ability to make generalizations, man would not be able

to think. Moreover, the human capacity to think is exactly the same as making

abstractions about experience. There is nothing more to descriptions of the

world than those abstractions. Details about the world are described only in

terms of generalizations, for if there were a word for a specific detail unique

to only one event, then that word would be nothing but a name -an abbreviation

for the term, the specific detail x , unique to only this one event, y .

The assimilation of the external world, which is at first

biological, subsequently social and therefore human, occurs as an

organization of the raw material of nature in an effort to

satisfy needs; cognition, which is a factor in the assimilation,

cannot evade this universal determinism. To ask how an observer

would see a world whose essence was pure thinking and

consciousness of which was defined exclusively by a disinterested

cognitive effort, is to ask a barren question, for all

consciousness is actually born of practical needs, and the act of

cognition itself is a tool designed to satisfy these needs.(1)

A world which is independent of what humans might think, which is what the

logical positivists seek to know, is useless to humans, and impossible for a

human to comprehend. Even to say, It is impossible for a human to comprehend the

world in its pure form, words the problem incorrectly because the very meaning

of comprehend contradicts anything which is not artificially broken into


According to Marx, the world seems to be naturally divided into species and

genera, not because the world divides them as such, but because man is at odds

with his environment at a fundamental level and the categories into which his

world is divided are a natural result of his effort to survive.

We do not have concepts that are not useful to our survival, or do not help us

in our endeavors, though such concepts could easily fit in our intellectual

capacity. We could ostensibly make the general dichotomy of objects that either

ding or thud when hit regardless of whether such a dichotomy is useful. We do

not have a word for such a dichotomy. The point is that “natural” distinctions

are still artificially applied by the human intellect upon the world which has

no such distinctions inherently, but those distinctions seem natural because

they helped humans survive and succeed in their efforts. Marx’s theory of

knowledge is a form of pragmatism which includes elements of Darwinism that

explain how certain types of categorizing became prevalent.