How do we Know

How Do We Know?

We cannot know about things we do not have a belief in. It makes no sense to say, “I know the earth is spherical, but I don’t believe it”. Yet it is important to note that believing something does not guarantee that the belief is right.

(Dew and Foreman 2014)

This quote from How Do We Know caused me to reflect about how we understand ‘knowledge’ in risk and safety. I wondered how some people working in our industry may respond to Dew and Foreman’s notion that “beliefs act as a first step” toward ‘knowledge’, and importantly whether our industry is mature enough to contemplate the thought that some part of ‘knowing’ is based on the subjective notion of ‘beliefs’.

I can sense by now that the Safety Crusaders reading this are thinking, “That is just ridiculous, knowledge is simply about competency and assessment, either people know stuff or they don’t, it’s got nothing to do with wishy washy beliefs. That’s just not the way things are done in risk and safety.” They may also be asking; “how can you measure beliefs?” This is probably because they adopt the approach of ‘what you can’t measure you can’t manage’. If you don’t pass the test, you don’t ‘know’, so therefore you just have to keep doing the test until you pass. That’s how we know that you know!

I’m guessing that if you have reached this point in the article that either you have some real interest in learning more about ‘how do we know’, or perhaps you are in such a state of ‘dissonance’ that you feel the need to read more just so you can disagree even further.

So what of this idea that belief may act as a first step toward knowledge?


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