Belief and Knowledge

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Area: History and Social Studies, Math and Logic, Science
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: Epistemology
Estimated Time Necessary: 45-60 minutes

Lesson Plan

To think about the differences between belief and knowledge.
By coming up with examples of things they believe and things they know, students will discuss what makes the difference between believing something and knowing something.

Have each person write down on a piece of paper:

  1. Three things they believe
  2. Three things they know

Once everyone has their statements, then have them pair up to talk about their claims, and why they put them in the category they did. This should get them started on a conversation about the difference between belief and knowledge.

Then have the group come together and have the pairs offer examples of what they agreed were beliefs and what they agreed counted as knowledge.

Then ask the group:

Do they agree with where all the statements are listed? If not, why not?

What does it take for something we believe to count as knowledge? Consider things like whether we have direct experience of it, whether it is more “objective”, whether it is certain or at least justified, etc.

Can we know something we don’t believe? (e.g., maybe in those “I have to pinch myself moments”? Why would we say we can’t really believe it?)

Can we ever know things? Can we really be wrong about things we thought we knew?

This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Sara Goering, University of Washington.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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