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The general perception of education is that the more we study, and therefore the more we know should make us feel more confident within the subject. This general idea is contradicted by JW von Goethe’s  statement. In the context of this question, the word knowledge can be defined as what we know from experience or other sources which we have evidence from. The word doubt can mean questioning what we believe to be true to find possible errors in our knowledge or simply not believing in something. Doubt provokes our mind to question our knowledge as well as it gives off a feeling uncertainty. The two areas of knowledge I will focus my discussion on are History and Chemistry. Chemistry is a natural science which heavily relies on the scientific method. The scientific method is what defines an investigation as truly scientific more than the subject matter of the investigation. It involves several strict stages, all of which must be followed, to arrive at a demonstrable conclusion. Through these stages doubt is decreased as far as possible by trying to find evidence which minimises the amount of questions that  can arise doubt. However, history on the other hand is very much based on opinions and the evaluation of evidence, these evaluations can be different looking at the context and culture. Therefore there is not one opinion which all historians agree on, but many different interpretations which all look at the same aspect differently. As chemists are very keen on finding one final answer to a question there is a dispute between historians and chemists as historians don’t look for a final answer but for a strong argument which is likely to decrease doubt while increasing knowledge at the same time. 

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An area of knowledge which seems to support Goethes statement in many areas is History.  By looking at the event of the Nazi Sportpalast speech in 1943 the general reaction to the speech is very enthusiastic, as the people in the hall which were addressed as the whole nation cheered constant and were keen to follow the leader. The doubt of this being the general reaction to the speech becomes probable only when additional knowledge of the people present was published as most of them were well known national socialist supporters which were already in contact with Goebbels. Historians disagree about the reliability of the Sportpalast speech reflecting on the general opinion about the leader. The dispute between historians is due to the different ways of gaining knowledge as well as the different ways of interpreting this knowledge. Historians gaining first hand knowledge by interviewing people who were present during the speech probably have a different opinion to those who solely rely on what is reported after the speech.  Therefore by the addition of the knowledge doubt increases which adds value to Goethes statement. 

However, one way in which Goethes statement is contradicted is by looking at the periodic table within Chemistry. The periodic table is heavily based on patterns and trends, which is how it was possible to predict all the elements in the periodic table with appropriate physical and chemical properties before they were discovered, as the scientists used their previous knowledge to try and spot a tendency within the periodic table. Mendeleev was able to  look at the trends across periods and down groups, using his empirical knowledge and predict the missing elements properties like atomic mass,  density etc. He used reason and logic to predict that the properties of the elements, which was later to be called gallium, would be a melting point between 28 and 31, and atomic mass of approximately 70, without the broad knowledge Mendeleev had about the periodic table he would have never been able to make accurate predictions, even with his use of reason. Gallium was found in 1875, its properties were found to be close to Mendeleev’s predictions. When his first predictions were proven to be correct his confidence increased that his other predictions were correct as well as he was able to make more accurate prediction as with his increased knowledge his confidence increased. This shows that Goethes statement is not always correct as we are able to make more accurate predictions,  averages and estimates with increased knowledge. 

Nevertheless, there are other examples that Goethes statement can be seen as being valid is, for example by looking at Mata Haris execution in 1917, which is a highly discussed topic as many historians have expressed their doubts about whether she was actually guilty.  She was executed by the French for being a double agent and passing on valuable information to the Germans during world war one. However doubt about her espionage actions in the First Word War have increased due to the publication of her trial documents. The knowledge which was gained by reading the documents does not help to confirm her guilt of being a German spy, but helps to show her in an innocent image as there was no actual evidence of what information she passed on. Without the knowledge of the missing evidence, most historians are likely to have assumed that she was guilty, therefore this increase of knowledge increased doubt as well. When she was prosecuted they were confident she was guilty, but now that knowledge has increased and the French documents have also been published that she was set up by the Germans to look like a spy  even though she had never passed on any information. Therefore this example adds value to the statement because knowing more in her case increased the doubt of her guilt but without any further researched knowledge people would have been confident to accuse her of espionage as that was what she was convicted for. 

Although there have been examples that indicate that Goethes statement has some value, looking at the melting points of the elements in period 3 can lead to disagreement. By research Aluminium Oxide was found to have the highest melting point looking at the periodic table, not including the transition metals. Scientists would not have been able to say with confidence that this is the case without the knowledge they had previously gained from experiments. The doubt many scientists expressed about this theory was great, however after they repeated the experiments and were able to gain this knowledge from experience rather than from a second hand source it became accepted. By looking at indicators like Fajans rules which look at ionic charge and size it became clear that Aluminium Oxide  has the highest charge as well as it is one of the smallest therefore it has huge attraction, making it really hard to break making the melting point extremely high. Without this additional knowledge scientists wouldn’t have been as confident about the structure of Aluminium Oxide which goes against that principle Goethes statement is trying to bring across which decreases its validity. 
Looking at both areas of knowledge, when a presentation is held in either Chemistry or History it is more likely that a person with more knowledge appears to be confident, rather than someone with limited or no knowledge. Confidence is a causation of knowledge in this case and also decreases the doubt. Therefore, no matter what subject it is Goethes statement of “We know with confidence only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases” can be seen as incorrect when not talking about the specific subject. However, looking at individual subjects and cases it is more likely that the statement is seen as correct as most answered questions cause more knowledge questions to arise. 

To conclude, by focusing my arguments on Chemistry and History I found this statement to be looking valid  at the different aspects of Mata Haris prosecution and execution, as over the past 100 years the doubt of her being guilty of espionage have increased as well as the famous Goebbels speech which is demanding total retaliation to the war. However, looking at the predictions of the elements within the periodic table as well as the trends down the groups and across the period the statement can be seen as invalid. The statement can be looked at from many angles therefore allowing many different viewpoints. However, weighing up the arguments I agree with Goethes statement about knowledge. The publication of Mata Hari’s prosecution and execution documents enabled additional knowledge which caused the arias more and more questions arise when one question is answered which is why I believe doubt is increased when knowledge increases.  Even though in the case of Chemistry there are ares which can lead to more clarity and confidence due to more knowledge, there are also questions of the validity of these theories, as after all these principles are just theories where it is possible that they will be proven wrong.