Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Overview of the Project: The Knowledge Producing Enterprise

The phrase "knowledge explosion" usually refers to "what is known" in some abstract sense, as if there was an official (World) Storehouse of Knowledge (WSoK). A common way to quantify it, so as to draw exponentially rising graphs, is to count academic journal pages, or maybe not all, but certainly scientific journal pages.

Yesterday I asked myself:  "If one person in some discipline has arrived at some correct conclusions, such that a decade from now everybody will know he was right, while the other hundred people in their discipline think the opposite and even supposing his argument or demonstration would pass muster with the toughest epistemologists* can we say 'it is known', or it belongs in the WSoK?"

Monday, March 12, 2018

Science in a Nutshell: From Projectiles to Invisible Elephants to Plate Tectonics

Science in a Nutshell: From Projectiles to Invisible Elephants to Plate Tectonics

For our pre-technical ancestors, the clockwork at the bottom of the material world was so clothed in messiness that hardly a trace of it appeared on the surface.  But you could say that three exposed bits collectively formed a Rosetta stone to the mathematical language of nature:  a thrown rock, a pendulum, and the solar system, revealed by the night sky.  The last had to be viewed from such a difficult angle that reams of tables, centuries worth of exact observations, and a huge advance in mathematics were required to see it, but it was there to be seen.

Clockwork Model of the Solar System, source: Wikimedia, Creative Commons 20

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Knowledge Producing Enterprise: Introduction

Old, Overly Verbose Intro to this blog, but with some account of how I got here.

Mma Ramotswe, heroine of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels has an annoying habit of prefacing sometimes controversial statements with “It is well known that…”.  Epistemologists (philosophers of knowledge) for centuries had an annoying habit of treating “It is known” or some equivalent as the only distinction worth making w.r.t. truth and knowledge.  Not whether I know or you know, but seemingly just the abstract notion of whether a given justification for a proposition really, really qualifies it as knowledge.  Whether one person or a million know X is not a matter for discussion.  Anyway, the chances are if a million people “know” something, they don’t know it in a philosophically justified way, so if asked  how many Americans know that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen, they might say hardly any.  Social Epistemology offers some promise of rising above this dilemma, but surveying where it is today, I don’t see it happening.
My opinion is there may be little practical benefit to discussing knowledge in this way.  Maybe the very idea of discussing or studying knowledge is the problem.  Maybe the difficulties of advocates of rationality or critical thinking are due to this focus on this strange thing called knowledge - a product of the “view from nowhere”, which tends to break down in the social domain.