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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Paradigm Shifts and Knowledge Acquisition

It is my opinion that the most important things we know (knowledge) cannot be justified with easily reducible logic.

By "we", I mean myself and anyone else, including imagined entities comprised of aggregates, such as a "nation" or "Gaea" or "science".

This is not to say that they (our knowledge of this kind) are leaps of faith or irrational conclusions. Just that they are conclusions arrived at using the available evidence in a manner which is sufficiently complex enough so as to not allow for trivial inquiry. (Ask anyone in love, whether with nature, woman or god, to explain why and there are not volumes on earth to contain this revelation.)

Fortunately, there are methods of inquiry with which these conclusions can be tested, known as "experimentation" ... thus without necessitating an understanding of "why" a thing is correct, we can infer it's correctness in, at least, a broad range of circumstances.

Some would call these sorts of revelations "hypothesis", thereby implying that they require testing. Is love tested? Of course. Is it a hypotheses? Perhaps, but I think most would feel uncomfortable defining love in this way. And although it meets the criteria for a hypothesis, I think there is something more to this kind of knowledge. Something that perhaps does include a bit of faith, and a bit of emotion yet not without the temperance of reason.

Some time in the last century, mankind has "fallen out of love" with this kind of knowledge. Radical insight, love and passion have been surgically replaced, in the circles of academia and in business, with logic, organization and efficiency.

The modern replacement of the "insight & experiment" model of discovery is "proof and derivation". Whether it applies to linguistics or particle physics, this model is no substitute. Each model suffers from the others lack, and it seems to me that the balance now sits far in the field of "derivers" who are busy staring at themselves in mirrors and admiring the fractal nature of inquiry that guarantees them larger and larger budgets without need for results.

(I've run out of steam)

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