Sunday, June 2, 2013

Knowledge, but little mastery

I've been doing a lot of reading of others, but haven't had much to say in a blog post lately. One of the things I've realized is that every blogger engages in a lot of repetition, making the same points over and over in response to new circumstances. So far, I haven't been motivated to do that. So, that's why I have not said much lately. However, I'm thinking about starting up again. I do have a point of view that I don't see expressed often, i.e., that formal knowledge (the understanding of the creation of argumentation forms and their use) is a distinct type of knowledge from either empirical knowledge (gained from experimentation and exploration in the natural world) or first principles (basic values and understandings that we hold without evidence).

While I'm still mulling that over, today's comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal hit another dimension of some things I've read.

One of the notions I've read is that science changed from understanding the natural, in an appreciation of Aristotle's four causes and an attempt to encourage them, to an attempt at mastery. In particular, that science has abandoned the notion of form (the proper shape of something, that the something always seeks to emulate) and purpose (the reason for something to exist, with a thing's goodness being tied up in how well exhibits/accomplishes this reason). Supposedly, this freed up science to be about mastery of the world and shaping it into want men wished it to be, as opposed to what it was supposed to be.

The problems with this view are numerous, and I have discussed some of them before. However, one I don't recall mentioning is that it diminishes the sense of wonder, awe, and helplessness we feel at our inability to master nature. We had to give up respecting made-up natures to appreciate actual nature. It was a good trade.

Read more!