Knowledge is tied to technology.
Technology changes as it develops.
Therefore, knowledge changes due to impact of technology.
To further clarify my preposition, technology develops because of scientific development. Knowledge is bound to change since all things change in some way, to different extents. As technology develops, it enables us to discover new things that were previously unknown, thus increasing our knowledge. Therefore, there is no limit to our knowledge, since there is no limit to the development of technology. Technological development and change is exponential, so the change in knowledge will be exponential as well, since there is a correlation between the two.
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Philosophical inquiry consists of asking questions about assumptions from a field of inquiry in order to gain results. My theory is slightly different from this definition; my theory is that we ask these questions in order to make our knowledge in this field change. Today, there are techniques that are accepted as part of the scientific method, but there are huge, contentious debates about their validity. I think that these debates are valid, but not very important, since the most important question to ask is “How do these techniques change our knowledge?” There is no point in fighting over the methods if it results in nothing being produced; rather we should focus on production instead.
Image created by Bartolomeu Velho, courtesy of Wikipedia
Before the Copernican Revolution, Aristotle’s theory that the Sun and other planets orbited the Earth in circular orbits was commonly endorsed. Copernicus was the first to improve on the heliocentric theory that the Earth orbited the Sun, and over the course of a century, astronomers such as Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei challenged scientific knowledge of that age, in a period known as the Copernican Revolution. These astronomers further built and refined Copernicus’ theory with the advancement of technology. Brahe built an observatory, where he and his apprentice, Johannes Kepler, made important discoveries about the stars; Galileo improved on the designs of a spectacle maker, Hans Lippershey, to build a more powerful telescope. This improved telescope enabled Galileo to make monumental discoveries that forever altered astronomical knowledge, such as the discovery that Jupiter had four moons orbiting it. This challenged Aristotle’s belief that all heavenly bodies orbit the Earth, thus creating a paradigm shift.
“Logic is, in essence, pure abstraction, produced by thought alone. Without the material of observation statements, it has no meaning on its own. Logic can be used to derive knowledge from experience, but not to produce knowledge by itself. Logical and mathematical truths are true only within the language of logic itself; they are then applied to statements about experience and used to infer new statements about experience. So the theory goes, at least.”
– Stephen Downes
Mr. Downes wrote the above quote in his blog, and makes very insightful points in it. Galileo was able to give meaning to his logic using his observations about the planets; his knowledge changed as he discovered new things using new technology. Knowledge is a combination of logic and its application to experiences; it is not purely one or the other.
Paul Fereyabend was a notable philosopher of science, who advocated that all scientific methods should be allowed in order to allow scientific progress.
“For is it not possible that science as we know it today, or a “search for the truth” in the style of traditional philosophy, will create a monster? Is it not possible that an objective approach that frowns upon personal connections between the entities examined will harm people, turn them into miserable, unfriendly, self-righteous mechanisms without charm or humour?” – Paul Fereyabend, Against Method. p. 154
In this quote, he advances an interesting point that not many scientists would be inclined to endorse. If only one type of procedure is allowed for scientific inquiry, it will result in stagnation in discovery. In addition, if scientists are discouraged from making personal connections to their inquiry, then their input would have been lost, and breakthrough discoveries may not have materialized.
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived before Socrates, believed in the Flux Doctrine, where things are always constantly changing in order to remain the same.
B12. potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei.
On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow. -Heraclitus
Heraclitus’ quote illustrates the example of a person crossing a river. If the person crosses the river a second time, the river would still exist as a river, but the water that the person stepped into is different from the water the person stepped into the first time.
A more relevant example would be one involving a burger. The person who purchased the burger then proceeds to eat it, and because his hunger is not satisfied, he buys another burger. The second burger is a still a burger because of its characteristics, but at the same time, it is not the same burger that was originally purchased.
The two examples above show that the base of knowledge is the same, but yet it is different because of different environments or conditions. However, changes to the base of knowledge can occur with changes and improvements in technology.