[lit-ideas] Re: When do we know enough?

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 13:29:02 +0000 (GMT)

--- Eric Yost <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> "At what point do I have enough to say that I have 
> made a significant
> addition to understanding whatever it is that I 
> have chosen to study?"
> John makes a quick segue from the type of factual 
> knowledge held in an understanding of a subway 
> system to the kind of "knowledge" that Turner may 
> have held in completing a watercolor. 

Donal is about to make a quick seque from this type of post into

>It made me 
> uneasy so I have to pick at his idea a bit.

This kind if sequing also makes me feel uneasy, and as for picking at

> The subway knowledge is analytical and process 
> oriented. 

(It is not obviously analytical as opposed to synthetic [to give one sense to
this statement].) Nor do I think it less "process oriented" than art (unless
we define "process" in some pragmatic fashion so that a "process" that leads
you from your home to work is more "oriented", for example because it helps
earn you a living, than one that leads you to go home and play some of your
favourite music).

We learn the components and extend that 
> knowledge outward, e.g., subway car 
> interior--->function of subway car 
> seating--->ergonomics of subway car 
> seats--->material design of subway car seats. The 
> subway car interior arrow ---> could have gone to 
> car lighting or to hand-rungs or to any other 
> components  of the subway car because the 
> knowledge is analysis of a process based on 
> current knowledge of material physics.

Sorry. I have mentioned Popper before. He is clear that such an "analysis" of
such a "process" involves much more that a "current knowledge of material
physics". Nor is it merely based on any such knowledge. It is obvious and not
irrelevant that many people can negotiate the subway without such
"knowledge". The "subway" involves World 1, 2 and 3 (and not merely "material
physics" [ie.W1]) if we are to offer an "analysis" of how it arises and

> The Turner knowledge is synthetic (if it is 
> knowledge). We learn to see and learn to paint 
> what we can see, so we can learn to see and again 
> paint what we see. Painting a sunrise over a 
> harbor, Turner finishes when he best captures what 
> he has seen and has been able to paint. If there 
> were a process arrow ---> here, it would spiral in 
> and out of the acts of seeing and painting.
> The learning never stops, agreed, but it's not the 
> same kind of learning. Though one innovation in 
> subway cars might trigger other innovations in 
> other aspects of the subway cars and influence 
> changes in the entire subway system, the synthesis 
> would occur in bits and pieces, the work of many 
> people, and be governed by material physics 
> advances rather than a way of seeing.

See above re W1 W2 and W3: changes in the "subway system" are not merely
governed by "material physics advances", which themselves depend anyway on
W123 interaction. These "advances" may involve changes in "a way of seeing"
also. What differs the scientific aspect of "subway" advances from the
non-scientific aspect of Turner advances (or changes in ways of "seeing")
lies in the idea of testability by oberservation; but in any such discussion
it should be remembered that there are aspects of subway advances that are
not testable by observation in this way (eg. aesthetic advances) and aspects
of Turner's art (eg. the particular physical effect of combining certain
colours) that are testable by observation.
> Put another way, I learn more and more about the 
> subway. Soon I become knowledgeable about the 
> subway. Turner, however, was as knowledgeable 
> about his first painting as he was about his 
> fiftieth painting. Why? Because the knowledge (if 
> it is knowledge) of that first painting is not the 
> same knowledge as the knowledge of the fiftieth 
> painting.

This conclusion is unconvincing and unsupported by what is stated before. We
may as well say of the mechanic who fixes my car engine - that he was as
knowledgeable about the first engine he fixed as about the fiftieth. Why?
"Because the knowledge (if 
> it is knowledge) of that first [engine] is not the 
> same knowledge as the knowledge of the fiftieth 
> [engine].

Hardly. For even of the knowledge is not "the same" that does not mean it is
as "knowledgable" in both cases.


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