Saturday, September 8, 2018
1. “The quality of knowledge is best measured by how many people accept it.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
2. “The production of knowledge is always a collaborative task and never solely a product of the individual.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
3. Do good explanations have to be true?
4. “Disinterestedness is essential in the pursuit of knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
5. “The production of knowledge requires accepting conclusions that go beyond the evidence for them.” Discuss this claim.
6. “One way to assure the health of a discipline is to nurture contrasting perspectives.” Discuss this claim.
Friday, March 2, 2018
- “Existing classification systems steer the acquisition of new knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
- “Technology provides ever-expanding access to shared knowledge. Therefore, the need to assimilate such knowledge personally is relentlessly diminishing.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
- Are disputes over knowledge claims within a discipline always resolvable? Answer this question by comparing and contrasting disciplines taken from two areas of knowledge.
- “Those who have knowledge don’t predict. Those who predict don’t have knowledge” (Lao Tzu). Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
- “Too much relevant knowledge in a field might be a hindrance to the production of knowledge in that field.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
- “The importance of establishing incontrovertible facts is overestimated. Most knowledge deals in ambiguity.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
1. “The fields of study of academic disciplines can overlap, but adopting interdisciplinary approaches to the production of knowledge leads only to confusion.” Discuss this claim.
2. “We know with confidence only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases” (adapted from JW von Goethe). Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
3. “Without the assumption of the existence of uniformities there can be no knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
4. “Suspension of disbelief” is an essential feature of theatre. Is it essential in other areas of knowledge? Develop your answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.
5. “The quality of knowledge produced by an academic discipline is directly proportional to the duration of historical development of that discipline.” Explore this claim with reference to two disciplines.
6. “Robust knowledge requires both consensus and disagreement.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
Some of them are not easy to decode, so all the best with them!
Friday, March 3, 2017
Saturday, September 3, 2016
1. “It is only knowledge produced with difficulty that we truly value.”
To what extent do you agree with this statement?
2. “Facts are needed to establish theories but theories are needed to make sense of facts.”
Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge
3. Should key events in the historical development of areas of knowledge always be
judged by the standards of their time?
4. “In the production of knowledge, traditions of areas of knowledge offer correctives
for ways of knowing.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
5. Given access to the same facts, how is it possible that there can be disagreement
between experts in a discipline? Develop your answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.
6. “Humans are pattern seeking animals and we are adept at finding patterns
whether they exist or not” (adapted from Michael Shermer). Discuss knowledge
questions raised by this idea in two areas of knowledge.
Good luck to you all!
Thursday, March 17, 2016
1. "The acquisition of knowledge is more a matter of recognition than of judgement." Evaluate this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
2. "Is the availability of more data always helpful in the production of knowledge?" Explore this question with reference to two areas of knowledge.
3. "Conflicting knowledge claims always involve a difference in perspective." Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.
4. "Error is as valuable as accuracy in the production of knowledge." To what extent is this the case in two areas of knowledge?
5. "Metaphor makes no contribution to knowledge but is essential for understanding." Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
6. " Ways of knowing operate differently in personal and shared knowledge." Assess this claim.
Good luck to all of you submitting n September 2016!
Thursday, December 3, 2015
‘It’s gone viral!’ is a common enough expression in the 21st
century world of digital mania, in which ideas and experiences are disseminated,
verified and shared through various social media. But can we apply the same metaphor to ‘knowledge’? A virus is many things: uncomfortable,
potentially fatal and, above all, contagious.
If we graft the metaphor of natural selection onto the metaphoric use of
the idea of a virus, what insights can we generate?
Very simply put, a virus needs a ‘vector’ or host and like any reproductive organism, it uses the host to replicate itself. The contagious part ensures that the cycle of replication continues…
But what makes the virus resistant and ensures its survival? Like with any organic species, it must have a ‘survival value’, a trait or quality that is selected for by nature that allows it to adapt to its changing environment. In the case of a viral cell, it appears this trait is its ‘ability’ both to merge so fully with its host cell and to mutate so quickly, that it often resists detection by our immune system or other lines of defence like drugs.
What of knowledge then? It can be uncomfortable and potentially fatal, but contagious? It seems odd to describe knowledge as something that infects us, but surely the mechanism that ensures the survival of some knowledge at the expense of other knowledge works in the same ‘evolutionary’ manner.
Consider creation myths about the origins of the universe. They were once infectious and are now more dormant and exist in the form of entertaining stories for most of us and we resist them in favour of scientific explanations of the ‘Big Bang’. A stronger, though more clichéd example (resist using it, even though it clarifies the point here!), is the development from ‘flat earth theory’ to ‘sphere earth theory’. So what makes the spherical earth and Big Bang theories survive? One possible response is that its central ideas are compatible with the available empirical evidence: the survival value of such scientific theories lies in their internal logical consistency, the strength of their predictive power and, of course, the cogency of the correlation between the theories and the data.
Where does this leave knowledge that is not so easily adaptable to evidence? Religious knowledge is notoriously ‘viral’: great numbers of people are drawn together by religious ideas and values either for good or evil. Religious knowledge, like Jesus’ instruction to ‘turn the other cheek’, has survived for millennia and still has an impact on our personal lives. Such knowledge is based less on available evidence than it is on deep rooted moral intuitions about what is right or wrong, so its ‘survival value’ must be in something else (emotion?) Has religious knowledge ‘evolved’ in any way? People pray and meditate in the same way as they’ve always done; their religious texts, on which they base much of their personal behaviour and value systems, never have bits added to them or taken away, so what exactly changes in religious knowledge? What makes it adapt to its modern environment? One response is linked to the notion of how historical knowledge is constructed: it’s our interpretations of religious ideas and values that change and evolve…
Where does the metaphor of natural selection lose its explanatory force? There is a counter claim: evolutionary development of a species or knowledge implies a linear progress – new knowledge is built from previous knowledge. But we know that sometimes, knowledge breaks completely from what has gone on before and is ‘revolutionary’ – new knowledge arrives in the form of paradigm shifts (another cliché in waiting, so please find a fresher example!)…