I.3. Knowledge sources and its characteristics

Humans have an innate tendency for learning.

The commonly categorized popular knowledge is so broad and complex that it uses contextualized expressions in order to transmit concepts that otherwise would be very complicated or would take too long.  An interesting example of the thousands of expressions is: curiosity killed the cat because it is very similar to the phrase from the previous paragraph but does not commit to anything.

On the other hand, from the first sentence one could begin to question its accuracy: Why only humans? Is it definitely innate? Which part is learned and which part is instinctive? Is it only a tendency or is it an intrinsic and permanently operative characteristic? Is it produced only in the consciousness or also in the unconscious? That is how we would proceed until….ha! We forgot; what is a being?

More formally, if the origin of human knowledge comes exclusively from experience (empiricism -Locke), or the contrary (innatism -Leibniz), or a past engagement of both (apriorism -Kant).

Let’s see then. The effectiveness of the popular knowledge, however, has a great inconvenience due to its characteristics in that it is unreliable and very often ironic because a slight contextual variation can change its meaning. In other cases, it just attempts to cheer up life with humor by means of ideas crossing the mind, and at times even deliberately inverting the elements of cause-effect, etc.

In order to avoid this entire series of disadvantages of human knowledge, the scientific method has been developed which, in its strict version, counts on three basic principals in order to be accepted among the majority of the scientific community.  They also tend to note various specific methods according to the subject studied with greater or lesser acceptance, and normally they tend to refer to systems with complex characteristics.

It could be said that popular knowledge is to the scientific method what intuition is to logic in that both share the same sources of knowledge: perception, intuition, and logic. They share problems related to the contextualized elements and to the difficulty of the cause-effect separation.

Furthermore, creativity can be included as a source of knowledge as much popular as scientific.  An example of a source of popular knowledge would be the phrase: think the worst and you won’t be far wrong, and an illustrative example of the creativity as a source of scientific knowledge would be: the madness of genius.

The outline of the elements of the scientific method aims for objectivity and certainty in its conclusions, which is why errors are not usually made. On the contrary, popular knowledge does indeed make them but, on occasions, it is much more efficient in transmitting a complex idea; in fact, we all use it on a regular basis.

In respects to the characteristics of the knowledge sources, logic should not make mistakes either; otherwise it would no longer be logical and would then be considered pure speculation.

The source of knowledge of intuition does indeed make mistakes, since despite not having the desired certainty of the reasoning, it does not cease and it continues with partial arguments reaching conclusions that it cannot confirm nor deny. Upon freeing itself from the servitude of certainty, its potency is much greater than that of logic.

As it accumulates partial arguments, its margin of error increases and, therefore, its efficiency decreases. However, at times, after long reasoning or thought in which the final conclusion is associated with an elevated margin of error, the result is an interesting fact which allows its efficiency to increase significantly. In view of the conclusion, we find a different way that increases reliability. But in this case we find ourselves more in line with creativity than with intuition.

This could be the case of the General Theory of the Conditional Evolution of Life in that its philosophical approach is rather adventurous and clashes with the most common beliefs and approaches within society. Its hypotheses of genetic functioning are quite bold, etc., but, eventually… it proposes a means of empirical testing! And accomplishes it!

Of course, in certain cases, the evidence against a position can be overwhelming and, even so, it persists in following the reasoning with a margin of almost intolerable error. It could be said that, if they eventually manage to discover a way for empirical validation, madness has been a 5th source of knowledge, or what you could consider in a certain way the same as love, or better said, madness of love, or….it is better not to put past examples.

Another interesting and distinct characteristic of the binomial perception-reality is that which is related to the connection between scientific theory and reality, and is extensively dealt with by what is called the Vienna Circle.

There are three interpretations of the relationships between theory and reality (observation): reductionism, realism, and instrumentalism or conventionalism.

Reductionism circumscribes the scientific theory to the world of the observable converting itself into a simplification of observations. Realism allows certain entities not be observable but requires that they be real, that is, that they exist independently from the mind. On its behalf, instrumentalism or conventionalism deems it a useful instrument that allows making predictions.

Sincerely, utilitarianism which is preferred to rationality seems more technical than scientific, but I suppose that they are trendy topics even though they could last centuries.