Science of practice and production

「知識科学」について今回考えたことを総括しました。Malta大学のthe Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciencesにお世話になったので、返礼の意味も込めて。


Title: Science of practice and production
Author: Tsutomu Fujinami

1. Introduction

My stay at Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences has been fruitful both in that I have known activities in the faculty and that I could examine the concept of knowledge science(s) from various perspectives, which I may have not taken if I were in Japan. I write a short note to conclude my expedition with a hope that it may enhance our mutual understanding and facilitate our collaboration in future.

2. Our position in Science

Knowledge Science is not a hard science such as physics. It is certainly difficult to establish a simple, but powerful theory as is often found in hard sciences when we deal with phenomena of our interest. The reason can be sought in the complexity we face. Our targets of study are either social phenomena or creative activities.

Social phenomena are complex due to the large number of people involved and historical influences on them. Creative activities are complex because they are result of dynamics between explicit and implicit knowledge. Aristotle concluded no theory could be formed of these phenomena or activities because they are too complex to reduce them into small number of elements to be conceivable by our rational mind.

What happened in the middle of previous century was an invention of computers, which practically removed the limitation of information processing. Our poor memory suddenly became not a issue. The invention enabled us to study decision making process and creative activities.

Any disciplines of science after the invention of computer are different from traditional hard sciences in that they take it for granted that the large amount of data and information processing power applicable on them are available.

Those relatively new disciplines enabled by computational power can also be seen as applications of different types of logic, namely, induction and abduction. Both are concerned with discovery, but things discovered are different. The former finds hidden regularities while the latter proposes possible alteration to the theory with new terminology or concepts.

Induction and abduction are roughly related to practice and production in our life, but some exceptions can be found. Politicians can be innovative in proposing a new scheme and artists can be empirical in building their works. Generally speaking, however, decision-makers are keen to knowing general opinions and artists are interested to find a unique concept.

To sum up briefly this section, knowledge sciences are different from traditional hard sciences and deal with complex phenomena such as social interactions or creative activities. The new disciplines are theoretically rooted in induction or abduction and are enabled by computational power.

3. Values sought after in knowledge sciences

Different sciences lead to investigating different values. Traditional hard sciences are concerned with truth. Disciplines belonging to knowledge science look after two values, either goodness or beauty.

We first divide knowledge sciences into two groups, i.e., one about decision making and the other about production. The former concerns goodness, i.e., what is the right decision. The goodness or rightness are different from truth in that the absolute answer is not available due to the incompleteness of data. We cannot say something is absolutely true when counter examples can be obtained in future. Thus, the judgment of rightness has to come from some other place than the pure reason. Tentatively we turn to the reason of practice in resolving the matter.

The latter group of knowledge sciences concerns the beauty, i.e., what makes things beautiful. Again, the answer can only be tentative as we may encounter more beautiful things in future. What consists the faculty handling the beauty, I do not know. I am only sure that we inherit the sensitivity to the beauty naturally. I simply call it the reason of production for convenience.

Both the reason of practice and that of production work behind our human activities. Through practice and production, we look for the justice and beauty. (I replace the term, justice, for rightness.)

If science is only about the truth, knowledge sciences cannot be science because they are concerned with justice and beauty. It is probably safer to say that knowledge sciences investigate the justice in decision making and the beauty in arts to avoid a confusion among general public and a confrontation with people in traditional, hard sciences.

4. Faculty of decision making and arts?

Looking for different values than have been sought by traditional hard sciences put us in an odd place among other sciences. We are not the one confronting a hostility of that kind. Some physicists, for example, doubt that computer science is science. Sociologists used to discuss how sociology can be science. Such difficulties or doubts partly originate from our narrow conception of truth.

We have a choice. We can rename ourselves with a safer, acceptable name such as Faculty of decision making and arts, Research centre for practice and production, etc., avoiding any use of the terminology, science. That may settle the issue, but are disciplines of knowledge sciences so far away from truth?

I do not think so. Practice can lead us to the truth. Production can reach the truth, too. The truth we may find through practice is a belief that endures through generations. The truth we may find in production is a revelation of the world we live in. These are based on our culture and nature, or rather on our faith on them.

Societies have slowly evolved by finding and updating principles acceptable to all. These principles live on for relatively long and are only replaced by better ones. Individuals may catch a glimpse of truth in exploration. It may spread to all over the world eventually even if it is only conceivable initially to the person who discovered it.

If our world is identical, it just shows different faces to researchers from different directions. What we know in the end is essentially the same no matter how you approach to it, i.e., through reasoning, through practice, or through production. What we get vary, of course, depending on the approach taken, but there should be a consistency between items of knowledge obtained through different courses of investigation. That is what the objectivism teaches us, I believe.

5. Conclusion: how to relate ourselves with each other?

We have to fight our way through the world if we are brave enough to reject old labels such as Faculty of decision making and arts. We have already made the choice. Both of us include the terminology, knowledge science(s), to our name. Who is, then, our imaginary enemy and how can we unite ourselves?

We have to dispel the idea that only hard sciences are science. Most people seem not to be so narrow-minded and are open enough to think computer science is science. Such an attitude is, however, not so firm and can easily be degenerated to keep only the narrow definition of truth when questioned.

We need to argue that a revelation is a door to truth and collective updates of beliefs is a way to truth. We can broaden the view to science accordingly. Anyone involved in knowledge science(s) are invited to state what an insight their work may cast and/or how their findings may be shared and used in society. With these statements, people may locate us to an appropriate place among other disciplines.
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