Friday, April 24, 2009

Knowledge: Acquired or Discovered
Not "Produced" or "Created"

Gah. This is a fairly minor point, but the PoMos and their ilk made it fashionable to talk about "knowledge production," and that locution unfortunately caught on. It's common also to hear people talk about the "creation" of knowledge.

One might say the following without outright absurdity: if we don't know that p at time 1, but I discover that p is true at time 2, then there is, perhaps, some sense in which I have produced or created knowledge of p by discovering its truth. But this is obviously a bit odd, a bit awkward, and a bit misleading. What I've done is
acquire knowledge by discovering truth.

PoMos and related folk--if they allow themselves to speak of knowledge at all--like to pretend that we either make it up or come close to doing so. That's why they prefer to write of knowledge "production" and "creation." But if it's actual knowledge, then we didn't make it up. Grammatically, though, it's a little odd to say that we discover knowledge. We discover truth, and truth is necessary for knowledge...but we normally don't say we discovered the knowledge. Perhaps this is because knowledge--whatever else it is--is apparently something like (de-Gettierized) justified true belief. We discover truths (and of course do not create them), but it's more than a little odd to say that we discover belief, which is also a component of knowledge. Of course we normally don't create it, either; the more normal locution is: we acquire it.

So, best to stick with the philosophically neutral and grammatically unobjectionable 'acquire'. To give in to the trendier "produce" or "create" in this context is to unintentionally suggest acceptance of the PoMo fantasy that we create the truth.


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