Universities nurture the growth of a particular kind of knowledge, which we call “academic” or “scientific”. While it suffers, somewhat famously, from its lack of direct practical relevance to the day-to-day problems of living, this detachment also brings a number of distinct advantages. Scholars are able to determine what the facts are separate from the acts that might change them. They are able consider the question of whether a statement is true separate from the question of how we might benefit from its truth. They are also able to consider the matter carefully, and are given the time and equipment needed to study them. They regularly expose their beliefs about the facts to criticism by their peers—other people who have considered the matter carefully—which makes it more likely that mistakes in observation or reasoning are caught and corrected. It is because of this interest in the facts, this access to resources, and this openness to criticism, that academic work is often thought to set a “gold standard” for knowing in general.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015