a journal of a researcher

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sit and talk about philosophy

It is expensive to be able to sit and talk about philosophy quietly. Research is more and more like an industry of publishing and a business of running projects. Finally I got myself back to the fundamental questions about what is science, what is knowledge and what is the “truth”.

The picture on p55 in the book Theory of Science by Gordana Doig-Crnkovic is a picture I should remember. Science is just part of our knowledge. The most inner cycle is the logic & mathematics, then goes to Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and the Humanities, Art. They are nested. So knowledge is not only about science. And science is not about “truth”. There is only hypotheses according to Poper. .... (TBC)

Then what is good research? where is the line between science and technology? Maybe I have to go to Kuhn's books. So far, I understand that contemporary science means group work and knowledge for applications. You need experiments. Though Palto's distinctions between science and technology are still cited, partially they are not valid.

My opinions, you should do research in two directions, one is the results can be applicable (here I mean short time applications. Compared with other desciplines, such as humanities and social science, nature science is applicable) ; the other is the results help us to answer fundamental philosophy questions, about mind, language, intelligence, or to answer the wonders of human being about the universe. Maybe it is equivalent to say that your research should have good impact, scientifically or economically. Nowadays, the governments in the world more and more take science and technology as a weapon to develop economics, which is a way to keep people wealthy and keep the nation strong. So contemporary science has some pragmatic goals and motivations. It answers the question of “how”, not “why”.

7 Comments:

  • AH! You are making a mistake.

    Social sciences, philosophy and all the other stuff can be applied. I've got a cousin who is a professor at the UQÀM Philosophy department and I'm told his research is quite applied (ethics in health) and he seems to be getting lots of funding. Think about economics: that's very applied work sometimes.

    Second of all, I'm not convinced research brings immediate material benefits. I doubt this is an efficient way to go. Think about China? How much is China investing in university research? I would suspect not much at all. Yet, it is the fastest growing economy in the world.

    Companies can more efficiently do short term research than universities or even government labs.

    The real reason why you should do immediately applicable research is not because you think this will benefit people. These are lies often... When people get huge research grants to work in eLearning, do you really think they will solve real eLearning problems? It is likely not. But by working on tangible problems, you get to understand deeper, more interesting problems where you can make a difference.

    Think of Einstein... he wanted to know how light could produce electricity... this was a very applied problem... by solving this problem, he gained a deeper understanding in how the world works.

    This is why I'd like to do research on blogs... not because I think that the blogosphere needs research, but because by researching it, I could, maybe, gain a deeper understanding in why it works and how to make it better. There might be no immediate gain: the best way to have immediate gain would be to start a software company and produce better software.

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