Monday, October 12, 2009

Knowledge and the problem of different opinions.

The Speaker has talked about C.P. Snow and Mills. He then deals with the different responses people have towards problems using the averaging or political attitude of Mills. Chocolate or vanilla, which of them is the best? Should Utopia be reached? What form will Utopia take? The results seem to come to an absurdity when applied to things like mathematics, mutually exclusive conclusions. Then the speaker proposed the Theory of Second Best to resolve this dilemma.

What I think is missing is the consideration of knowledge of a person or a group of people when they form an opinion about a subject. To take the case to home, I’ll discuss about physics examples. 2000 years ago, people generally think that the sun rotates about the Earth. Nowadays, it is more accurate to say that the Earth rotates around the sun, along with 7 other planets. The physical truth did not change; it was the knowledge level of the people formulating the opinions that changed.

However, the knowledge of one person or a group of people or even the whole world including the internet is necessary always finite and incomplete. Therefore any statement about anything that requires knowledge that is not known is necessary incomplete and subject to change.

So, the full theory of utopia which requires full knowledge of psychology, sociology, economics, engineering, and so on is always out of reach of mankind, and one can only form partial theories about utopia that will change with time as the level of knowledge changes.

This brings us back to the Theory of Second Best, which is the alternative to the Best Theory or the optimum theory. The Best Theory does not work in general because it uses selective knowledge that does not acknowledge the current state of the world. The Second Best theory takes into account the state of the world and therefore is more applicable and plausible. More and more modifications can be made by taking into account more and more knowledge of the world, thus making the theory more and more accurate. This is called perturbative method in physics where the most important effect is taken into account first then the rest are added on one by one.

Sometimes however, it is possible for 2 different groups to have opposite but complimentary knowledge of a problem, resulting in two seemingly mutually exclusive theories. That is the problem of different opinions by different people; it’s nothing more than a difference in knowledge. Sometimes, they can both be right without a need of a middle ground. This is because different theories are right in different conditions, thus the dependence of theories on knowledge is very logical and both theories can coexist without contradiction. This is called the complementary principle in physics.

It can be seen that physics has something to contribute over to the philosophical nature of the problem of different opinions by means of complimentary principle and that the problem of different opinion is not complete without considering knowledge.

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