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“The quality of knowledge produced by an academic discipline is directly proportional to the duration of historical development of that discipline.” Explore this claim with reference to two disciplines. ‘Knowledge’ implies the awareness of an individual to a theoretical or intellectual interpretation of a phenomenon. It takes into account several factors, such as facts, skill sets, and descriptions. These factors are acquired through learnings’, experiences, perceptions, or discoveries. The ‘quality’ of knowledge is the value we give to the disciplines in relation to how useful they are to us and how valid an explanation they provide for a theory. ‘Historical development’ is the analysis of a theory deduced through comparison from years of development of a phenomenon. It is understood that the evaluation, and therefore, development of knowledge is a predominant factor that helps in determining the quality of information presented. Hence, the crux of the question explores the extent to which one can measure the quality of knowledge solely based on its historical duration, ignoring other biases. The obtainable value to be derived from a particular discipline is often determined as a product of multiple factors. These factors go beyond the limited framework of merely the time invested into the discipline. For example, the course that I have chosen to pursue my career in, Medicine, is considered coveted, not just because of the time required to master it, but also due to its indispensability and as a result, the tantamount resources invested into it. Hence my decision to commit to this discipline is based on the historical development and overall knowledge framework entailing it.
However, how does one decide what knowledge should be regarded as being of better quality? Investments made, be it in terms of time or money, for the development of discoveries in disciplines such as Medicine is evidence of the progression of knowledge in that field. To support this claim, an example of technological advancements in the field of Cancer Nano-therapy can be taken into consideration. A newly employed method, this process fulfills the need for more precise treatments in a cost-effective manner. It is a progression from the prior use of chemotherapy drugs, first employed in the 1940s, which although still widely used, is not believed to be as functional as this recent development. Applications of reasoning, alongside the consensus of truth, are what ultimately produce justifiable knowledge, which is used to enhance and concretize our viewpoints of the world.
Accepted theories, like Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, for instance, are the best explanations available so far for how the world works. Such theories have been rigorously examined, authenticated, and availed as the ground-work for newly developing speculations. However, new methodologies can alter an individual’s perception, and amend their inclination towards the new knowledge being produced at a relatively later date. It can, therefore, be agreed upon that more time spent on historical development of a particular domain of knowledge produces a more comprehensive, and hence better quality of that knowledge. Isaac Newton’s ‘Classic Mechanics’ theory, constructed in the 1600s, was a straightforward yet rewarding set of mathematical equations that deemed credible enough to explain the movements of objects in Space and on Earth.
The theory was put into application in several studies. However, with time, the Classical Mechanics theory was overpowered by Albert Einstein 1900s theory of ‘Special Relativity’. It hypothesized that as one reordered their frame of reference, their assessment of Space and time also underwent a reformation. Hence, Special Relativity was widely accepted and received greater interest, while providing scope for further investigation along the lines of this exploration.
Generating accurate conclusions, the theory was not only extensively verified but it led to the creation of a new phenomenon bolstered by concrete explanations. Hence, this example goes on to show how with time, there is a relentless modification of theories and an evaluation of how these preceding explanations surpass that of the previous one. The newly developed theory is then accepted as the norm succeeding the appraisal made on these grounds. As seen in the cases mentioned above, the historical development of disciplines tends to improve the quality of knowledge presented over the course of time.
However, do time and development of a discipline progress at a directly proportional rate? ‘Direct proportionality’ is described as the correlation between different quantities whose values increase or decrease in a corresponding ratio. Although it is fathomed that historical development of a discipline is necessary for the quality of knowledge to become more precise, the direct proportionality of this association is difficult to measure. Hence, it is easy to invalidate and/or disprove.
For instance, when comparing the disciplines of Philosophy with Psychology, it has been recognized that Psychology has attained a position of higher value in terms of its corresponding knowledge production. When a prisoner goes through a verdict, he/she does not go through a Philosophical test, rather a Psychological one purely on the basis that Psychology concerns itself with a practical application- a validation of a claim or theory, that it is generally valued more in the community. While philosophy is important, its fundamentals of exploring the nature of knowledge that exists in the world do not have as far-reaching consequences as does Psychology. Hence, it is possible to apprehend why the development of knowledge in Psychology progresses at a significantly faster rate than it does in Philosophy. But what are the variables that determine the quality of knowledge development with the progression of time? Several factors could explain the uncustomary hierarchical position amongst the two disciplines of Psychology and Philosophy that go against the conventions of the central question like the methodology used, evidence obtained, acceptance, faith, as well as applicability.
However, it cannot be proven that despite Psychology progressing at a much faster rate than Philosophy, the quality of knowledge produced by the discipline is directly proportional to its historical development, since this is an unattainable quantification. So how does one know when the development of knowledge in a discipline is going in the right direction, such that it successfully determines the quality of its corresponding knowledge? The investigation of the evolutionary origins of the Figwort Family was conducted by Taxonomists, who compared the base sequence of three chloroplast genes. Through this experiment, it was established that large proportions of the Family were associated with the flowering plant, Scrophulariaceae. Over further examination, it was also proved that the Figworts were a product of 5 different clades instead of 1. This discovery led to a major reclassification after accumulated evidence and experimentation proved the aforementioned. This stratification provided an insight into the direction to be undertaken in order to improve a discipline’s validity.
Alongside, factors like clear communication, perception, and justifiable reasoning also helped to ensure that the development of a discipline is progressing in the right direction. There are several downsides of knowledge that is measured purely by historical development. Be it the thought of whether a theory is going to be accurate based on its validation, its sustainability in a society based on its compatibility with individuals’ intuition, or the duration of its utilization before it is overridden by a modified theory, basing knowledge of any discipline exclusively on historical development has been proven not enough to form a permanent theory that eliminates the need for further investments into it. Hence, the preconceived notion that the greater the historical duration, the better the quality of the knowledge in the discipline, is not always the case. Taking the discipline of Economics as an example, Irving Fisher, an economist at Yale University, explained why stocks crashed in 1929. He also boldly declared why ‘stocks have reached a permanently high plateau’ earlier the same year. Similarly, Francesco Redi’s Spontaneous Generation Theory was falsified with time over his exploration that life can be created from organic matter.
Hence, these counter-discoveries led to a paradigm shift of knowledge in its discipline. Such paradigm shifts continue to reorder old knowledge into new frameworks. These examples, therefore, provide evidence for the fact that the quality of knowledge produced by an academic discipline is not always directly proportional to the duration of historical development, or in some cases, may not be associated at all. Taking a step back, the question of direct proportionality of the quality of knowledge based on historical development poses the idea that the value obtained from a discipline is based entirely on its historical progression. As seen in disciplines under the Sciences, falsification of even a small component of a theory spurs the creation of another one, largely because of its ability to implement executions.
However, in Philosophy, pre-existing knowledge remains aligned with the initial theory developed, in most cases, due to the inability to validate a new claim with practical evidence. Hence, in such cases, there are multiple factors that are employed by individuals to deduce the value of any piece of information. These factors can range from person to person depending on individuals’ preferences and beliefs. And although there are situations that may sometimes be concluded in a jiffy, as seen in the Irving Fisher case, a majority of developments are gradual and are based on a contribution by people and resources determining its re-assessments and therefore, validity. Hence, from this derivation, one can understand that although most of the developments made by disciplines do improve in quality over time, it seldom occurs in a directly proportional manner. As a result, that being the case, this question does not always hold true.
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