September 17, 2013
ETHICAL JUDGEMENTS LIMIT THE METHODS AVAILABLE IN THE PRODUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE IN BOTH ARTS AND THE NATURAL SCIENCES. DISCUSS.
Our entire life is a continuous process of gaining and retaining information, expanding our knowledge as individuals. Most people spend quite a bit of time in their childhood years in school learning, taking in knowledge that has been produced. As a species humans have produced a wealth of knowledge in a variety of ways. However there comes a time where you have to wonder what extent people would go to, to produce knowledge. Where is the line? When are we doing something ethically wrong? All of these questions bring up another question, do ethics get in the way of producing knowledge? The arts and natural sciences are two areas of knowledge that deal a lot with ethics. The arts are a very free area of knowledge in with people are allowed to express themselves, the natural sciences require a lot of experimentation. In my opinion, knowledge is very valuable, and the production of it should be a priority if the sacrifice is reasonable.
The arts are a valuable source of knowledge, producers of art tend to try to convey a message through their artwork. Art comes in many different forms, ranging from visual arts to music and even literary arts. Throughout all forms most of art there are lessons embedded in the art piece, or at least messages conveyed through the art. Similarly, most art contains some form of censorship, artists are not allowed to touch on certain topics. Even if artists decide to make art that touches on controversial or different topics, their art is typically not accepted in society and does not receive any publicity.
Again, this is the case with almost all art, however for the purpose of this essay I am going to focus on literary art. An example that is very prevalent in my mind is the ban of _The Book of Negroes_ by Lawrence Hill. A dutchman named Roy Groenberg wrote a letter to Lawrence Hill. In the letter he wrote that a group of people in the Netherlands were going to burn Hill's book because in contained the word 'negro' in the title (Hopper). _The Book of Negroes_ is an award winning book that is about the life of an 11 year-old girl who is kidnapped in a village near Segu in Africa, and sent to North Carolina to be a slave. The book continues to tell the reader about her life as a slave (Hill).
_The Book of Negroes_ is widely considered as very moving and a book that conveys important messages (Hopper). Unfortunately, because of the title it was misconceived as a book that was critical of African-Americans. Groenberg was the only person to act on his feelings, however that does not mean he was the only person to see this book as negatively directed at African-Americans. _The Book of Negroes_ was likely misconceived by many more people just because of the inclusion of the word 'negro' in the title. Unfortunately, society has made many ethical judgements about the word 'negro' which are usually justified but in this case prevent people expanding their knowledge (Hopper). This one of many examples, in which an ethical judgement limited methods available in the production of knowledge.
This brings up the question in my mind, why do people shy away from certain words? An attempt to find the answer lead me to the Theory of Knowledge diagram, more specifically the ways of knowing. One way of knowing that intrigues me is language, this seems to answer my question. Language is a very powerful way of knowing, as words can be very powerful. There are handful of words in the english language that are not spoken because of how powerful they are. It seems to me that because of this some words are not tolerated even if the context is appropriate. Which sort of explains why The Book of Negroes received some criticism. It almost makes the criticism understandable, and I can begin to justify Groenberg's actions....
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