Imagination V. Knowledge

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The Knower and the Ways of Knowing: Prompt #2
4/17/2013
For thousands of years, knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge, has been essential to the growth and advancement of human society. Whether it was the introduction of democracy or a new, more improved version of technology, “justified true beliefs,” are and have been a prominent factor in the development of civilization. But where does new knowledge come from? Historically, some of the greatest and most influential discoveries have spawned from human imagination. This has been true since the early Greek philosophers such as Thales, Socrates, and Hippocrates all of whom used their own unique insight to create knowledge claims which, after years of refining and justification, became the basis for many truths evident in our society today. So which is more important, knowledge or imagination? According to Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” But is he right? Does imagination actually have more to offer humanity than existing knowledge? If one were to look at how the work of an individual such as Thomas Edison or Orville Wright has helped mankind to advance over the years, he or she would most likely answer yes, and with just cause. These “great men” act as perfect examples of how an individual’s open-mindedness and unique insight can enhance the overall data base of society. The ability to exhibit a high level of creativity, however, is not the only factor which plays a part in the progression of society. The use of existing knowledge does too. Although imagination may seem to spawn completely from one’s own thoughts, knowledge is actually essential to this thought process. Without knowledge there would be no invention or ingenuity because people would not have information on which to base their ideas. Furthermore, without the support of existing knowledge newly formed inventions and innovations could not be justified established as truth. In short, while imagination may be the most influential factor in the growth of human society, existing knowledge acts as a critical starting point in establishing basis for all the potential knowledge there could be.

In order to create new knowledge, the great scientific and creative minds of both past and present used existing knowledge as a foundation for their imagination. Albert Einstein such an individual. Born in the late nineteenth century, Einstein became interested in science at a young age. The prodigy’s rapidly developing interest combined with a new unique style of considering the existing laws of science allowed Einstein to write, “four of his most influential research papers, including the Special Theory of Relativity” (Einstein Official Site) in 1905. After years of research, Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his various theories including his General Relative Theory of 1915 and the popular discovery of e = mc2. While these theories are widely accepted today, they were not always accepted as truth. First these knowledge claims needed to be justified. Prior to 1915, Einstein’s alternative approaches understanding physics had led him to believe that there were different laws which would explain unknown factors in the movement of particles. This belief later turned into a truth and then into knowledge for Einstein because in his intensive research he had found enough empirical evidence to justify his position. However, just because Einstein had found enough justification to create new knowledge did not mean the rest of the world was on the same page. It was not until 1921 that many of Einstein’s theories were accepted by other physicists. This is because, like Einstein, the other people investigating these newly proposed rules also needed enough justification to support claims they...
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