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Topics: Scientific method, Cognition, Psychology Pages: 5 (1510 words) Published: March 15, 2015
“There are only two ways that humankind can produce knowledge: through passive observation or through active experiment” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

To begin with, we need to specially define several key words in the statement. From my point of view, “produce knowledge” means the creation of new knowledge, including both personal knowledge and shared knowledge; “passive observation” refers to accepting and perceiving the incidences happened without active response; “active experiment” represents engaging in a scientific process to test a hypothesis or make a discovery. Therefore, the question is asking us to discuss whether passive and active learning through scientific method are the only ways to produce knowledge.

From my point of view, I partially agree with the statement since these two methods do produce knowledge, but other ways may also play a similar role. The knowledge questions I would like to address in this essay are “ Are there other ways to produce knowledge in addition to active experiment and passive observation?” and “How important is passive observation and active experiment to the production of knowledge?” In the following paragraphs, I will connect these knowledge questions with different ways of knowing and areas of knowledge.

First of all, admittedly, sense perception is one way of knowing that adopts both active and passive learning. Basically, there are two main models of human sensory perception, in which one of them is “top down” constructivism and another one is “bottom-up” direct ecological model. On one hand, the former one, to some extent, refers to active experiment since a more voluntary confessant engagement exists in the perceptual process. Specifically, top-down processing is the development of pattern recognition through the use of contextual information1. For example, when we need to read a paper in bad handwriting, it is easier for us to comprehend the idea of the paper if we read the entire paper, rather than literally read every single word written on it. The underlying reason here is that our brain could actively perceive and comprehend the purport of the paper because of the surrounding context. On the other hand, the latter one, “bottom-up” direct ecological model, is somehow equivalent to passive observation since external environmental forces tend to fix the perceptual process, which is more inflexible and involuntary. In this approach, perception begins at the sensory input, namely input, so the bottom up processing approach is more observation-driven.

Second, emotion, which is another way of knowing, could also illustrate the point that the production of knowledge is the product of the combination of passive learning and active learning. Let us consider emotion in the realm of Psychology in the following discussion. Generally, emotion refers to the relationship between a physiological arousal and a cognitive process, although the causality and direction of this relationship is still controversial. In Psychology, James-Lange Theory states that when people have experiences, as a result, their autonomic nervous system creates physiological events2. The sequence here begins from event, then arousal, and interpretation and finally ends with emotion. An example of this theory in real life could be that if I see a wolf, then my muscles start to tense and my heart races, leading to the emotion of being afraid. Such theories that attribute mainly a physiological root of emotional response are production of new knowledge via passive observation. In contrast, other theories in Psychology, such as the Schachter-Singer Theory of Emotion, which suggests that emotion stems from the combination of a state of arousal and a cognition that makes best sense of the situation this individual is in3, are the production of knowledge via active experiment.

Third, the way of knowing, reason, which is significantly important in the realm of natural sciences and...
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