Knowledge is often believed to be built upon pre-existing knowledge; however, without the assumption of the existence of uniformities, one may argue there is no basis for knowledge to be built upon, and therefore no knowledge may be obtained. Uniformity is defined as a state of consistency. In the context of acquiring knowledge, the assumption that uniformities exist refers to the belief that the same phenomena will always happen the same way, and every action will always produce the same consequence, therefore it is essentially the confidence in existing knowledge that it is applicable in all circumstances. In natural sciences, having credence in existing theories is the foundation for the accumulation of new knowledge.
The expectation of the same occurrence in nature is critical to theoretical and empirical science methods alike. However, the arts often value the differences in ways of representation and interpretation, amidst the acquisition of emotional knowledge and understanding of an author’s message. Without the appreciation of multiple perspectives and aesthetic interpretations, the very nature of the arts will be put to question. Indeed, it is crucial to assume there are uniformities in order to obtain universal knowledge, yet this may obscure the pursuit of knowledge in some areas of study which requires the assumption of variety.A viewpoint in natural sciences claims that assuming uniformities exist is fundamental to the accumulation of knowledge. Uniformitarianism, in geology, is the belief that the same natural processes which happens presently have happened the same way in the past and will be also in the future, at any time and everywhere. This belief forms the basis for geological studies and arguably all experimental sciences, because knowledge in natural sciences essentially explains the order of the natural world, and without believing in its constancy, this knowledge may never be applicable in our everyday lives.
Biologist Stephen Jay Gould claims that this assumption of invariance of natural laws is the “basic mode of reasoning in empirical science,” and without this assumption, there is no basis for extrapolation, therefore no way of reaching “general conclusions” from a finite number of observations. As most scientists are concerned with the testability and empirical results of experiments, Gould’s view asserts the confidence in the invariability of natural laws to be inevitable within the process of generating new knowledge from observations, hence one may infer that without the assumption that uniformity exists, no knowledge may be obtained. An example illustrating this idea is the use of Newton’s universal gravitational constant in countless physics calculations. Although the constant is first mentioned and measured before the nineteenth-century, it is taught in every school and widely used in engineering. No one in the eighteenth-century would have imagined the application of this empirical constant to be for aircrafts and skyscrapers, yet it is under the belief that Newton’s Law of Gravitation applies to all circumstance, that modern technology developed. Overall, it is arguable that knowledge acquisition in the field of natural sciences is based on the assumption that uniformities exist.Contradictory to the previous perspective, many argue that knowledge in natural sciences is valuable only if it is supported by empirical evidence. Logical Positivism is a theory that arose in the early twentieth century, proposing that knowledge must be testable in order to have meaning.
German philosopher Rudolf Carnap argues that true knowledge must be consistent with all other knowledge, where one is able to verify it. Though theoretical knowledge may be based on previous discoveries, it cannot truly be considered reliable until it is tested. Carnap’s proposition essentially opposes metaphysics and theism where theoretical knowledge is valued, but it supports empiricism, where trial and error are encouraged to help gain knowledge through experience. Logical Positivism thereby rejects the obligation to assume that uniformities exist because it is an assumption that may not be testable. An example that demonstrates the significance of the testability of knowledge is the double-slit experiment performed by Davisson and Germer in 1927, where the behaviour of electrons differs from the predicted results but brought incomparable development in quantum mechanics. Originally designed to investigate the path travelled by light, the double-slit experiment uncovered light’s ability to behave both as particles and waves. The experimental results showed that electrons behave as waves and receive interference, yet they behave as particles instead when measuring devices are used to observe their pathway. This knowledge would not be acquired if all physicists assumed that electrons always behave the same way as predicted.
Evidently, many from the field of natural sciences may argue that acquiring verifiable knowledge forbids presumptions; however, others may propose that knowledge is essentially grounded in previous theories, which requires a certain degree of trust and assumption that uniformities exist in order to have new discoveries. Meanwhile, though the field of arts tends to follow certain standards to evaluate a work, it is undoubtedly constructed upon the varied approaches to expression and interpretation. The act of defining what is and the purpose of art is assuming there is a uniform purpose and form to art. Aesthetic formalism is the study of art through analyzing form and style, especially in visual arts.
Formalists believe that the value in art is in the presented work itself, available to be conceived by our senses alone without further context. This belief classifies art as substantial and universally perceivable, in turn allowing artworks from any time period to be compared under the same criteria; in essence, the belief imposes a definition on art, so that it is possible to be studied as a source of knowledge. Formalism has ultimately helped to discover many commonalities between styles of different artists, and has provided later artists a springboard of ideas to further experiment with. An example of the use of formalism is examining Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield With Crows without studying its context, in other words solely appreciating the effects achieved by the artist’s technique.
One may sense negativity and despair from the use of dark colours and the image of crows, hence conclude that the use of dark tone and symbols help communicate the artist’s depression. Although the critic is not informed that van Gogh completed this work not far before he committed suicide, they may still interpret the artist’s emotions with what is contained in the artwork itself. This allows one to infer that colour tone and symbols are critical in imparting ideas.
Altogether, art may be approached in one way to analyze universal techniques, which shows a certain degree of commonalities in art.However, it is undeniable that art is the embodiment of differences, while still enabling individuals to acquire the same knowledge through various mediums. Pluralism in art, an aesthetic theory, defines the nature of artforms and artists as diverse, and it celebrates the variance in artist backgrounds and their input in art. Whilst pluralism in politics refer to a social system where many small groups maintain their identity within a broader culture, in art it denotes the varied artistic approaches in the late 1960s to 1970s, which means the departure of a single art movement, yet new ideas did not cease to be shared. An example that demonstrates pluralism is the two contrasting approaches to feminism by Judy Chicago and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is an installation artwork, known as one of the most famous feminist artworks in existence. Through placing reproductive properties under the spotlight, Chicago draws attention to the fundamental definition of being female, hence she advocates recognizing females not for their imposed roles and their work, but rather by their true identity.
Meanwhile, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women To Smile addresses the issue of gender-based street harassment by directly speaking to offenders through captions on posters. Although the two artists have entirely different style, and the artworks take totally different forms, they both raise awareness to the mistreatment of women. While Chicago’s piece satirizes what females are valued for, Fazlalizadeh’s posters directly demands equality for women. Both works are intended to achieve a different effect, yet the general outcome will still be the same as the audience may recognize sexism as an issue in our society, after observing either of these works. Taken everything into account, art is by definition created through vastly different ways, combined with countless different interpretations from the audience, yet it still permits the transfer of knowledge. Neither technique nor content needs to be uniform between art pieces to evoke the same emotions within the viewer. Ultimately, art as an area of knowledge rejects the idea of assuming there is uniformity as being essential to the acquirement of knowledge.Most may believe that the assumption for something to be the same always is critical to the accumulation of new ideas, as this assumption acts as a premise for new knowledge.
In natural sciences, though many argue that knowledge has to be tested in order to gain value, the universal application of physics laws reflects the surmise that they are applicable under all circumstances. On the other hand, some knowledge may be obtained through the assumption that uniformities do not necessarily have to exist. Art by nature exemplifies the unlimited ways to represent a concept and interpret its meaning, which shows that without assuming something is always the same, one may still gain knowledge from this area. To conclude, though there are conflicting perspectives in the two studied areas of knowledge, they both open up worthy discussions in debating the importance of assuming there is uniformity. Ultimately, the assumption of the existence of uniformities acts as a prerequisite in some cases to acquire knowledge, but it is not necessary in all circumstances.