Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Expert knowledge

Having my first child is an indescribable joy. Something that came with it is all the "knowledge dropping" by friends, family and co-workers about the health of the baby. When one is new to something he or she would be foolish not to listen to people who have gone through a similar experience. Still, some of the advice has been a little weird, but I have been also surprised at what actually worked...

This reminds me of the current state of "expert" panels one might see on T.V. whether the subject is fashion, politics, science or sports. Oftentimes philosophical thinkers will be asked to comment about the current issues of the day. Jacques Ranciere asserts that knowledge is open to everyone and that the commonness of things challenges any expert opinion. This is not to say that some people are not better informed; it is that some have better access to this knowledge. The internet is one of the things that allows knowledge to be at one's fingertips that bypasses the so-called expert. In other words, he is pushing for a democracy of knowledge.

On another note, Zizek for one says this is not philosophy. Philosophy serves the world best when it re-frames questions and asks new ones in a different way. When it comes to questions about sports, one should ask an athlete. When it comes to questions about science, get the picture. He uses the hypothetical example of a meteor heading toward the earth. Zizek claims a philosopher is basically useless at this point; one needs a real scientist to deal with this threat (the answer being send up Bruce Willis and his drilling pals to destroy the meteor of course)! In one sense, what Zizek is laying out is that human knowledge is only as deep as you put the work into it. The typical, fly by night "expert" knowledge that currently runs across the airwaves does not help anyone perhaps because of its lack of depth. Belief behind the opinions (of both the experts and the listeners/viewers) are often what controls the knowledge we come across anyway.

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