Trieste, Italy - July 14th-16th 2022
Jürgen’s conceptualization of the evolution of knowledge goes against the mood of “micro history” and joins the emerging field of “world history”. The idea behind a public event to be organized in his honor focuses on his work on the evolution of knowledge. It opens up six major directions of thought:
a) "Science" is not an intellectual product "sui generis" born in the West, but a kind of knowledge rooted in basic human (and even animal) experiences.
b) The concept “evolution of knowledge” posits basic mechanisms of knowledge acquisition, consolidation, transmission, transformation, innovation and dissemination such as:
Practicing with objects; first order symbolization/representation in language.
Application to new contexts resulting in the creation of new objects such as simple machines (external representations).
Second order reflection on practical experiences and inventions leading to abstraction/conceptualization.
Creation of mental models (internal representations) and their inscription in texts.
Creation of social and institutional niches for the survival and transmission of knowledge.
Integration of old and new knowledge, and its re-organization.
Constituting intellectual and institutional structures necessary for the dissemination of knowledge.
The sum of practical, intellectual, socio-political and market conditions allowing for the construction, integration, consolidation, re-organization and dissemination of knowledge to be analyzed in terms of "economies of knowledge".
c) Investigating the above-mentioned mechanisms entails a thorough research of historical cases that are not limited to a certain historical period or geographical territory.
d) From the discussion of historical case studies within a well-developed conceptual framework emerges the theoretical language that guides and enables a long- term narrative of global knowledge. The main terms of this new theoretical language are:
- Challenging objects – namely those objects whose nature and mode of behavior challenges accepted intuitive and practical assumptions about the world.
- Internal and external representations: the first (internal representations) developed into signs of things in the mind and may be analyzed in terms of mental models; the second (external representations) consist in texts, tools, visual representations, machines, institutions, social and political contexts given to reconstruction and constituting shared public knowledge.
e) Within such conceptual framework, knowledge is examined as always on the move, and in terms of its transformations, resulting in the conclusion that knowledge has always been global.
f) The urge for writing on the evolution of knowledge is rooted in an analysis of the era of Anthropocene – a new human-geological age, according to some contemporary scientists – and the challenges it poses to humanity. Thinking about the Anthropocene presupposesthe need to re-think the impact of human activities on the Earth system. It is rooted in the view that knowledge may provide a key to solve contemporary problems. It points out the possibilities opened up by digital globalization and its dangers; relates to artificial intelligence and the risks it entails; promotes consciousness of the need to connect knowledge of the natural sciences to knowledge of the humanities and to develop a new economy of knowledge.
It may not be superfluous to add that Jürgen’s perspective on studying the evolution of knowledge expresses the view that history of science can provide a vision for coping with the huge challenges of our era and may serve as a model of for new types of knowledge required now.