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Essay sample M


"Existing classification systems steer the acquisition of new knowledge."

Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

The definitive statement, "Existing classification systems steer the acquisition of new knowledge" suggests the way in which new knowledge is produced and accepted is through prior accepted knowledge in the same area. Rather than the production of knowledge being spontaneous and initially being unrelated to a particular system, it extends understanding within, and is guided by an already established system.

Classification systems can be defined as a way of organising entities in a hierarchical and useful structure. They organize shared knowledge and present it in relation to other existing knowledge. The acquisition of new knowledge is the production and acceptance of knowledge. Firstly, new knowledge is produced by an individual or a group through research or another methodology. In order for it to become accepted knowledge in a classification system, it must be shared by a majority, and have a degree of universality. To 'steer' can refer to the guidance or direction that existing classification systems provide when discoveries or advancements are made. lt is a directing term, and implies that the acquisition of new knowledge is being pulled or pushed in a specific direction. The areas of knowledge that will be referred to are the natural sciences and the arts. While existing classification systems can steer the acquisition of new knowledge, they may not be the sale driver and there may be cases where an existing classification system is irrelevant.

Classification systems do steer the acquisition of new knowledge. Pre-determined systems that have been put in place (and that are still used today) have provided


those who seek to produce new knowledge with a starting point. Before something can be classified, it must first be defined in order to be placed into the most correct existing or new classification system. This is a useful way of grouping information together. By defining then categorising, knowledge which is based on shared language can be produced. The importance of shared language is evident when considering the example, 'bird'. The shared physical features of birds, their wings and feathers, come to mind as it's a commonly recognised term. The term 'bird' has allowed for the efficient transmission of knowledge, as the reason why a particular organism is a bird can be immediately understood. However, when considering the Arts, classifying entities based on their shared physical features is likely pointless; classifying by the techniques used or artists intent would be a better and more meaningful equivalent. Different methodologies are required for classification in each area of knowledge as well, as classification using the scientific method in the natural sciences may provide order and certainty, but it may be unsuitable for acquiring knowledge in the arts.

The classification of organisms in the natural sciences (taxonomy) began with Aristotle, when he separated plants and animals around 300 BC (Vancleave 201O). Many other philosophers and scientists continued to add subcategories, and built up a classification system (Britannica n.d.). For example, Francis Bacon's book was written in the 16th century about partitions in science (Bacon 1605). As more organisms were classified, it was found that there were exceptions to the existing system as well as overlap. This contrasted with the original assumption of clear boundaries existing. The characteristics that distinguished these exceptions from either existing group demonstrated that there was still knowledge to gain, and


logically more groups may need to be created for them. Their differences were directing the acquisition of new knowledge. When the transitional fossil of

Archaeopteryx was discovered (Castro 2018), it raised questions about evolutionary history, how modern-day organisms carne to be, and what drove evolutionary processes and why. lt hovered between being classified as a bird or a kind of dinosaur when considering its physical characteristics, it did not fit precisely in either category, and questioned what kinds of evolution (natural selection, convergent, divergent) that led to its existence.

The acquisition of new knowledge may not be steered entirely by existing classifications systems. They may steer away from, or prevent the acquisition of new knowledge. There is often a bias towards producing knowledge that supports your own claim or investigation rather than acquiring new knowledge. lnstead of seeking knowledge in general, one may be inclined to look for evidence to support the existing view. Time and effort that could be used to acquire more knowledge as a whole that may potentially be outside of an existing classification system is instead being used to find specific evidence within a pre-existing system to support that system. This may result in a discouragement of imagination and creativity.

Other factors may also influence the acquisition of new knowledge. Research may not receive funding until it is classed as 'useful' science. Scientific research is heavily focused upon the areas that are receiving funding that are considered mainstream. Few investments are made in scientific discovery in the interest of having more apparently 'useless' knowledge. lt may be the desire for more knowledge within existing classification systems that is steering its acquisition. Additionally, peer-


reviewed research also steers the acquisition of new knowledge. The publication of research is limited by whether it's considered 'acceptable' science or not. For example, scientists who published material about the effects of climate change were ridiculed in the 1950s. lt was not seen as concrete science, many did not believe in their findings, and therefore they struggled to be published. However, nowadays large amounts of accepted knowledge about climate change is being and has been published, as a majority of scientists believe in the phenomena.

Sometimes steering can be in different directions, as a rebellion or revolt out of an existing classification system. This can also be seen through different music genres. Successive music periods in history were reactions against the existing period, which had more rules about structure and melodies. The composer Claude Debussy was considered the first impressionist composer, creating his own rules for writing music He used unconventional chord patterns, dissonance, chromaticism, and atonality, which had rarely ever been seen in combination in the romantic period when he was composing, and had not been seen in prior periods (Lumen n.d.). In modern music, new genres are the result of changes in society and are therefore but not entirely directed by classification systems. Unencumbered by constraints of older systems genres like disco, rap, and rock now represent new classification systems. While music used to have to fit certain rules in terms of their form and structure in order to be acceptable, new modern genres do not necessarily follow these rules still, as there is less emphasis on music needing to be acceptable. Rap, for example, is different to opera, with rapid speech irregular patterns of verses and choruses and accompaniment. Opera requires a particular style of signing, uses traditional accompaniment, and adheres to a stricter structure.


Different factors were more important and were more involved in the production of new knowledge rather than stricter guidelines. The beginnings of modern dance in the 20th century is another example, where it was a revolt against the structure of classical ballet and instead utilised more primitive, expressive, and ritualistic movements to express creative growth and freedom.

The acquisition of knowledge in the Arts may be an exception to the claim made in the title. Knowledge in the Arts is acquired through individual interpretation and understanding, therefore shared classification systems may not have as much of an impact. The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa is a historical novel. However, when reading it I acquired personal knowledge about familial relationships and the effects of the passage of time. This knowledge was independent of the novels. Knowledge from a particular book doesn't necessarily depend on the genre it is classified in or if it has won a prize, but rather personal interpretation.

The same is true in the visual arts. When I first saw the artwork, 'Black Fire 1' by Barnett Newman, I personally did not perceive it to be art, despite the monetary values assigned to it. While it may be considered art, I did not think it to be, and did not gain or assimilate any new understandings or personal knowledge from observing it. Classifying 'Black Fire 1' as part of the abstract expressionism movement did not steer the acquisition of new knowledge for me, despite the value it holds which suggests that my opinion is not a popular one.

Spontaneous and accidental scientific discoveries could be the acquisition of knowledge that was not steered by existing classification systems. The discovery of

cyclins by Richard Timothy Hunt was an accident made when he was investigating


fertilization in sea urchins (Jackson 2008). This discovery was not related to what they were researching , but rather something they also happened to observe coincidentally when carrying out their experiments (Robertson 2015).

Existing classification systems largely steer the acquisition of new knowledge, but through exploring the areas of the arts and natural sciences, it can be seen that there are exceptions and other factors involved. New knowledge may not necessarily be steered within the same classification system, instead as a response to pre­ existing definitions it may be steered out of it. The roles of shared and personal knowledge also influence the extent to which the production of knowledge can be guided into existing systems. Additionally, external factors may diminish the production of knowledge outside of established classification systems, however they do not limit the possibility for knowledge to be produced in new, or unclassified systems. While classification systems can be helpful in their ability to steer, they are also not necessarily useful as they have the potential to inhibit or limit the acquisition of new knowledge.

Word Count: 1600



Bacon, F 1605, Of the Advancement and Proficience of Learning: Or the Partitions of Sciences, Forgotten Books, England.

Castro, J 2018, 'Archaeopteryx: The Transitional Fossil', LiveScience , accessed 24 August 2018, .

Encyclopedia Britannica n.d., Taxonomy, Britannica, accessed 24 August 2018, .

Debussy: Biography n.d., Lumen, accessed 24 August 2018, .

Jackson, P 2008, 'The Hunt far Cyclin', Cell Press, vol. 135, no. 2, 17 October, accessed 24 August 2018,>.

Robertson , M 2015, 'The discovery of cyclin: the unknown and the unknowable', Bio Med Central, 21 August, accessed 24 August 2018, ://­ unknowable/>.

Vancleave , J 201O, History of Classification, JVC's Science Fair Projects, accessed 24 August 2018, ://­ classification/>.


DMU Timestamp: September 10, 2021 01:39

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