In-Form-ation: The Molding of Scientific Knowledge
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We perceive a world composed of many forms. Forms play an integral part in the arrangement of our reality, whatever the true nature of that reality may be. These forms, whether sensory or conceptual in nature, make up the multiplicity and diversity of objects we interact with and experience in the world around us. In the introduction to The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, philosopher Ernst Cassirer writes that “it would seem as though we could apprehend reality only in the particularity of these forms, whence it follows that in these forms reality is cloaked as well as revealed.”1 His introduction presents forms as something more than a sensory experience, and rather as an epistemological link between our inner consciousness and external reality. Any creative or intellectual human pursuit, be it science, art, language, or religion, carries in its essence an examination and expression of form. We intuitively experienced the rolling of a ball and the building properties of a block as young children before we could physically name these objects. Geometry itself is fundamentally infused into our developmental stages as individuals and in the historical development of our human communication as a species.2 This perspective calls for an examination of the role of forms in the creation of knowledge and, particularly, in the creation of scientific knowledge as a creative pursuit. An initial general question for such a quest would be: What is the epistemological role of form in the creation of scientific knowledge? In other words, how do forms help us know?