24 October 2007

I was once committed to the view that knowledge precedes interest. That I am interested in philosophy, say, is a function of my knowing something about it. But this trivially true thesis has zero predictive power. My total lack of interest in experimental psycholinguistics is, likewise, a function of my knowing something about it.

This just goes to show that knowledge of X is not sufficient to have developed an interest in X. But is it even necessary? Trivially, it is a geographical region, stereotyped by its inclement weather. But this is only to say that if I am to have an interest in something, I must know what that thing is. And this is nothing more than Russell's Principle: that to make a judgment about something, I must know which object my judgment is about.

I doubt whether knowledge in a sense more robust than this is either necessary or sufficient to establish interest in a given topic.

I have an interest in physics. But I know virtually nothing about it -- nothing beyond the facile identifying description, 'it is the study of physical properties, like energy and matter'. But how could this be so if knowledge precedes interest? Is my interest illusory? Or is the criterion faulty?