Knowledge is built upon particular assumptions. For instance, in the realm of computer programming, a bit of information cannot be at times 0.7 bit or at others 1.2 bit. In other words, a bit of information is definitive and uniform. Nonetheless, there is no such thing as a definitive property with a constant value in nature. Everything is flowing so that what appears to us to remain unchanged is actually a result of significant stochastic probability. Certain flows appear even more frequently than others within particular periods of time.
In schools and universities, we learn a lot of subjects and obtain knowledge accordingly. In addition to such abundant knowledge, it is important to learn the ways of handling assumptions on which that is built. Typically, social scientific disciplines, we cannot ignore different levels of analysis, such as micro, meso and macro. Uncritically transcending across these levels is problematic because causal relations which is valid at one level cannot automatically be valid at other levels. Different attributes can refer to the same individual actor.
To raise awareness of hierarchical stratification in society, typically to become sensible to downward vertical imagination across different levels, we had better be trained concerning knowledge and its underlying assumptions, which I call 'suspending assumptions'. I will ask you in the lecture series 'Democratizing Knowledge' relevant questions to this respect. Please get accustomed to imagining assumptions and preconditions together with understanding a variety of concepts and constructs. If possible, try to come up with questions of your interests; then, imagine how concepts and constructs can be applied to solve your questions by imagining different assumptions and preconditions. You will certainly find these practices not only helpful but also exciting so as to become willing to design your research projects!
Exchanges are mundane practices for subsistence. We have been exchanging innumerable material and immaterial things to feed ourselves. Probably because of the banality, we have rarely come to cast serious doubt about values in terms of which to exchange one for another. Very few might wonder if a price of a packet of milk is appropriate by reference to income, health conditions or calories needed for survival. In other words, even if fairly roughly, we have got used to balancing innumerably different values. Exchanges are imagined as symmetrical, equitable or flat relationships between comparable values.
Exchanges are, however, no less inequitable or imbalanced. Any exchange occurs when someone recognizes advantages to do so by reference to one's own and others' different endowments. If everything is evenly distributed, no exchange would be needed or accepted. Exchanges are to be initiated by those who notice differences. As a matter of fact, at least part of the reasons why virtually everyone uses money as a medium for exchanges is because it is credited by relevant authorities. Exchanges taking place in a local market are initiated only by those who have found advantages to do so. Rest are just obeying rules that are established and re-established by relatively small groups of people. Many are enforced to exchange, for instance, their labor for means of subsistence, i.e., money.
What is increasingly being obscured is the fact that our society is hierarchically stratified. Since the Enlightenment, upward mobility across class boundaries has been believed to be possible. It is, however, also true that not a few people, especially those with less power, do not believe so. Because of this tension, many have now become reluctant to speak directly about inequalities that are grounded in innate and cultural inheritances. Put in another way, vertical imagination, typically downward one, tends to be avoided. This tendency of normatively suppressed downward vertical imagination has significant implications for the secularized flat imagination about mundane exchanges. Virtually no one pays attention to the power of initiating a variety of exchanges. Many focus on equitable exchanges with media that have already been authorized and declared as definitive units by certain authorities. What they actually avoid is imagining that the power they are exercising might be affecting the more vulnerable.
What is needed is to acknowledge the fact that our society is hierarchically stratified, rather than confining ourselves within comfortable spaces in which equations can easily be established. This is about critical reflection on ourselves. However, it is not considered appropriate to advocate for it. Confronting squarely ourselves is even more difficult than we assume. Since many have come to put credit on scientific analyses, I would like to invoke them. First, communications by which to exchange ideas, knowledge and information will be seen as successions of utterances or messages punctuated by generative moments at which participants in communications are supposed to find utterances or messages meaningful in one way or another as if to be eye-opener. Second, to increase the chances to experience the generative moments, exchanges of ideas, knowledge and information are re-defined as being initiated by vertical imagination, meaning that the advantages of recognizing differences are seen as the origins of power and a variety of values. Third, by so doing, we may become more sensible to the importance of acknowledging necessarily unevenly distributed endowments in terms of innate characters and socio-cultural inheritances, which are sources of a variety of values in terms of which to exchange things. Downward vertical imagination would thus contribute to making social analyses, typically those on exchanges, much more relevant for wider audiences than assuming equilibria between definitively identified variables.
One who manages to denote reality in a plausible manner does not care about what is excluded from one's denotations. Those who are excluded need to take care of themselves. Never expect plausible stories to care those who are excluded. Also, there is no use examining logical coherence or consistency, objective validity or empirical evidence. You can never compete with those who keep on presenting plausible denotations. They never ignore those criteria for holding themselves accountable. Rather than competing with them, you may appreciate their efforts at representing reality as precisely as possible because their denotations, in the end, are precious resources for economy of our intellectual labor. Besides, we share preferences for automated exchanges in terms of not only moral values but also energy necessary for subsistence.
Democracy and the diversified world that is considered necessary for it are fantasy simply because our imagination converges on simple and easily intelligible narratives. It is indeed absurd to advocate for diversifying narratives. Complex narratives lower intelligibility.
As our narratives converge on simpler and more easily intelligible ones, the number of people excluded from such simpler narratives increases. They are simply abandoned especially when energy required for subsistence gets less and less available.
My hope is the fact that it is impossible even for the more competent to draw definitive boundaries between those who are to be cared and those who are to be abandoned. While the more advantaged people attempt to secure as safe places as possible, they never stop collecting as much information as possible to do so. Therefore, those who are to be abandoned have chances to leave behind data. Ideally, such data are hoped to be as complex as possible. As a matter of fact, insofar as someone lives, there exist complex realities.
Please note that this pessimistic scenario is no one's failure. Everybody likes to make better sense of reality and the most effective way to do so is dividing the world into manageable pieces. Rather than lamenting, I would like to encourage you to leave behind as complex realities as possible. The complexity may contribute to retarding dissipation of energy just in the same way as living creatures do by establishing homeostatic systems. Since human interpretation is not separated from natural processes of interpretation, which refer to interpretations by means of flows of energy that are to be patterned in certain ways, humans may one day come up with innovative invention that takes into account both natural and their own interpretations.