Would you be interested in some disinterested knowledge?
Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.
Disinterested knowledge generally has no bottom line pay-off. If there is no money-in-it why do it? Understanding is a long step beyond knowing, it requires high motivation and perseverance and it may never happen it requires curiosity and caring.
I think that understanding and disinterested knowledge are the two sides of the same coin. I am sure that people, on occasion, bother to understand a domain of knowledge for reasons other than a desire to understand. Every specialist probably learns to understand his or her specialty and they have been led to do it because it is an instrument serving a career purpose. I have heard professors say that ‘you never understand a subject until you try to teach it”.
I think that a person strives to learn disinterested knowledge because they wish to understand that domain of knowledge. I do not think many people bother to study something that does not have a valuable payoff in money unless it is to understand. I would not learn to “do” calculus except that it is necessary to being an engineer. I would, however, study calculus if it helped me understand mathematics. Every engineer, when asked if s/he could “do” math would respond yes. Every engineer if asked ‘do you understand math’ might answer quickly, ‘are you kidding me’.
I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand. The knowledge and understanding that is sought are determined only by personal motivations. It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me. Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.
This quotation of Carl Rogers might illuminate my meaning of disinterested knowledge.
I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING - the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!”
I think that after schooling is finished a search for disinterested knowledge should begin. Does this make sense to you?