Would you be interested in some disinterested knowledge?

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?

Meh. [shrug]

Most people pursue academics and independent knowledge simultaneously. The pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not a new concept, nor does it need a special name. I’m curious as to why you are fixated on this subject, as your posts seem to indicate. The concepts you bring up are neither new nor rare. While recent changes in education tend to “teach to the test” per se, education has historically required students to investigate numerous aspects of an idea and present a dissertation. An in-depth study of a subject frequently produces a variety of takes on it, all of which can be valid.

Where did you go to school? It sounds like you were forbidden to think independently and just recently realized you have the ability to do so.

I am a retied engineer and began my self-actualizing self-learning process about twenty five years ago. I seldom post new concepts on Internet discussion forums because the royalties are so poor. It is very difficult thinking up new concepts.

What other name do you have for disinterested knowledge? I have been looking for one for some time but without success.

I am fixated on disinterested knowledge because it is so rare, except of course in your case and I guess your friends.

I have been to many schools. And every one of them failed to prepare me to become an independent thinker.

I do understand, however, that some schools and colleges are beginning to each CT (Critical Thinking) and I hope that CT may teach students how to think since most schools and colleges only concentrate on teaching them what to think

I’ve always just called it “curiosity,” and I’ve got more than my share. I want to know how everything works, where it came from and who came up with the idea in the first place. I’ve been collecting this information since I was a kid, and I find that as an adult, my curiosity hasn’t eased one bit. It seems that the more I learn, the more I find that I don’t know.

I’m the person who will hunch down on the floor to look at the underside of an object. If I undergo a medical test, I’m likely to spend most of my time quizzing the technician as to how the machine works.

If you looked at my personal library, it would probably be hard to guess where my interests lie, because there are books on hundreds of different subjects, ranging from the mundane to the painfully obscure. (Amazon.com is my best friend in this regard.)

My husband teaches at our local univesity branch campus. Sometimes when I go to school with him, I’ll wander off and find a class in session and slip in just to listen.

So, yeah, I am interested in disinterested knowledge-- to the point where it’s amazing to me that others aren’t.

“Every time I learn something new, it pushes something old out. Remember that time I took a home brewing course and forgot how to drive?”

“Homer, you were drunk.”

“And how!”

Woah. Too many words.

“Do you like to know stuff just to know stuff, or do you only want to know practical stuff?”

To which my answer would be…Uh, why do you think I spend too much time on the Dope?

I don’t own or feed a rabbit, nor do I ever intend to.

If I ever go to Mississippi, I will look up the route beforehand.

There’s a 99.9% chance I won’t see Angelina Jolie’s movie, 'cause it sounds boring as hell.

Yet I’m still here. I like to know stuff.

I don’t agree with this. I think nearly all people want to learn, they just may not want to learn what you want to learn. Get their curiousity piqued, and they may learn everything there is to know about baseball, or scrapbooking, or 17th century clothing or the history of rap music. Are there some people who just numb themselves with drugs, TV or work? Yes. But I still believe the inner drive is there. Put them on a deserted island with all their basic needs met, and they’ll start examining the local flora, just for something to do.

coberst, this is mnore of a poll than a debate. I am shipping it off to IMHO where we conduct polls.

(I am pretty sure that you will find that the percentage of posters on the SDMB who demonstrate your “disinterested knowledge” (or Lissa’s “curiosity”) is somewhere above 99%.)

[ /Moderating ]

I think you have a great attitude and curiosity. I suspect that the more that people hear that it is a great thing the more who will get that library card and discover the ecstasy of understanding.


The point in discovering disinterested knowledge is that one follows their own interest and they learn only what they are interested in. It is not like being in school when we learn what a teacher thinks we should know. In following our own curiosity we are also learning what we are about. I suspect it is a good way to discover your talents.

In following your interests rather than that of some one else you are on the path to understanding because to understand is to go beyond knowing. Only the motivation of curiosity can drive a person to reach understanding.

We went out to dinner with some of hubby’s co-workers a while back. The resturant was non-smoking, so I slipped outside to indulge. And, of course, having a moment of free time, I took my book out of my purse and started reading. One of the co-workers came out to get something from their car and stopped to ask me what I was reading. “It’s about salt,” I explained, pointing to the title on the cover.

“Salt,” she repeated. "You’re reading a book about salt?"

“Yeah, it’s really interesting. It tells about early production methods and uses . . .” my voice trailed off as she burst into laughter. When I went back inside, she was mocking me to the other people at the table who were equally as amused.

I get a lot of that sort of reaction, so, no, I don’t imagine I’m influencing many to discover the joys of learning. One can always hope, I suppose.


I understand your experience. Anti-intellectualism is a strong influence in the US.

Tomndebb said this “(I am pretty sure that you will find that the percentage of posters on the SDMB who demonstrate your “disinterested knowledge” (or Lissa’s “curiosity”) is somewhere above 99%.)” This is an amazing statement to me. Does your experience with forum members verify this sort of statement?

coberst, we wouldn’t be Cecil Adams fans and/or SDMB members if we weren’t.

I enjoyed that book immensely.

*Disinterested, * not uninterested.

And the answer is yes, of course. But I never thought of calling it anything particular. I just like to learn stuff for the sake of learning stuff.

In this place, yes. The majority of long-term Dopers are well-read people with a broad base of knowledge. We have scientists, doctors, lawyers, historians and authors among our members which is what makes this community so special.

Yeah, Salt was great! But while I was reading it I was constantly cycling back and forth between wanting salt even more than usual and never wanting to taste the damn stuff again.

Mmm… salt…

Disinterested (or uninterested) is not the right word. I think you are talking about learning for learning’s sake, and, when I do that, I’m very interested.

Ditto for pure research, by the way. I have hung out at the old Bell Labs Area 11, and while the work there was not targeted for direct application, you never saw a more interested set of people.

BTW, I think Tom’s percentage is about right.

What is the correct word? I have been trying to find a better word for a long time.

We will do the work and concentration required to reach understanding only if we are seeking disininterested knowledge because the only motivation for such knowledge is that which can come from in inside, it must come from our deep desire to understand. Knowledge is sufficint for most job requirements.

Only caring deeply will motivate us to work for understanding.

All knowledge is disinterested: facts are neutral and have no agenda or, for that matter, they are not even capable for forming an opinion. You may form an opinion, but the facts cannot.

Disinterested = neutral, impartial

How about “Learning for the sake of knowledge” or “Knowing stuff just to know stuff”?

I get the sense from your writing style that you think value comes in ten dollar words. Sometimes it’s more precise and more effective communication to write simply and accept that, for some concepts, a string of words is more appropriate than a single, forced, adjective.