2 Senses of Novelty

I’ve been reading Restoration of Reason by Montague Brown at a snails pace because I have little time for my own enjoyable reading.  I’m only 27 pages in, but something caught my eye with regards to a minimal requirement on most dissertations, the condition that some idea or other in the dissertation offer some novel or new contribution to knowledge.  The section I’m reading is about Fancis Bacon.  Bacon is depicted as a philosopher who follows the empiricist line and desires to free philosophy from the shackles of medieval thought and its ties to natural philosophy and move it towards a wedding with the flourishing natural sciences of the time.  All that aside, the thought in the area of art that Brown attributes to Bacon is that what makes art good is the introduction of something new.  That struck me because it finds its way into dissertation standards as well.  In order for something to be good it has to introduce something new.

As that stands, it is probably too strong of a statement.  Of course there are many things that are old that are good like the great pyramids or Egypt or the Great Wall of China.  I guess these would fit the bill because at the time and until today they are unique, and there is nothing else like them.  So their novelty is both in uniqueness and originality for longevity.

My question is, “Can we have something good that is not novel?”  Surely we can.  In a sense the examples I gave fit that description to, so it matters how narrowly we define “novel”.  A concern I have is that we can overlook the present and the past in our attempts to be novel.  It strikes me as importing our consumeristic ideology into our academic work when we set our sights on novelty.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think the pursuit of knowledge and truth and the elimination of falsehoods are extremely important, but in our pursuit of novelty, I don’t want to overlook what has went before and what is around us.  Forsaking these foundations and contemporaries in some sense can make our work mere novelties…in the contemporary sense of our work being gadgets or quick, cute fixes that attract the eye, but have no lasting effects.


About Mike

I am a husband, father and someone completing my graduate studies in philosophy and have the privilege of teaching philosophy and ethics at a small college. I love the intellectual life, particularly as it intersects with what Jesus, Plato and Aristotle referred to as the "Abundant Life", "The Good" and "The Good Life".
This entry was posted in Philosophy-General. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s