Monday, October 04, 2010

"Back to the rough ground" by Joseph Dunne

After many years, I have gone back and started to re-read the book "Back to the rough ground--practical judgment and the lure of technique" by Joseph Dunne. I first read this wonderful book when it came out in 1993 and it immediately became one of my favorite books overall. It is therefore exiting and interesting to go back and read it again. Not surprisingly, I see other aspects of the text now and I understand it much better (I think). At the same time I wonder how much of what I have thought are my own ideas actually comes from my reading of Dunne. To be honest, I also find the book now to be less overwhelming and intimidating than I remember it even to the degree that I now can find arguments and sections where I can see potential improvements. Anyhow, the book is a wonder of detailed argumentation and analysis.

What is still the most amazing aspect of the book is the fact that the reason Dunne wrote the book was that he was trying to "solve" a concrete practical problem and he ended up having to conduct severe philosophical examinations in order to find a solution. The problem he worked on can simply be stated as Dunne does in the Preface "My purpose of this book is precisely to 'open up for inquiry' about practitioner's knowledge and to look for adequate conceptual resources to 'describe' it" (p. xv). Dunne is trying to find a way to understand practical knowledge and does that by grounding his analysis in two of Aristotle's types of knowledge, namely "techne" and "phronesis". However, Dunne is not satisfied just by going back to Artistotle, he also conducts "conversations" with five more contemporary philosophers, namely John Henry newman, R. G. Collingwood (who has always been my favorite philosopher), Hannah Arendt, Hans-George Gadamer, and Jurgen Habermas. This is not a group of everyday ordinary thinkers--they require some serious examinations and that is also what Dunne does. Well, I have only started my reading and did not intend to write about the book right now, maybe I will  come back later on and write more.

Just another note. I am convinced that anyone who has serious ambitions to understand practice and practical knowledge in any professional field should read this book, or at least parts of it. I think the book is even more timely and needed now than when it was first published. Dunne  offers a solid philosophical foundation on the notion of practical knowledge that in many ways resonates with contemporary design theory. More to come....

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker

In the October issue of the New Yorker there is an article called "Small Change, why the revolution will not be tweeted" by Malcolm Gladwell. I found this article to have all the typical good Gladwell qualities such as an interesting topic, a bit counter intuitive and also challenging mainstream ideas. In the article Gladwell  makes an interesting argument about social networks and their potential power to support or produce societal change. Gladwell makes the case that serious and real societal change can only be done through activism that is a different sort than what happens in social networks. He makes the case by contrasting "weak ties" with "strong ties" when it comes to relationships and friendships. He also contrast the "network" with the "hierarchy". The overall argument is that for real activism to happen the preconditions are the presence of strong ties and hierarchy, while social networks only provide weak ties and networks. I am quite sure that this article will produce a lot of discussions and I can see a lot of defenders of social network jumping on Gladwell's arguments. However, his argumentation is clear and straightforward and fact based so it will be difficult to find convincing counter arguments. I highly recommend the article.

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