Although superceded by the new
Introduction for the refocused Circles direction of
this web project, below is the Intro as it stood during the epistemological
and driving phase:
This is a site from one guy in an RV,
christened the Epistemology Express, on a road trip across North America to
network, to explore and to promote reform in philosophy. The focal
point is through the outdated, vacuous and now floating concept of
knowledge. Hence, the name of the vehicle for the branch of philosophy
interested in knowledge.
If you do not know much about epistemology, the theory of knowledge, then you
might want to go to the "Epistemology for Dummies or for
page at this site. More complete introductions can be found at the epistemology sections of the Routledge
Encyclopedia website or of Epistemelinks.com.
For the simple version of which direction in
epistemology is espoused here see the Surfing the
Mental Ecology webpage.
The route taken is to travel to talk to people, particularly at
universities. I need support and criticism. Philosophy does not have to be a
private affair, and when, as now, our public philosophy is in tatters,
talking and meeting are good things to do. My primary goal has been to
network to meet others exploring the same lines of reform. But increasingly
my role of advocate has grown. The many positive strands of current research
are exciting and worth being stated simply with a view to application
as well as to theory.
Knowledge is the currency of our culture. Truth and knowledge have been
inseparable partner beacons of inspiration for centuries. Yet, it is easy to
overlook that this view of a special, universal viewpoint is itself an ideal
that now exists precariously in our culture. The concept of knowledge is
drifting (Is it the new knowledge economy? Who can say what is real in
therapy-remembered accounts? Is knowledge the same as power? Is it
information, and if so is so much of it a good thing?). The value of truth
is in disarray (Why do experts contradict each other?). One feature of this
website is an attempt to outline the many ways we understand knowledge. It
is the web section The Knowledge Question.
Additionally, the site takes a socially
critical look at how the concept of knowledge as truth effects many social
problems. The way we use knowledge shapes our lives, our culture and also
our problems. The problematic facet of the way knowledge effects culture,
particularly first world culture, is presented in a section called Social Aspects.
But the major goal of this site is to gain your interest in the incredible
potential for improving our lives that a renewed understanding of knowledge
could have. We have dealt with knowledge for so long as if it were merely
the obvious or acquisitions of skills (the mirror metaphor) that the amazing contribution that the
human meaning layer adds to the planet goes hardly noticed. Luckily, as
different cultures come into contact or emerge from silence, we are noticing
that there are cracks in the obvious. Truth is no longer what it used to be.
But here too we are a long way from entering the remarkable potential of
living in and managing our meaning commons.
But these are theories and theories of knowledge will not make huge
revolutions in culture unless they change the way we act. A different
approach to knowledge is so potentially powerful because of the cumulative
effect of our continual use of a changed relationship to knowledge. When
knowledge is understood as “something” that we are doing and adding to the
world, then we are nudged into paying closer attention to how we use it.
Such a shift in attitude shifts the focus of life’s dramas from preferences
for Big Picture understandings and towards interactional frameworks. Any
theory of knowledge should have the effect of reframing us from directors to
actors. It is from this interactional activity of knowing, rather than from
any knowledge about some thing, that could significantly effect our social
lives. And these considerations of the importance of interactions and of the
interpersonal hopefully carry over into the spirit of how the Epistemology
Express pursues the quest. Knowledge is good if it is effective, but
knowledge is better if it builds good relationships.
With this vision of great potential in mind, my work here at this website
and in my journey will attempt to make any and all contact with others who
either share or are interested in how knowledge and meaning should be
understood. In a wager of my own best efforts to show this vision and a path
to its use and as a prologue to dialogue, I have put forward my own Declaration of
Interdependence. This draws on the work of many researchers who describe
aspects of cognition, rhetoric, embodiment and other current areas of
interest and places these into an interpersonal format. In other words if
these theoretical works make sense, then the Declaration attempts to put
them forward as to how it should effect the way you and I interact
especially when we “know.” What is striking about knowledge as opposed to
researching, say, skin diseases, is that we must use it to describe it.
Understanding and usage must merge. To all researchers, I say let’s
experiment with how we use meaning between ourselves.
As the Epistemology Express is in its third year (2003), there have been a
number of earlier writings that are dated but still possibly useful. They
are collected in the Writings section. And
Road Trip itself, as a travel counterclockwise
around the US and Canada, has a section for its own “embodiment.”
Stepping back, this is an ongoing project. It is an invitation to dialogue
even as it will continually evolve. Dialogue, sharpening a new view, trying
to foster interest in the question and seeking support are all goals that I
would like more of. If you can offer any of these, please do.
A particular challenge to this project is that some of you will be equipped
to read and contribute quickly and easily to these very wordy discussions
while for others the abstract distance to everyday life will quickly give
you a philosophical or epistemological headache. In attempting to write for
both parties, I should apologize in advance for possibly offending both
groups while working beyond the limits of my aesthetics-challenged
personality and web skills.