Metcalf: "Images and Implements: The Making of Social Systems"
Posted by: daviding
Date: June 20, 2004 01:31PM
[I don't want to leave anyone behind, but it shouldn't be a secret that Gary Metcalf and I have had a lot of discussions over the past year. We're learning from each other, and should use the face-to-face meeting to make explicit some of the ideas that we've been bouncing around].
It may actually be an interesting distinction between whether the ISSS sees itself as a scientific institution, or a professional institution (in the strictest definitions for each). Science suggests the Greek idea of episteme, which represents theoretical knowledge. Professions suggest the Greek idea of techne, which is the facility to use tools. Neither one really has a direct connection to ethics or morality, but the Greek phronesis, as "common sense" brings in some linkages to questions about what sense is common. Thus, does being human suggest some values or beliefs that are common in human beings -- or as Hubert Dreyfus would describe, "primordial"?
Dreyfus has led me to an understanding of Heidegger, who focused much more on "how" than "why". In being-in-the-world, we don't really have to understand how a doorknob works to use it. We probably just observe others using it, and bring the experience of it working for us into our worldviews.
In Gary's paper, I can buy that images can be types of tools as well (e.g. metaphors). The use of an image may or may not be purposive, but if someone has a function for that image, it could be described as a tool. We don't even need to understand why it works, e.g. some stories are more evocative than others.
A lot of the paper is approached through anthropology (and archeology), which has not traditionally been an approach used in the system science community. On the one hand, it makes some sense, but at the same time, I wonder how we deal with changing tools, as the paper on Virtual Reality introduces.