Epistemic Practices

A lecture and workshop series – normally held on Thursday mornings at 9:30 – introducing creative arts research epistemologies, thematics, discourses, methods and techniques.

‘Epistemic practices’ is a broad term indicating the active production, reproduction, distribution, and rhetorical construction of knowledge, knowing and the knowable. This course facilitates the researcher to build competency, experience and critical reflection through the peer dialogue that is central to the School’s activities. There is a balance sought through the course between the specific needs of individual research projects and the broader portfolio of competencies that all researchers need to demonstrate. Central to this course is a critical rethinking of academic culture and traditional practices as informed by current research. The following quotations indicate the kind of dynamic and contested space that ‘epistemic practices’ inhabit.

‘[T]he problems of real-world practice do not present themselves to practitioners as well-formed structures. Indeed, they tend not to present themselves as problems at all but as messy, indeterminate situations.’
[Donald Schön]

‘Such questions as …“what method is common to palaeontology and particle physics?” or “what relation to reality is shared by topology and entomology?” are hardly more useful than “is sociology closer to physics than to literary criticism?” or “is political science more hermeneutic than microbiology, chemistry more explanatory than psychology?”’
[Clifford Geertz]

For only two centuries, knowledge has assumed a disciplinary form; for less than one, it has been produced in academic institutions by professionally trained knowers. (sic.) Yet we have come to see these circumstances as so natural that we tend to forget their historical novelty and fail to imagine how else we might produce and organize knowledge.
[Messer-Davidow et al.]

‘There is an inevitable paradox when talking about interdisciplinarity. Our vocabulary – indeed, our entire logic of classification – predisposes us to think in terms of disciplinarity. This predisposition has created a set of metaphoric structures in the discourse. The dominant image – the surface structure – is that of geopolitics. The major activity is dispute over territory, not only in education and research but also in health-care teams, where a patient becomes the “turf” of specialists. In the logic of the geo-political metaphor, a discipline is “private property”, an “island fortress” staked off by its own “patrolled boundaries,” and “no trespassing notices.”‘
[Julie Thompson Klein]

‘As higher education becomes an industry, it commercializes. This process is giving rise to certain anxieties. True, commercialization is bringing certain evils; at the same time, it is generating impulses towards the development of higher education as an essential factor of social progress and economic growth.’
[Andrzej S. Nartowski]

‘Given that we are paid to do research, what is there to monitor the research we are doing? How can we keep informed people who might be interested in it, or who might have some reason for taking this research as a starting point? How can we keep them informed on a fairly regular basis about the work we are doing, except by teaching, or in other words by making a public statement.’
[Michel Foucault]

‘Today, philological and historical disciplines consider it a methodological given that the epistemological process that is proper to them is necessarily caught in a circle. The discovery of this circle as the foundation of all hermeneutics goes back to Schleiermacher and his intuition that in philology “the part can be understood only by means of the whole and every explanation of the part presupposes the understanding of the whole.” But this circle is in no sense a vicious one. On the contrary, it is itself the foundation of the rigor and rationality of the social sciences and humanities. For a science that wants to remain faithful to its own law, what is essential is not to leave this “circle of understanding,” which would be impossible, but to “stay within it in the right way.” By virtue of the knowledge acquired at every step, the passage from the part to the whole and back again never returns to the same point; at every step, it necessarily broadens its radius, discovering a higher perspective that opens a new circle. The curve representing the hermeneutic circle is not a circumference, as has often been repeated, but a spiral that continually broadens its turns.’
[Giorgio Agamben]

‘Positivism marks the end of the theory of knowledge. In its place emerges the philosophy of science. Transcendental-logical enquiry into the conditions of possible knowledge aimed as well at explicating the meaning of knowledge as such. Positivism cuts off this enquiry, which it conceives as having become meaningless in virtue of the fact of the modern sciences. Knowledge is implicitly defined by the achievement of the sciences.’
[Jurgen Habermas]

‘The problem of the relationships between the human and natural sciences, if there is a problem, pertains to method, not object.’
[Fritz Staals]

‘The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognize it as the distorted language of the actual world and to realize that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.’
[Marx and Engels]

‘Words and discourse aboundeth most where there is idleness and want…’
[Francis Bacon]

‘We next went to the school of languages, where three professors sat in consultation upon improving that of their own Country. The first project was to shorten Discourse by cutting Polysyllables into one, and leaving out Verbs and Participles; because in Reality all things imaginable are but Nouns. […] An expedient was therefore offered, that since Words are only Names for Things, it would be more convenient for all Men to carry about them, such Things.’
[Jonathan Swift]

‘All researchers, all theoreticians must ask themselves the question of their personal relation with their ideas, that is, of the relationship of their ideas to their idiosyncrasies, their dreams, fantasies, desires, interests, respects, that is to say, everything within them that pushes them to select and hierarchically arrange facts and ideas in such a way as to tend toward such and such a conclusion. But such an incitement is not only a stimulus toward introspection.’
[Edgar Morin]

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