Anomalogues, cont.

Science : engineering :: philosophy : design


Like science, philosophy seeks truth, which means finding intelligible patterns in reality as we live it.

Like religion, philosophy is guided by intellectual aesthetics. If we are truthful with ourselves, we do not love truth on the strength of its truthfulness. We have a taste for certain problems, questions, resolutions and facts, rooted in nature, nurture and circumstance. When we see truth in a way congenial to our tastes, life is more alive to us.

Not that everyone has taste. Some have bad taste, and even more have weak taste. Philistinism extends to taste in truth.


Some useful objects in our lives do not resonate with our tastes, and nobody expects them to. Such objects are hidden from our experience or we simply pay no attention to them. These objects can be engineered without any reference to human sensibilities, according to the facts uncovered by science.

Other useful objects in our lives do matter to us, and we want them to resonate with our tastes. These objects are designed, as well as engineered. The truth that guides the design of the objects must take account of science but will also include and understanding of the user’s sensibilities. Such an understanding is a philosophical truth: a fusion of truth and taste.

In my view (especially after reading Leviathan and the Air-Pump) scientific truths are engineered, where philosophical truths are actually designed.

Here’s the question that interests me right now: how would one do user-centered design of a philosophy? In my opinion, this is what brand strategy wants to become: a philosophy of an organization which enables it to function according to a particular intellectual and artistic taste. When the functional and aesthetic are treated as two separate realms, the aesthetic takes on a Sunday-religious character — an occasional emotional/moral edification added to workaday functional genericism. But when the aesthetic and functional form an organic whole that permeates everything an organization does.

But standing behind (or above or beneath) a designed philosophy is another philosophy which holds to an ontology and epistemology that permits a philosophy to be designed by giving reality and truth latitude for choice. And this meta-philosophy is Pragmatism.



I need to study Kuhn’s work on theory choice in science. Everyone who has looked into the matter closely has found that there is an element of taste even in scientific practice. Here’s the theory choice considerations Kuhn identified:

Accurate – empirically adequate with experimentation and observation.

Consistent – internally consistent, but also externally consistent with other theories.

Broad Scope – a theory’s consequences should extend beyond that which it was initially designed to explain.

Simple – the simplest explanation, principally similar to Occam’s Razor.

Fruitful – a theory should disclose new phenomena or new relationships among phenomena.


2 thoughts on “Anomalogues, cont.

    1. I see Wittgenstein as belonging to (or maybe it’s better to say “having a very strong family resemblance”) to pragmatism. The reason I also see Kuhn as compatible with pragmatism is that my first exposure to him came from Richard J. Bernstein’s _Beyond Objectivism and Relativism_, which came at the problem of postmodern thought from a pragmatist angle. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it as highly as I can recommend anything (

      I could not agree with you more on the importance of dialogue. The thinker who sensitized me to its role in design and in life was Martin Buber. I need to read some Bakhtin. Every time we talk I decide I’m going to read him, so I just ordered _The Dialogic Imagination_.

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