Archives for posts with tag: philosophy

I wrote this draft nearly a year ago (2009-11-28) and just unearthed it. So, I’m going to post it without edits. And add some new thoughts below.

For nearly a decade now I have wanted a PhD. I know this sounds strange, I mean wanting a PhD like I crave a favorite food dish or a particularly lovely new piece of technology. The point is however, that I thought the PhD was really important, it meant that I could reach a particular point in my intellectual travels. The PhD had specific conntations of who I wanted to be and where I would be. Now I don’t think the same way. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to study and receive a PhD, but it does mean that I have changed how and where I place importance in my work/research. Let me Explain.

I saw a film recently, it was called Tum Mile, it was a bollywood piece and it wasn’t too briliant. The film did however feature at least one interesting line and it was spoken by the male protagonist, a self confessed artist: “I make my art for the common person”. Now, while I hate the words ‘common person’, I can see what the character means, in his context he is speaking of making art that isn’t for fellow artists, art critics of gallery people, who think of art as a business or as ‘high’ culture, he wants his art to speak to everybody else. In this way I am the same, I want to transform and change myself and others, which also feature in magic, but we’re not going there, yet. I have moved from caring about the needs and interests of academia, which is loosely thought of as the lecturers, professors and students in a high tower separated from the rest of the world, only talking to each other about how their work changes the world but never actually getting involved in changing the world, or trying to live in it. These reasons also seem to be why academia hasn’t been badly effected by any economic downturns but we can get into that later, and in another piece.

Now, where was I? I place meaning, and direct my research to something academia calls the ‘public’ outside  the tower .

The Philosopher, A C Graying has said numerous times that philosophers have to communicate their ideas and views to a wider public if they are to ave any importance. He even takes it further, he thinks that it is the philosopher’s role to communicate, share and educate everybody they can, breaking the barriers of academia and not, which only disadvantage all concerned.

I am currently finishing my MPhil, and do not want to pursue a PHD right now. In the year since I’ve written the above, my thoughts on life have changed, resulting in the fact that most of what I want to do now is not myopically limited by the PhD. I want to venture into other things, and other realms without thinking that my life and career don’t start until I have a PhD. Maybe in the future I will find something I really want to dedicate to a PhD. We’ll see. For now though, look forward to me annoucing and doing other things.

I’d like to say the Future’s bright…


ground up knowledge sharing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how knowledge is created and shared, in fact my current thesis is about how this happens within archaeology, and I hope to take it further. I am currently investigating a ‘disunified’ approach to knowledge production and meaning, an approach which is heavily influenced by the ‘disunity of science thesis’ and it is from this work that I will draw an example.

The ‘Monte Carlod Method’ stemmed from the research into the creation of the Thermonuclear bomb in America, specifically the use of computer simulation in the research. What quickly became apparent during the research was that not everybody was using the simulators in the same way or for the same thing. The researchers did all however, use the computer simulators. The way the researchers used the computers it really was a version of virtual reality, the aim being to reconstruct real world conditions that weren’t possible or safe to at the time. Which leads into how the Monte Carlo research is an example of ‘disunified’ science.

The striking feature of inter-disciplinary research is the hybridisation of skill sets and knowledge which lead to a synthesis of new knowledge and new skill sets that straddle two or more disciplinary fields. Trading zones do not require such hybridisation. It is the phenomena and how to study it that locates a new trading zone, or research group. Therefore researchers may only focus on one facet of work within one methodology. This ability can lead to multi-vocality – an integral constituent of a trading zone. It was not necessary for everybody involved in the Monte Carlo experiments to have the same skills. This meant that some researchers could focus on the game-theory aspect, or convergence problems, while others focused on particular problems or methods, and other researchers yet exploited basic results (Galison 1996: 153).

This then means that not everybody has to share the same thoughts, and feelings about a specific study, discipline or discourse. People may disagree on a word to describe a set of phenomena, but they don’t disagree about the phenomena itself, or its importance, although it is entirely possible that they’ll disagree about the actual, specific importance. What usually happens is that a ‘pidgin’ language will grow up around the researchers, which is intrinsically linked to their group, and often meaningless to anyone outside it.

Book Mentioned: Galison, Peter. Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics

Credit(s)/Acknowledgment(s): I’ve posted this after talking to Matt Webb about some of these ideas which got me thinking, and made me spray my thoughts out here.

One of my views on the ‘living landscpaes’ section in the ‘Handbook of Landscape  Archaeology’

“The work on offer is not simply an engagement with or application of philosophy but instead, a creation and dissemination of the contributors own philosophy. In many ways a positive act for archaeology. A positive act because twelve years ago, as well as before and since, Thomas’ ‘Time, Culture and Identity’ was heralded by some authors in ‘Archaeological Dialogues’ as mis-appropriating Heidegger, or of creating an application for Heideggerian thought. The same has often been said of Tilley and Karlsson. The point I make here is that by offering chapters that reference only archaeologists, and present a mature thought structure for each approach, the move from applying philosophy to actively creating it has become more apparent.”

Below you will find the slides from my 02009 YAPG presentation. It deals with what I am calling a disunity of archaeology model. The ideas and influence come from the disunity of science thesis within the philosophy of science. The ideas contained within the presentation are working notes torwards the first part, of three, that will make up my PhD.

[Edit] I have dug out my original presentation abstract (written  in academic).

‘Trading Zones’: archaeology and the disunity of science thesis

A ‘trading zone’, as defined within the philosophy of science, is an ad-hoc academic grouping that exists outside of traditional disciplinary boundaries. Such trading zones are never swallowed by a parent discipline. Members either perform research into the same phenomena, but using different approaches, or they utilise the same approaches, but to investigate different phenomena.

This working paper will take the above as a starting point and present the idea of archaeology as a trading zone, thereby questioning the affects this has on current conceptions of landscape archaeology. Such a viewpoint would open up the possibility of dialogue, and potentially bridge the gap, between the humanities (post-processual) and sciences (processual), which have increasingly become segregated within archaeology, especially in studies of the landscape.

This presentation will be drawn from the first section of ongoing research into a ‘disunity of archaeology’ model.

I hope to have some lengthier notes on the 02009 YAPG, and my evolving research, soon.

Dupre’s book ‘Darwin’s Legacy’ is a short (around 124 pages, large type) book dealing with evolution, and what it means today. Dupre even notes in the beginning that he is looking at evolution from a phlosopher who studies biology. While largely a general overview of prevlent themes within evlutionary theory, the trademark opinionated, measured analytical postions of Dupre shine through. Dupre is at home explaining why social biology, and evolutionary pyschology are incorrect. He also seems genuinely positive about the meaning of evolution to people today, largely in the form of systematic treatments of race, sex and gender (the fact that they are not completely biologically meaningful). The passages are a culmination of the book and they work well.

This book isn’t a general, attemtpt at objective, history of evolution, and what it means. This book is a position text for what Dupre thinks evolution should/could be.

   “Strangely enough, man – the study of whom is supposed by the naive to be the oldest investigation since Socrates – is probably no more than a kind of rift in the order of things, or, in any case, a configuration whose outlines are determined by the new position he has so recently taken up in the field of knowledge. Whence all the chimeras of the new humanisms, all the facile solutions of an ‘anthropology’ understood as a universal reflection on man, half-empirical, half-philosophical. It is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form.”

Michel Foucault. The Order of Things 1.970. pp. xxiii

Below is an extract from my BA dissertation in which I attempted to explain human being to a non philosphical audience. It may have some relevence to the post below

” Dasein: “We are ourselves the entities to be analysed…the essence of Dasein lies in its existence” (Heidegger 1962: 67). Therefore Dasein is equated with being human. The structures to be investigated are those of human beings.

Present-at-hand and Ready-to-hand: “ The things Dasein encounters are usable, employable in the pursuit of its purposes: in Heidegger’s terms, they are not just present-to-hand, the object of theoretical contemplation, but handy or ready-to-hand. That is the way in which Dasein encounters them when it looks after something or makes use of it, accomplishes something or leaves something undone” (Mulhall 2005: 41).

Being-in-the-world: The state in which human beings exist, Dasein itself literally means ‘being-there’ (Mulhall 2005: 40). Dasein’s Being-in-the-world is a unitary and holistic experience (Heidegger 1962: 78, Mulhall 2005: 36) therefore its everyday experience, is not an inner mental state and then an outer world. Being in should not be confused with Being-in, that is humans are not ‘in’ the world like water is in a glass (Heidegger 1962: 79). “


Heidegger, m. 1962 Being and Time Oxford: Blackwell

Mulhall, S. 2005 Heidegger and Being and Time: Second edition London: Routledge

paraphrased from J. Derrida ‘Spectres of Marx’ pg. 34

‘Examples are gifts because we give that which we do not have, if we did have that thing there would be no recourse to examples’

Perhaps one of the things that keeps the questions related to what archaeology is and how it goes about its business, is related to the fact that archaeologists have always examined the foundations of archaeology themselves (maybe they think as they are archaeologists they are experts in finding foundations and discussing them over a pint in the pub). Archaeology (and anthropology) have never been subjected to an onslaught of philosophers questioning every assumption and thought they have about their discipline (unlike science). Therefore they are asking questions while already being situated and thinking as an archaeologist.