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Epistemology, Zetetics
Aristotle Model
Confucian Model
Indian Model


Towards a poly-dimensional structure of total knowledge


In the 1960ís whilst doing my Dip. Of Education at Monash University I proposed a multidimensional structure for total knowledge. The general consensus was that I would need at least three hundred pages for an introduction. Further that it was really post Ph. D. Material and that they did not have anyone who could supervise it. They required that I should read what was written on epistemology

A proposition which filled me with dread as I explained if I did what they wanted my thoughts on the matter would be formed by what I was reading and my chances of being original would be diminished I had no problem with doing such study after following my own pathways. However I got the feeling they really did not want to go down this pathway.

Melbourne University invited me to afternoon tea and I gave them an outline. When I was asked if there were any practical uses I volunteered an example of its usability in the real world I used the case of the placement of a new teacher. Faces paled around the table, the milk curdled and a disapproving voice said "that sounds like sociology and that is not really respectable you know". At this point I blew the interview by laughing, I had thought they were joking.

I took the material to Directors of Secondary Education Msrs Dave Satchell and Ron Reid who together did a great deal to pull the Victorian Secondary School Education System albeit reluctantly into the 20th century. They were kind enough to indicate that they understood and encouraged me to continue. Events however caused me to shelve the idea till now. 

It seems to me that the advances in science and technology, and particularly the development of the internet have removed the need for the 300 page introduction. In this case the Canadian Marshall McLuhan was indeed correct when he pointed out that "the medium is the massage". And as Jonathon Miller in The Body in Question pointed out that it was not till the development and use of pumps in mines that Harvey's idea of the circulation of blood was acceptable to Europeans.

The Organization of Total Knowledge

The first we know of in the Western world who tried to understand the shape and structure of total knowledge was the great Macedonian Philosopher Aristotle.

The Aristotlean concept of total knowledge was that knowledge pushed out into the unknown like the spokes of a wheel. These spokes became the disciplines. This idea worked well for centuries however it suffered from several problems one being that it was two dimensional a second being that as one pushed out the disciplines get further and further apart, a third being that as knowledge grew so did the need for specialization. An example is a time when there were no historians. Somewhere in a dim lit cell a monk studied the past, word spread about his knowledge and he became a folk hero, One day the silence of his cell was broken by a visitor, another monk from a far land. He came to sit admire and study with him. It soon became clear to them that they could cover more territory if one studied Europe and the other Egypt. The next year they were joined by another and they divided history further. Now look at how many historians there are. This little example shows how unworkable it can become. Just think of all the multitudes of types of history and there has to be a mass of twigs or sub-branches.

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Last modified: August 01, 2010

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