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Thursday, July 13 • 17:00 - 17:30
3207 From Certainty to Wisdom: The Contribution of Dynamic and Integrative Epistemology to Systemic Leadership

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There is a “thinking and doing dichotomy” that assumes that chronologically we should think before we act. This dichotomy reduces human cognitive processes to their intellectual dimension assuming a superiority of reason over emotions. This dichotomy is rooted well-entrenched epistemological assumptions such as the assumption that the aim of the process of human knowing is to achieve accurate representation of the world leading to “a form of deductive knowledge that contained a degree of certainty unaffected by convictions, expectations, or passions” (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984This degree of certainty matches the Cartesian requirement that knowledge must be indubitable, infallible and incorrigible.

Dynamic and integrative epistemology overcomes the thinking and doing dichotomy by acknowledging that knowing is most and first of all an activity of the knower. Secondly, knowing does not aim at making accurate representations of reality (clear and distinct ideas) but at accumulating insights through information processing. Information processing is defined as enriching immediate data of experience with value and meaning for the purpose of decision-making and problem-solving. Knowing as information processing occurs at four levels of consciousness, namely, the emotional (pathos), the intellectual (logos), evaluative (ethos) and the active (praxis). These four levels of consciousness imply four different possible outcomes of the process of human knowing. Experiencing generates data or representations, understanding generates meaning, evaluating creates value while acting leads to achievement of practical goals. Furthermore, knowing involves whole organisms and not isolated minds, hence rationality and intelligence can be extended to artifacts such as economic systems, social institutions and non-human experts such as electronic expert systems. In this context, leadership in an information-rich has to be based on wisdom rather than on certainty.

Defining human knowing as accumulating insights through information processing implies challenging in an unprecedented way assumptions that normative epistemology inherited from modern science and its attempts to model all of human knowing on the physical sciences. The three facts of information i.e. being, behaving and becoming, show striking similarities with Lonergan’s process of human knowing in way that defining knowing as information processing implies an assimilation of the two frameworks. All in all, knowing as information processing implies that, as Simon (1971) has pointed out: “in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

These skills are not isolated acts but attitudes that shape the process of knowing despite its dynamic and integrative nature. Lonergan (1990) has called these skills transcendental precepts. For him: “progress proceeds from originating value, from subjects being their true selves by observing the transcendental precepts, Be attentive, Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, Be responsible. Being attentive includes attention to human affairs. Being intelligent includes a grasping of hitherto unnoticed or unrealized possibilities. Being reasonable includes rejection of what probably would not work but also acknowledgement of what probably would. Being responsible includes basing one’s decisions and choices on an unbiased evaluation of short-term and long-term costs and benefits to oneself, to one’s groups, to other groups.”

Thursday July 13, 2017 17:00 - 17:30 CEST

Attendees (6)