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Discussion on: I'm a Doer. How do I become a Knower?

samosborn profile image
Sam Osborn

The relationship between Doing and Knowing is an incredibly important one than that absolutely transcends programming.
I disagree with the others who say it is a false dichotomy, it may be the defining argument in western philosophy since Plato and Aristotle.
Given the primacy of the topic, there's some really well nurtured thinking about it:

  • In Gifts of Athena, Mokyr describes Doing as techne and Knowing as episteme and then maps the progress of technology and economics onto the contra-punctual advancement of each through and across the other. A good introduction.
  • At the end of his short essay What Is Real Giorigo Agamben decouples potentiality from action and suggests only through this decoupling can we operate in the realm of the real.
  • Agamben is very interested in topics of agency, agenda, and knowledge. Other books of his that help map the boundary and interaction between Doing and Knowing include: The Adventure, Homo Sacer, and The Sacrament of the Oath.
  • Hutto and Myin have a series of books arguing that many forms of cognition are contentless, dynamic, and embodied. The latest, Evolving Enactivism, can be inaccessible and heady, but faces into some truths that are seldom appreciated in Computer Science outside of the avant garde of AI theory. Hutto and Myin offer the best argument I've seen that Knowledge and Action are entangled but different.

Dodging contemparay philosophy, there is good thinking on this topic in Anglo-saxon and Icelandic poetry. The Havamal from the Poetic Eddas often repeats the refrain:

"I advise you Loddfafnir, to take this advice
it will be useful if you learn it
do you good, if you have it..."

The vocabulary of the directive blurs the line between appropriation and learning. The advice is something to be "taken" and "had" and "used". These words of appropriation do the powerful work of turning knowledge into an axial force of advantage in the territory of that which is or will be "done". Though it appears simple, the Havamal is very good at finding the subtle balance between knowledge had and actions done. It shows how the two co-create each other, but are in fact different and distinct capacities.

koabrook profile image
Koa Author

Wow, I didn't expect a philosophical angle. This is incredibly interesting! Thank you for your input, I will check out some of the sources you mentioned. Perhaps by better understanding each concept (doing and knowing) I can bridge them more effectively. Thank you again!

gypsydave5 profile image
David Wickes

How did you write all this and not say 'praxis' even once I'll never know... 😂

samosborn profile image
Sam Osborn

Me too man, me too.