Design, rhetoric, knowledge – Some notes on grasping, influencing and constructing the world



In order to understand, grasp and gain knowledge about the often chaotic world around us the strategies that we today know as the disciplines science, art, philosophy etc. have been developed. In contemporary discussions on the relations between research, design, science and art one can be surprised of how deep the chasms has become between different fields of knowledge. The big and urgent question is how we more consciously can elucidate, raise the status for and systematically make use of all the knowledge that is produced outside of the borders of what is considered “scientific”. A territory in where architecture and design mostly work. This article is an attempt to discuss and bring in some different perspectives on this question – drawing some lines to notions in philosophy, rhetoric, and theory of knowledge.

The philosopher Mats Rosengren argues that all knowledge is doxical and he tries to sketch another kind of theory of knowledge – a doxology Since no truth, evidence or knowledge exists outside its human context, the rhetoric is with its relativistic view of knowledge central to all knowledge, according to Rosengren. Rhetoric can become a tool for scientific inquiries into our human knowledge. In the same way as rhetoric can say something about certain situations, the article argues that the architectural project can be able to do so as well Rhetoric is of special interest for the discipline of design – and maybe foremost for the development of design as a discipline – which has been argued by Richard Buchanan. Buchanan underlines the interplay between the rhetoric and poetics of products as a significant issue in studies of design. According to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, science approaches chaos by trying to slow down speeds, freeze changing situations in order to understand and produce knowledge. Other kinds of strategies, in their case philosophy, instead try to create consistent, coherent thinking but with retained speed and mobility to be able to create new ways to look at, understand and assemble reality.

They way design thinking works can be seen this way.

Design and architecture as knowledge producing activities can be of many kinds. But above all, it can be about retaining speed of thought, where every design then is a freezing of a chosen moment among many others. Here unexpected solutions can be shown, new surprising possibilities. Just as Henri Bergson has argued, to understand and approach the changing reality one has to reinstate oneself within the constanly moving world. But that is exactly what the intellect – and science – generally refuses to do since it is so used to think the mobile through the immobile. Here design thinking and new doxological notions of knowledge can give new ways of producing knowledge.


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