Category Archives: Knowing



Worlding was first popularized by Heidegger in Being and Time (1927). He turned the noun (world) into the active verb (worlding), a gerundive and generative process of world making, world becoming and (as he puts it) world “bringing-near.” For Heidegger, worlding is always meaning giving and already ongoing (i.e. never not worlding); worlding is how we experience a world as familiar; worlding is a determination of Dasein’s being (wherein the world belongs to Daseins’s existential constitution); worlding offers measurable standards of being (both authentic and inauthentic); and worlding is an ongoing process of the thinging world.

In Heidegger’s work, wordling is a difficult negotiation without a tidy definition. Its multifarious and assembling character does not just continue or not end – it is deliberately unmade, a bringing-to-truth that is a disclosing into its own of the “nearest of all nearing that nears” (i.e., there will always be more worlding to take account of). There is not an essentialist, fundamentally superior or universal understanding of worlding that is wholly attainable (i.e., there will always be diverse perspectives and ever more primordial possibilities to consider). Worlding is always already a complex and dynamic assemblage of ever-renewing realities, sensations and perceptions through which we must constantly work our way through to hold open “the Open of the world” (Heidegger, 1971,“The Origin of the Work of Art,” p.45).

Heidegger’s (1971) worlding and thinging are inextricably intertwined for without things that thing, there is no worlding – the thinging of the thing is the worlding of the world: “The world presences by worlding. That means: the world’s worlding cannot be explained by anything else nor can it be fathomed through anything else. This impossibility does not lie in the inability of our human thinking to explain and fathom in this way. Rather, the inexplicable and unfathomable character of the world’s worlding lies in this, that causes and grounds remain unsuitable for the world’s worlding. As soon as human cognition here calls for an explanation, it fails to transcend the world’s nature, and falls short of it” (The Thing, p.179-80).

Importantly, Heidegger stresses that worlding is not of our own making, but rather a matter of responsiveness to particular things: “If we let the thing be present in its thinging from out of the worlding world, then we are thinking of the thing as thing. Taking thought in this way, we let ourselves be concerned by the thing’s worlding being. Thinking in this way, we are called by the thing as the thing. In the strict sense of the German word bedingt, we are the be-thinged, the conditioned ones” (The Thing, p.181).

Heidegger’s (1971) “worlding of the world” is always already revealed within the mirror-play of “the fourfold as One” (das Geviert) wherein the four mirrors of earth, heaven, divinity, and mortality are everywhere reflecting the presence of each other, happening together, enfolded as a unified fourfold-whole: “By a primal oneness, the four – earth and sky, divinities and mortals –belong together in one” (Building Dwelling Thinking, p.149). As such, worlding is a dynamic interplay of referential responsiveness to the immensely dense “fourfold as One” network of associations, in which someone or something has a multitude of possibilities, locations or places to continue to be what it always already is (i.e., its worldliness).

Eighty years after Being and Time, worlding has evolved from its Heideggerian origin in “Dasein’s being” towards a new horizon of “ontological Design” (Fry, 1999); from the tangible “thinging of things” (Heidegger, 1971) to the intangible “televisualizing” (Fry, 1999) and “synthetic reality gaming” (Castronova, 2007).  Wordling has been appropriated many times over, signifying: economic ontology (Thrift, 2008); imperialist processes and the colonial inscription of textuality (Spivak, 1985, 1990); everyday feminist international politics (Pettman, 1996); violences of heteropatriarchy and heteronormativity (Fadem, 2005); proprioception, kinesthesia and touch (Manning, 2007); geopolitical classifications of first, second, third and fourth worlds (OWNO, 2010); first, second and third waves of societal transformation (Toffler, 1980; Doerr, 2010); globalization (de Beer, 2004); global warring (Fry, 1999); prayer (Detweiler, 1995); secularization (Miller, 2009); enfleshment of God in the world (Hemming, 1998); right reciprocity between nature, humans and more-than-humans (Kohak, 1984; Abram, 1996); the socio-biological complexity of human extinction (Costa, 2010); situated practices of cultural studies (Wilson & Connery, 2007); enculturation of true craftsmanship (Risatti, 2007); the aesthetic realization of visual-musical works in new media culture (Rickert & Salvo, 2006); connecting beings together through online social networks (Tech Crunch Network, 2010); design-driven transformation of everyday life by everyday people (Berger, 2008); doing good design for sustainability and social justice (Berman, 2009); growth, development and change by design thinking (Brown, 2009); and designerly ways of teaching and learning (Rusnak, 2010).

Ways of Worlding

My working definition for designerly ways of “worlding” in how we learn connotes an immersive process of deeply embedding design methodology into teaching and learning environments —whereby creativity and design thinking are means of empowerment and transformation— to synergistically connect learners, technologies, ideas and opportunities together to make informed change; to nurture students’ natural desire to design and innovate; and to build sustainable learning futures that have meaning and quality of life for all.

“Learners” are understood as systems thinkers assembling what assembles a world (HWL, 2010); “designerly ways” as how designers think, act, play, be, feel and work; and “worlding” as mindful participation in unfolding worlds within worlds —where world refers to the natural, social, material, virtual or spiritual world, or lifeworld—  necessarily recognizing the interdependence of humanity with the more-than-human worlds that we are in and part of (Abram, 1996). Hence, “designerly ways of worlding” denotes learning through design (of things, events, solutions, communities, identities, futures, etc.) within a supportive community of practice and a range of meaningful contexts in which learners have productive agency to co-create the worlds in and around them (i.e., their design thinking and designerly ways matter) —with intent for developing a sustainable citizenship that joins learning to living in right reciprocal relationships to the worlds of others (and things).

Designerly ways of worlding prepares learners to become “world builders” or leaders of change who take initiative to solve complex problems (including education, health, quality of life, and environment) using design thinking in- interaction- with -technology- and- stories. Learners are actively engaged, individually and collectively, in a design cycle of questioning, investigating, prototyping, evaluating and refining —an iterative feedback loop from which new knowledge grows out of, resolves, and creates design challenges.

Encouraging experimentation, sensible risk taking and moderate uncertainty (as in the process of design) offers potential for: (1) “unshackling the conditioning forces” (Arendt, 1958) that prevent learners from seeing beyond the status quo; (2) practicing a worldy criticism that doubts and challenges what is taken for granted; and (3) developing better informed and more meaningful relationships between selves, others and things.

Designerly ways of worlding in how we learn deeply integrates:
knowing (with doubt and discernment)
as doing
(by experimentation and invention)
as being
(creating and questioning)
as having
(awareness and foresight)
as emoting (openness and sensitivity to difference)
as playing (with freedom and imagination)
as essential to inspire renewal of wonder, possibility and responsibility.

Il faut croire!


According to John D. Caputo, the secret’s secrecy is that no one knows and we are never going to know, which is not due to failure on our part as it is not even a matter of knowing. There is no Absolute Truth and we are NOT born into this world “hard-wired to Being Itself, or Truth Itself, or the Good Itself… and when we open our mouths, it is we who speak, not something Bigger and Better than we.” Dr. Caputo takes a non-hierarchical philosophical stance where the so called know-it-alls are not distinguished from the unknowns to conclude (without concluding) that, “We do not know who we are – that is who we are!”

The Absolute Secret keeps knowledge safely secreted away. Not only does not-knowing keep us safe, our lives are impassioned by the passion of not-knowing. Because we simply do not know, it keeps the door open for that which we don’t see coming or couldn’t possibly predict in the future. Not-knowing fuels our desire to know… not-knowing keeps hope alive as hope… and not-knowing keeps faith safe from knowledge. Security of knowledge is a great threat to faith: instead of seeing through the eyes of faith, the faithful begin to see things period (this is a danger of religious fundamentalism).

Caputo’s More Radical Hermeneutics (2000) is one of my most cherished texts. Caputo uses deconstruction, repetition, The Absolute Secret, and his own mischievousness to hound and harass hermeneutics, thereby uncovering: “prankster hermeneutics,” “parisian hermeneutics,” “yankee hermeneutics,” “devilish hermeneutics,” and “holy hermeneutics!” He describes his more radical hermeneutics as “a kind of intellectual fire department that arrives on the scene to douse the flames of essentialism wherever they flare up and threaten to consume us.” Essentialists are anyone who claim to be in on The Secret.

In There is No One Narcissism (1995), Derridia also spins The Secret into a non-knowing:

“It is not a non-knowing installed in the form of , “I don’t want to know.” I am all for knowledge [laughter]… So, this non-knowing… it is not the limit… of a knowledge, the limit in the progression of a knowledge. It is, in some way, a structural non-knowing, which is heterogeneous, foreign to knowledge. It’s not just the unknown that could be know and that I give up trying to know. It is something in relation to which knowledge is out of the question. And when I specify that it is a non-knowing and not a secret, I mean that when a text appears to be crypted, it is not at all in order to calculate or to intrigue or to bar access to something that I know that others must not know; it is more ancient, more originary experience, if you will, of the secret.”

Je ne sais pas. Il faut croire!

The Mind’s I

The Mind’s I: Fantasies and reflections on self and soul is a radical exploration of mind/brain/body/soul in which editors Hofstadter & Dennett (1981) have arranged an enigmatic collection of provocative texts to problematize the nature of self:

  1. A Sense of Self
  2. Soul Searching
  3. From Hardware to Software
  4. Mind as Program
  5. Created Selves and Free Will
  6. The Inner Eye

“Where Am I” (chapter 13) is Dennett’s fantastical piece (reprinted from Brainstorms) recounting his highly dangerous and secret mission for the Dept. of Defense (in collaboration with NASA and Howard Hughes) to develop a STUD (Supersonic Tunneling Underground Devise). In short, Dennett’s assignment is to undergo an advanced surgical procedure: the radical separation of his brain from his body.

After the operation is deemed successful, a lightheaded Dennett gets really excited to take a good look at his brain – of course he is excited, wouldn’t you be?! Upon seeing his brain, floating in a mysterious bubbling fluid that looks like ginger-ale, Dennett wonders why his thoughts are originating from his body? Why is he staring at his brain-in-a-vat instead of believing that he is suspended in the effervescent fluid, being stared upon by his very own eyes? He tries and tries again to think himself into the sparkling vat, but to no avail. Riddled with confusion, he attempts to orient himself by giving names to things:

Yorick,” I said aloud to my brain, “you are my brain.  The rest of my body, seated in this chair, I dub ‘Hamlet.’”  So here we all are:  Yorick’s my brain, Hamlet’s my body, and I am Dennett. Now, where am I? And when I think “where am I?”, where’s that thought tokened?  Is it tokened in my brain, lounging about in the vat, or right here between my ears where it seems to be tokened?  Or nowhere?  Its temporal coordinates give me no trouble; must it not have spatial coordinates as well?

Of course, this story isn’t (and couldn’t) be true. Dennett’s philosophical fantasy seeks to shake-up our unquestioned assumptions about the mind/brain/body/self (particularly to provoke the narrow-minded, no-nonsense, scientific view of the human soul). Dennett’s philosophical truths of “underwhelming significance” serve to make the strange obvious and the obvious strange, revealing perplexities with absurdity, such that we may be jolted to see throught our conditioning and begin to rethink our assumptions. Where is Dennett? His brain (aka Yorick)? His body (aka Hamlet)? Or is there no Dennett? Or is Dennett wherever he thinks he is (i.e., his point of view is also the location of his self)? If the sense of location is but illusion, then perhaps so is the sense of self?

In questioning his “essential Dennettness”, Fortinbras (Dennett’s new body, after the expiration of Hamlet) routinely flips an intentionally unmarked Master Switch that allows him to switch from Yorick to Hubert (his newly cloned brain) or vice versa. Every time he flips the switch, nothing happens. Dennett doesn’t have any idea where his self is. But he continues to flip in the switch, longing for the moment of understanding, and then, all of sudden:

“THANK GOD!  I THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER FLIP THAT SWITCH! You can’t imagine how horrible it’s been these last two weeks — but now you know; it’s your turn in purgatory.  How I’ve longed for this moment!  You see…

I’m not one to spoil a good story, so you’ll have to find the answer for yourself in Dennett’s text: Where Am I?

Freedom Lies

There was a young man who said, “Damn.
I begin to perceive that I am
A creature that moves
In determinate grooves.
I’m not even a bus, I’m a

There was an old man who said, “Cuss
I must choose between better and wuss.
By rulings of Fate,
I must keep myself straight.
I’m not even a tram, I’m a

One of my favorite old limericks. From the tram’s perspective, the bus appears “free”. But from the view of the bus, the innocence of the tram appears blessed with “freedom”. Like the bus and tram’s distorted thoughts of being free, people often imagine that freedom is coming around the next corner, once we accomplish “this” or once we take care of “that”. We stop living in anticipation for the freedom we’ll have once we’ve figured out our personal problems, paid off all our debts, finished our schooling and are finally caught up on life at large – as if one oh so desirable day we will finally be free and happy to just be. Wrong! How you live each and every day is how you live your life. Don’t wait to “be free” cuz life will pass you right on by.

Technology is not the problem. We are.

Recently I was interviewed by The Experimental Engagement Manifesto (an investigation into how to motivate, engage and inspire people to do good). One of the questions was: “What surprizes you about people?” The first answer that came to mind was “I’m surprized by how people suffer so much and are unable to be happy.”

Upon second thought, what causes this suffering and lack of happiness? Why are our media full of tragic stories about liars, cheaters, stealers, murderers, corrupters, bullies, and abusers (drugs, sex and other self-destructive habits)? Why can’t we get along with others? Even our own families and friends betray us. Our shared world is full of poverty, AIDS, sickness, self-hatred, anger, hypocrisy, injustice, pollution, garbage…

We are unequivocally out of control. We are putting dangerous demands on all natural systems, especially the air, water, earth and our very being (the elements of life as we know it). How long can this go on before our civilization crashes? The 20th century marks a time of “runaway-train” growth in human desires, human population, human self-centeredness, human addictions, human consumption and human waste… The 21st century marks a “milieu technique,” the digital age, the unleashing of the powerful force of technology upon our people and our planet. Is technology humanity’s saving grace or its suicide machine?

Kevin Kelly is an expert on Technology’s Epic Story. He argues that technology is the cosmic force that gives humanity the potential for difference, diversity, options, choices, opportunities, possibilities and freedoms:

“The origins of technology was not in 1829, but was actually at the beginning of the Big Bang, and at that moment the entire huge billions of stars in the universe were compressed. The entire universe was compressed into a little quantum dot, and it was so tight in there was no room for any difference at all. After the Big Bang, what we have is the potential for differences, diversity, options, choices, opportunities, possibilities and freedoms. Those are all basically the things that technology bring us.”

While Kevin Kelly is enthusiastic about technology, which he defines as an extension of life, others view technology as a death sentence. Technology is, in many ways, today’s convenient scapegoat for human evil and human suffering (kids are playing too many violent video games, grown-ups are manipulated by media, family togetherness has been replaced by the tv, toxic waste is destroying the biosphere, genetically modified foods are causing cancer, etc.). We are scared and we want someone or something to be accountable. We blame technology (digital /nano /cybernetic /information /other) as we are unwilling to blame ourselves for not knowing how to solve our problems and for not knowing how to control ourselves. Technology is not the real source of the world’s suffering. WE ARE. The problem is in us. And thanks to the internet, our problems are staring us right in the face, in full-on illumination, demanding that we notice that which we don’t want to see (problems which were always and already present). Ironically, we want to accuse technology for what it reveals rather than forcing ourselves to contend with what it makes known.

Each time civilization repeats itself, so it is said, the price goes up. All past civilizations wore out their welcome from nature and collapsed (the stone age, bronze age, golden age, iron age and other ages). Maybe the invention of civilization is the problem? In this Digital Age, are we repeating our past patterns of progress, disaster and demise? Is our fate is in our hands, our minds, our hearts or our technologies?

How do we control ourselves, stop human suffering and live happily ever after?


Le Penseur

Ever wonder what technology is thinking? Search Google Images to find:

[Le Penseur 1] “I exist because you made me”

[Le Penseur 2] “I am this space and its metal”

[Le Penseur 3] “I am what I am because of you”

[Le Penseur 4] “I know not of my existence except when you use me”

[Le Penseur 5] “I am here because you need me”

[Le Penseur 6]I am you and you are me”

// Credit to my good friend Barbara C. for textual technological thinking excerpts.

Once upon a Nietzsche…

In a haunting story that has always remained with me, Friedrich Nietzsche tells:
Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die.
One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly – as though the world’s axis turned within it…
Has Nietzsche described our fate? What do we really know? How do we come to know it? What knowledge is of the most worth (and for what or for whose purposes)? What are the tensions between the knower, known and the unknown? Where does knowledge reside? To what extent is human knowledge made rather than uncovered? My cluster of questions, and subsequent return to Nietzsche’s story, is provoked by a colleague urging me to read Deleuze’s doctoral thesis, in which I’m struck by/stuck on this passage:
How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say. We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other. Only in this manner are we resolved to write. To satisfy ignorance is to put off writing until tomorrow – or rather, to make it impossible.
Nietzsche’s storyline in “Truth & Lies In a Nonmoral Sense” reveals that “knowing” does not proceed logically in any case, suggesting that all the material within and with which we build our beings, our stories and our truths are derived from what Nietzsche calls “never-never land.” According to Nietzsche, knowledge is most certainly not derived from the essence of things as everything arises “from the equation of unequal things.”
The margins of my mind are blurring as I find myself trapped in a perpetuating purgatory of knowing, but not knowing… with no easy way out of my boundlessly boundaried state of being between “knowing that I don’t know” and “unknowing that which I know.” Proud, promiscuous words are tempting, but not telling… Help!!

Totally like whatever, you know?

A poem by Taylor Mali:

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Biology of Knowledge… Biology of Love?

How is life related to the mind?
Is mind continuous with life?
How do we know what we know?
What’s love got to do with it?

Maturana & Varela bring forth these questions in The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding (1987). They believe that “living is sense making” and that “all life is cognitive.” While these phrases don’t have the popular power of “cogito ergo sum,” they are good reminders that cognition and life are co-emergent and inseparable. All experiences change the brain and in turn, our level of brain functioning shapes the content of daily experiences.

If you are curious about the mind and the way that it works, The Tree of Knowledge is very readable. “Knowing how we know,” is the main subject of this book, which outlines a unified scientific conception of mind, matter and life. Maturana & Varela’s view of cognition has important social and ethical implications as they assert the only world humans can have is the one that we create together through the actions of our coexistence (p. 248):

“We have only the world that we bring forth with others, and only love helps us bring it forth. If we have succeeded in bringing the reader around to this reflection, this book will have achieved its second purpose.”

In addition to their beautiful conclusion, Maturana & Varela (p. 246-247) express how:

This [love] is the biological foundation of social phenomena: without love, without acceptance of others living beside us, there is no social process and, therefore, no humanness... To dismiss love as the biologic basis of social life, as also the ethical implications of love, would be to turn our back on a history as living beings that is more than 3.5 billion years old. We may resist the notion of love in a scientific reflection because we fear for the objectivity of our rational approach. Yet from what we have said in this book it should be apparent that such fear is unfounded. Love is a biological dynamic with deep roots.

So, to live as human is not simply to know and feel, but also to love. Life and cognition are inseparable, you can’t have one without the other, and love brings forth all of the diverse possibilities for our tender true humanity to be.