Theory of Knowledge

Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy

 

This book provides a nice introduction into the theory of knowledge. Written in novel form, it provides a beginner's guide to philosophy in an entertaining way. The book explores 3,000 years of Western philosophy from the early Greek philosophers to modern philosophers like Nietzsche and Satre. Written by a French author, the book does not include the conceptual pragmatist school of philosophy (Peirce, James, Dewey, and Lewis) that is focused in the United States. This book is highly recommended as an introduction or review of the field of philosophy, albeit in an entertaining way.

"The Foundation of Improvement," Gerald Langley, Kevin Nolan, and Thomas Nolan, Quality Progress, June, 1994, ASQC, Milwaukee, pp. 81-86, 1994

 

This paper provides an update to the 1987 Quality Progress paper that introduced the Model for Improvement. The revisions to the improvement framework make the Model more widely applicable and easier to learn and use. Three fundamental questions for improvement are presented:

1. What are we trying to accomplish?
2. How will we know that a change is an improvement?
3. What changes can we make that will result in improvement?

The paper also describes six areas of knowledge that can help guide improvement efforts: appreciation of a system, the use of data,
understanding variation, developing a change, testing a change, and cooperation.

Inevitable Illusions: How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds

 

This book represents another contribution on how the human mind makes judgements. The author argues that we are hard-wired to make purpose is to "alarm" us to these cognitive illusions, because he does not feel that the research and findings in this area (especially the work of Tversky and Kahneman) have been taken seriously by the general public. The impact on economic theory is only beginning to be realized. The "seven deadly sins" of judgement are over-confidence, illusory correlation's, hindsight bias, anchoring, representation, probability blindness and reconsideration.

"Deming and the Vindication of Knowledge in the Philosophy of C. I. Lewis", Nina Cunningham, Quality Management Journal, April, 1994, pp. 7-15

 

Deming's writings on the "Theory of Knowledge" relied heavily on the teachings of C. I. Lewis. This article shows how Lewis approached the paradox of complete knowledge and the concepts of uncertainty and relativity. Shewhart and Deming saw in Lewis' philosophical approach a useful basis for concepts that seemed to work in practice.

The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

 

In this book, Plous gives a marvelous overview of many key issues in the world of social psychology. As the various theories are explained, they are presented in a way that is easily accessible to those who have not read much on psychology. Plous uses the large volume of research in social psychology to help explain each of the theories. In particular Plous widely cites research published in the last 15 years, so that even those
Perception Memory and Context,

How Questions Affect Answers, Models of Decision Making, Heuristics and Biases, and The Social Side of Judgement and Decision Making.

 

Readers will find that this book offers much practical knowledge about problems and issues confronted in everyday life.

Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas

 

De Bono provides a handbook for new ways of thinking. This book summarizes his 25 years of work on creative thinking. Much of the material has been previously published, but this book brings his ideas up-to-date and in one place. The first part of the book provides the theory on why we think the way we do and the way our brains are organized to support this thinking. De Bono emphasizes that creative thinking can be learned and practiced like other skills. The second section of the book contains the methods and tools of "lateral" thinking. The methods include the use of provocation, the creative pause, the six thinking hats, and the creative hit list. The last section of the book discusses implementation of De Bono's ideas in an organization. This is a good reference book for creative thinking methods

"Pragmatic Knowledge and Its Application to Quality," Michael R. Lovitt, 1992- ASQC Quality Congress Transactions-Nashville, ASQC, Milwaukee, pages 909-915, 1992

 

This paper discusses the concept of pragmatic knowledge based on the work of C. I. Lewis. An individual's knowledge is presented as a linkage of processes combining the content of awareness, concepts, judgments, values, and actions. The impact of Lewis' work on Shewhart and Deming is also discussed. The paper shows how the Model for Improvement ties pragmatic knowledge to quality improvement.

Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos

 

Roger Lewin, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Liverpool, is one of the best-known science writers in the United States. This book is based on correspondence and interviews he has had with the world's leading researchers in the "new science" of complexity. Most of these researchers are associated with the Santa Fe Institute, which Lewin refers to as the "crucible of the new science of complexity." Some key ideas
associated with complexity include the "three pillars" of complex adaptive systems: emergent behavior, crystallization of order, and complex computation at the edge of chaos. In nonlinear systems, small inputs can lead to dramatically large consequences. The famous "butterfly" effect, very slight differences in initial conditions produce very different outcomes, is discussed.

How We Think - John Dewey

 

Influenced by the work of William James, Dewey was one of the founders of functional psychology. He is most noted for his contributions to education. He was devoted to free inquiry and the scientific method. Early versions of the PDSA Cycle can be found in this book as Dewey discusses the formal steps of instruction:

The occurrence of a problem or a puzzling phenomenon (Plan),

A sequence of specific facts and events (Do),

Ideas and reasoning (Study),

Application of their result to specific facts (Act).

The fact that these steps include both deductive and inductive thinking provides the foundation for the learning and improvement process.

Accelerated Learning

 

Lozanov did the seminal work on accelerated learning and many others have contributed to its development. The methods of accelerated learning try to create a relaxed state of mind and actively engage both sides of our brain. The techniques present material in such a way that it is absorbed by both our conscious and unconscious mind.

Tree of Knowledge

 

The authors of this book propose a way of seeing cognition not as a representation of the world out there, but rather as an ongoing process, rooted in our biological structure, and bringing forth a world through the process of living itself. Knowledge is defined simply as "effective action in the domain of existence." Living beings are characterized as a class in that they are continually self-producing, or "autopoietic" organizations.
Distinct from the living being is the environment, and between the being and the environment there is structural congruence. A key idea here is that the changes that result from the interaction between the living being and its environment are "triggered" by the environment but determined by the structure of the being. After discussion of the above ideas, the authors conclude with the idea that at the core of all the troubles we face today is our very ignorance of knowing.

"Process Improvement," Ron Moen and Thomas Nolan, Quality Progress, September 1987, ASQC, Milwaukee, pp. 62-67, 1987

 

This paper first introduced the API "Model to Improve Quality" which has its basis in the theory of knowledge. The paper describes the context for process improvement and describes the three phases of the model (called "strategy for process improvement" in the paper). The model is an adaptation of the Deming or Shewhart cycle. The relationship between the basic methods of quality improvement and the model is
discussed in the paper.

Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases

 

The authors/editors gather papers from the best in the field of psychology to explain how humans make judgements and what types of biases are common. The broad topics covered are:

Representativeness
Causality and Attribution Availability
Covariation and Control
Overconfidence
Multistage Evaluation
Corrective Procedures
Risk Perception  

The authors make these somewhat remote topics accessible to the reader having no previous education in psychology. The topics are arranged in a fairly independent manner such that one can read in any order of interest without losing much. The examples help to make the principles real to those struggling to make sound decisions for their organizations and themselves.

Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge

 

Popper's central thesis in this collection of essays is that we can learn from our mistakes. Knowledge grows though correcting our mistakes. We must have some aim to precede this "trial and error" approach to learning. Popper summarizes and critiques three different theories concerning human knowledge: ultimate explanation, theories as instruments, and conjectures, truths, and reality. He discusses the difference between science and meta-physics. He provides an alternative philosophy to the idea that knowledge must have a foundation to relate everything back to.

An Analysis Of Knowledge And Valuation

 

Lewis expands on his pragmatic philosophy from Mind and the World Order. In particular, he establishes the connection between our concepts, beliefs, actions, and values. To Lewis, knowledge is prediction. Knowledge is also pragmatic in the sense that predictions lead to actions to achieve outcomes of intrinsic or contributory value. When outcomes match predictions, degree of belief is increased; when they do not, degree of belief is decreased. The influence of pragmatism on Deming is clearer after reading this book

Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge 

 

Lewis, who calls himself a "conceptual pragmatist," presents his view of human knowledge. Lewis believes that there are three main components of an individual's knowledge: that which is given in experience, the interpretation of what is given through concepts, which the individual formulates over time and "brings with him" to experience, and judgments or beliefs. Lewis' philosophy had a profound effect on Walter Shewhart's development of the PDSA cycle. Serious students of Shewhart and Deming will find the roots of much of the philosophy of these quality giants revealed in this masterpiece.

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper

 

In this book Paulos discusses how we should understand the use and abuse of statistics in news stories. His real life examples on the use of statistics and how they can be used to mislead, is for anyone interested in gaining a more accurate view of the news and the world in which we live. Paulos is very entertaining and closes this book with some excellent advice on what questions should be asked when reading a news
story or reacting to figures.

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

 

From the inside jacket cover: This book is about luck – or more precisely how we perceive and deal with luck in business and life. Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill-the world of trading – Fooled by Randomness is a captivating insight into one of the least understood factors in all our lives…The author succeeds in tackling and explaining three major intellectual issues:
the problem of induction, the survivorship biases, and our genetic unfitness to the modern world.

Learning in Action: A Guide to Putting the Learning Organization to Work

 

In Learning in Action, Garvin lays out the concept of learning in a straightforward and easy-to-read manner. He defines the process of learning and the types of learning, and then ties it together in coverage of the challenges organizations have in establishing a paradigm or continuous learning (which includes action). His book's core offers a practical examination of the three primary routes to corporate learning: collecting
intelligence from outside sources (via interview and observation, for example); accumulating data through targeted actions (such as post project reviews and special programs); and experimenting with alternative outcomes by manipulating variables (including prototype creation and exploratory design testing). Most managers today understand the value of building a learning organization. Their goal is to leverage
knowledge and make it a key corporate asset, yet they remain uncertain about how best to get started. Garvin argues that at the heart of knowledge and make it a key corporate asset, yet they remain uncertain about how best to get started. Garvin argues that at the heart of learning process-acquiring, interpreting, and applying knowledge-then examines the critical challenges facing managers at each of these organizational learning lies a set of processes that can be designed, deployed, and led. He starts by describing the basic steps in every stages and the various ways the challenges can be met. Garvin next introduces three modes of learning: intelligence gathering, experience, and experimentation. He shows how each mode is most effectively deployed.

Why Do Buses Come in Threes? The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life

 

This book contains 19 chapters with the inviting titles:  Why can’t I find a four-leaf clover? Why do clever people get things wrong? The title of the book grabs our attention because we may have experienced waiting for a rental car bus at the airport, only to have two or three show up after 15 minutes at the same time! The authors do a great job in helping to explain how our senses sometimes fool us. The authors use diagrams and
drawings to help to make their points.

Scientific Method: A Historical and Philosophical Introduction

 

Gower gives an historical overview of the development of the scientific method in this book. The PDSA cycle is often thought of as the “scientific method with the addition of act.” Most descriptions of the scientific method stop at study with the statement or published results. Deming noted that people in business and industry must not only learn but act. In this volume, Gower gives an historical chronology that starts with Galileo
and ends with Rudolf Carnap. Along the way contributions of such people as Francis Bacon (not Roger), Isaac Newton, The Bernoullis, Thomas Bayes, John Herschel, John Stuart Mill, William Whewell, Henri Poincare, Pierre Duhem, John Venn, Charles Peirce, John Maynard Keynes, Frank Ramsey, Hans Reichenback, and Karl Popper.  In the concluding chapter, Gower discusses the continuing development of the method and contributions by others including Thomas Kuhn.

Language in Thought and Action: Fifth Edition

 

There have been several editions of this book since Professor Hayakawa first introduced it to his students as a workbook in the late 1930’s.  It was first published in 1941 as a method to overcome the dangers of propaganda. Semantics as a study of human interactions has a basic assumption - cooperation is preferable to conflict. He has the reader take a scientific approach having them test their observations through the
scientific method.  One of the key ideas from this book is how our thoughts and language impact our behaviors singly and in social groups -- what can happen when we have duality of purpose in our thoughts and actions; the blind acceptance of words, meanings and ultimate action by our social groups without deep understanding or knowledge. Dr Hayakawa takes a special effort to identify the scientific method and how it can be used in application to language and thought.

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

 

Paulos discusses the cost to our society in terms of the “innumeracy” of the citizen. Innumeracy is defined as the inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance. Paulos claims that far too many of our citizens are challenged in this area, but otherwise are knowledgeable. He maintains that we enable this by the acceptance of our lack of skills with math by statements such as, “Math was always my worst subject,” or some are even proud of their inability by boosting, “I can’t even balance my checkbook.” Paulos maintains that we would never accept this sort of thing for such subjects as English.


"This freedom to doubt is an important matter in the sciences and, I believe, in other fields. It was born of a struggle. It was a struggle to be permitted to doubt, to be unsure. And I do not want us to forget the importance of the struggle and, by default, to let the thing fall away. I feel a responsibility as a scientist who knows the great value of a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, and the progress made possible by such a
philosophy, progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought. I feel a responsibility to proclaim the value of this freedom and to teach that doubt is not to be feared, but that it is to be welcomed as the possibility of a new potential for human beings. If you know that you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation. I want to demand this freedom for future generations." ~ Richard P. Feynman

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