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inquiring systems for permaculture designers

Designing Questions about Questioning the Questions

The design of Singerian Inquiring Systems is a theory of a way to acquiring knowledge. When I look closely, I find nine working parts to the theory. So, consider it a large theory. Furthermore, the theory itself is one of five inquiring systems theories written by C. West Churchman in The Design of Inquiring Systems: Basic Concepts of Systems and Organization. So, there is a great deal of background and context to the theory. Therefore, before describing the features of the design of Singerian Inquiring Systems, its theme will be featured.

The name "Singerian Inquiring Systems" appears to have been coined by Churchman. The "Singer" is Edgar A. Singer, Jr., who was born in 1873 in Philadelphia, and who was a professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania. As they say there, "Singer’s main emphasis was the theory of evidence, and the methods by which it related to a problem; something he termed empirical idealism." This tells us a great deal about the theory. For one, it tells us that a Singerian Inquiring System is interested in acquiring knowledge because it is confronting a given problem.

People also have referred to this inquiring system as the Singerian-Churchmanian Inquiry System. Churchman designed The Design of Inquiring Systems, and the Singerian Inquiring System are his ideas and a reflection of Singer's ideas. Singer was one of Churchman's teachers. Churchman took the ball and ran with it, so to speak. The clarity and good humor of Churchman's writing make it easy for the ideas to be considered and understood. Churchman is not afraid to write about ethics. Also, there is a quality about the writing that says he means it. The name is a proper name. And it expresses the nuances of its authors.

I would propose that one concatenates five names together for a more representative name of this inquiring system but it probably would not format well when the margins of the page are narrow. Besides this is all implied. Besides, the name of a theory is just an approximation of a truth and with a margin of error just like the rest of our facts.

When studying Singerian Inquiring Systems, a strange curve in the path appears. Our investigation into inquiring systems started out as a question under the subject heading of epistemology, the study of the nature of our knowledge and the methods of acquiring knowledge. Look up and there is Singer and Churchman suggesting it is a question of an ethical nature.

In the final chapter of Churchman's book Thought and Wisdom, Churchman ponders why Singer appeared to be out of fashion with the philosophy of his day. Churchman relates that investigators at that time were concerned about finding "the distance between point A and point B on the surface of the earth at a moment in time" and Singer was concerned about finding whether or not that question should even be investigated. This is a strategic inquiring system.

Singer's philosophy is labeled with the term empirical idealism. On the surface, alone, and with out much explanation, this term provides little help. This is OK. The explanation is there, for starters, in Singer's writings and Churchman's writings. Here in the blog-post, nevertheless, the study of the words finds the root of "idealism" to be ideal. This is a clue to our inquiring system's theme. Suddenly, again, we are not talking about what is but what should be.

Churchman, too, wrote about the imperatives of inquiry. He went one step further then Singer. Here are some example inquiries to show the differences. An inquirer asks, "What is the distance?" And, Singer asks, "Should we investigate that question?" And, Churchman asks: "What investigations should be seeking?"

The design of Singerian Inquiring Systems is a large design. The theory is large. And getting larger. But the theme is still fairly straitforward. The theme of the design of Singerian Inquiring Systems is a message saying that even simple questions may generate a set of recursive questions continually deferring to ethical perspectives.

And, not only are there many levels of questions, but, as Churchman points out, the ideal itself is changing. We are changing, and our conception of the ideal with us. This is the active investigation into the questions about questioning the questions.

Take the 300 foot hand-cranked measuring tape and unravel it across the dirt of the field. Measure the distance between A (asparagus) and B (broccoli). Consider the earth slowly-slowly-slowly moving beneath our tape and consider the sun's rays heating and warping our tape. Out here, "midday" is an exact enough time measurement now that the moon is high above us. Out here, as it begins to rain, and the rain is refreshing, and dampening the field... I express my gratitude to all the hero inquirers who shared their investigations.