In my opinion the one sure reference point we each have is our raw and
unanalysed experience. Science, by nature, opposes things (individual and
societal structures) to logicial thought(which is itself an abstraction from our
experience). The process has been enormously effective both in a cause and
effect explanation of our experience, but also in the development of a whole
raft of technologies. I, like many others enculturated in the so called "western
society" have believed ,through most of my nearly 46 years, that this mode of
thinking and its fruits are the best thing since sliced bread ( Is that a saying
shared in the good old US of A?).
A number of things have bought me to the point of now wanting to context that
belief in the greater flow of human experience which we call history (itself of
course an abstracting and logical science! - Does anyone remember The Poverty of
Historicism, written by Popper on a sojourn in New Zealand during WW2?)
Without boring those of you who have not already hit the delete button the two
most recent experiences which are driving this shift in reflection on my own
We are sitting on the doorstep of some fundamental changes in the way we grow
both organic kiwifruit and avocados in Aotearoa/New Zealand. These changes are
being driven, not by the science, but by farmers having done particular things
which, when scrutinised scientifically have given insight into eg how nitrogen
can be supplied biologically( kiwifruit - ie with groundcover rather than
compost) and how Phytophtora can be controlled biologically(avocados). To
clarify. Although of course scientific thinking is part of the warp and weft of
our experience the farmers we have learnt from were not scientist sitting in
institutions. Their systems were experential and not primarily analytical. They
clearly had a logical component, but so, afterall do all human actions, don't
Now listen carefully - I am not denying the value of scientific thinking. What I
am saying is that it is a tool, not reality itself. Logical thought is a part of
our experience which I now happen to think we have over-emphasised and even,
dare I say, idolised.
The other example pertains more to anecdotal or traditional knowledge. I work
very closely with Maori folk here in the land of the long white cloud
(Aotearoa). Eel (tuna) was traditionally very important to Maori in the area I
live (it was a giant forested wetland converted in the last 100years to dairy
In pushing for using dairy shed solids as food for earthworms which would be,
in turn live food for eels, I stumbled upon traditional knowledge about both
varieties of eels and some ancient feeding practices using native earthworms.
Neither pieces of knowlege were previously known by white man (a phrase used by
us antipodean colonials!). Now the reason for this was that, in my enthusiasm
for my own ideas I had not shut myself off from the possibility that people to
whom eel were a pretty damned important part of life might have known a thing or
to that we didn't.
To cut a too long story short, I am now forming the view that Maori traditional
knowledge (which was transmitted orally through some pretty damned sophisticated
institutions) was primarily RELATIONAL rather than LOGICAL. I much prefer
logical to reductionist or abstractive but then it is surely only a question of
semantics isn't it?
I suspect that the two may have a lot to offer and balance each other. The
cultural fruits of each had some pretty damned aweful down sides. For me
personally, my last 46 arrogant years of belief in the cultural superiority of
tool based on logic takes a little bit of swallowing!!!!!
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