Why designers should care about philosophy: Uncertainty lecturette given by Daniel Erwin

by New Idiom


Ok, I have to admit, I’ve always been skeptical of philosophy.  To me, talking about philosophy is like listening to a drunk guy talking about politics at a party—in the right state of mind, any crazy idea can be right.  With that being said however, I have to admit that new IDer Daniel Erwin challenged the idea that philosophy is just conversation among the elite and/or inebriated.

On Tuesday October 23rd, Daniel gave a lunchtime lecturette on what he called “The Destruction of Certainty.”  After summing up 2,000 years of the history of higher-level math and western philosophy in about 15 minutes, he posed the question of “what’s next?”  If all the great theories of mathematicians, and all the great laws of physicists are eventually proven wrong, then should we keep looking for the answers?  If science is searching for the grand theory to tie everything together, will it ever be found?  And if so, will it be proven wrong in the future?  Or, as Daniel asked, if we find the right answer, then what’s next?  Will science cease to exist if we answer all of our questions?  How far down does this rabbit hole of science go?  Or better yet, does the rabbit hole even exist?  Now we’re starting to sound like we’ve had one too many at that party.

But as I listened to everything, trying to make sense of it, I kept asking, “how does this relate to design?”  The frightening answer seems to be, how does it not relate to design?  If design is about solving problems, then usually the first step is to identify the problem.  To identify the problem, you want to question everything with the same inquisitiveness as a philosopher, but don’t stop there.  It seems the best questions for situations like ours are a lot like the ones the philosophers posed, the ones that challenged the most established ideas.  At what point can you really make breakthroughs if you accept the status quo?  A couple thousand years ago the idea that the Sun revolved around the Earth was status quo.  Daniel was somehow able to make me finally realize that philosophy not only can be applied to every discipline, but should be.

But enough of this, it’s starting too get a little to deep for anything I say to be credible at this point.  I have to get going, I think some people on the third floor are talking about a party.

If you would like to check out the slides from Daniel’s lecture, check out his pdf, or check out his website at http://www.dqe1.com/