Going back to first principles

By | July 5, 2021

It seems to me, when I finally do get the space and bandwith to step aside from academic reading and writing, to reflect upon the magic of the Kalevala, as I began to do, only a few short months ago, that the real message in Kaleva’s songs, is the power inherent in going back to first principles.

If indeed, the magic of the word song, as crafted in the runot, lies in knowing the origin of things, before you can begin to sing the songs of transformation, then it is quite clear that the starting point is grounded firmly in the first principles of the object of your singing.

As I rewrite the draft of my research paper, I noticed how often I mentioned the need for me to go back to first principles in order to wholly understand what it was I was doing, and how these processes and tools would provide me with the skilled knowledge to attempt to redesign (transform) the outcome.

Relying on the later explorations and extensions of a tradition may never offer the same kind of clear thinking that going back to its founding principles can provide. I knew I could not go wrong by taking these original concepts as my guiding principles whilst attempting to do something novel within that space.

That is, when one is already in an unknown space where little exists from the past to guide us, then it is the first principles of our chosen methodology that can provide the guidelines for experimentation with a degree of confidence that one can’t fall off the cliff if these original concepts had robustly stood the test of time long enough to referred to as the first principles.

This allows for building new constructs in a manner that remains within the conceptual space of the theoretical knowledge and pushing the boundaries of experimentation while remaining grounded in the foundation of the knowledge base. An anchor for a hot air balloon, as a metaphor, if you will, of discovery.
And, this offers me the insight that if I were to do a comparative analysis of methodologies, then its not the word philosophy that I would be comparing but the first principles, which, by their very nature, contain the values embedded throughout the process influencing the outcome in distinctly different manners.

Thus, 14 years after writing on Why is design important? starting my essay with the sentence that ‘design is first and foremost a philosophy, a system of values.. ” I would now rewrite it to state that design methodologies are constructed on first principles that emerged in the early days of that particular approach and its their comparative study which would shed light on their differences, as it pertains to their relevance and impact on design outcomes for our collective and shared emerging future on this planet.

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