Scott Weingart: “Knowledge Uprooted” (IOrg Lecture)
Ph.D. Candidate, Indiana University
In the first millennium CE, western thinkers saw knowledge the same way they saw the rest of the world: ordered. Concepts and the entities they stood for fit in a neat cosmos, structured as a tree whose root was generally divine, and whose trunk and branching limbs represented the hierarchy of knowledge. Over the last thousand years, that arboreal vision has slowly been replaced by a more diffuse one, web-like and de-centered. The visual metaphors and ontology of knowledge have co-evolved, feeding off one another and co-creating a new order of rhizomatic ideas that stretches from classification theorists to practicing scientists and the general public. The Christian hegemonic tree has been replaced, fittingly in the age of the internet, by a great web. Such an ontological shift is having epistemological repercussions, and will likely continue to affect how the modern world thinks about thinking.