Physical scientists take it as a given that the universe can be explained once we've discovered the underlying rules; whereas social scientists and philosophers are more attuned to the way in which the observer actually affects that which is being observed. This book analyses the process by which scientific knowledge is gained and the circumstances under which all scientific premises are constructed.
This is discussed in relation to four interrelated concepts that are relevant to all scientific disciplines: observation, paradox, delusion, and most importantly, self-reference. The concept of self-reference is used in the context of systems theory to examine the way that observation, paradox and delusion become 'structurally coupled' with cognition. This has implications not only for the discovery of knowledge in itself, but also for various expressions of knowledge, be they framed by reductionism or causality, and even those grandiosely claiming to approach a form of Grand Unification (as in Physics). It eventually concludes that so-called 'rigour' is merely reinforced self-reference.
The authors work in the fields of information studies, which is within the technical or physical realm, and management studies, which is about human behaviour. They argue that all scientists (physical and social) rely too much on the absolutism and certainty of the methods of traditional physical science and that we should acknowledge the limitations of how we know what we know. This fresh and audacious analysis makes an important contribution to the understanding of how we employ scientific method.
"The questions posed by the authors in their book are important. They are also a good reminder to constantly consider the dialectic between knowledge, authority, and its relationship with certainty." --New York Journal of Books
Chapter 1: Theory and Paradox/Chapter 2: Divination and Theory Construction /Chapter 3: Delusion / Chapter 4: Individual Allusions Contra Sensory Overload /Chapter 5: Patterns of Categorical Delusions / Chapter 6: Tidy Minds, Technology, and the Myth of Control / Chapter 7: Making Sense of Systems / Chapter 8: On the Premises of Observation / Chapter 9: The Frame of Observation & the Functional Differentiation of Science / Chapter 10: Higher Order Observations / Chapter 11: Asymmetry and Self-Reference / Chapter 12: The Principle of Collapsing Systems / Chapter 13: The 'Reality' of the Real / Epilogue