Minor philosophies of documentation

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 August 2004


Bawden, D. (2004), "Minor philosophies of documentation", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 60 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/jd.2004.27860daa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Minor philosophies of documentation

In this issue, we have an article on the philosopher Dooyerweerd, and the significance of his thought for information, knowledge and documentation. Dooyerweerd is by no means a well-known name, and the relevance of his work is not likely to be familiar to most readers.

We also have a review of a new book by Michel ter Hark, in which he draws attention to the influence of a number of equally little-known philosophers, psychologists and linguistics, most notably Otto Selz and Karl Bühler, on the young Karl Popper. Ter Hark suggests that these scholars had a more immediate effect on the development of Popper’s ideas, especially his epistemology, than the better known names more usually associated with this, including Plato and Kant.

A careful study and exposition of the significance and influence of “minor” thinkers and writers may seem to be too “academic”, for those to whom this term is not one of unqualified approval, or too “scholarly”, for those to whom scholarship is a poor substitute for the rigours of “research”. I believe this to be far from the case, certainly in the information sciences and the study of documentation. There are two reasons for this, both of which a cynic could take to be criticisms of documentation as a discipline or field of study.

One is the simple fact that we have no heroic figures; no Newtons or Einsteins, who set out the boundaries of the field and reveal its major truths. Rather, we have a mixed bag of scholars, researchers and practitioners, all making their contributions, supported by those like Claude Shannon and Karl Popper, who are regarded as major contributors to a field to which they would never have claimed allegiance.

Perhaps this stems from the second point. There is no generally acceptance as to quite what the information sciences and documentation are – a practical discipline, a field of interest, a sub-branch of who-knows-what, or an “enabling discipline”, touching all the others by its generality. Not surprising then, that we cannot identify a few “big names” who say it all: there is either too much to be said, or maybe not enough.

Let us celebrate, then, our minor philosophers. Let us look through their eyes at the different aspects, facets and perspectives of our discipline, if that is what it is. I hope that this Journal will always have space for their contributions, and for accounts of their work.

David Bawden