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Deming and the Vindication of Knowledge in the Philosophy of C.I. Lewis

Summary: In two important works, Out of the Crisis and The New Economics, W. Edwards Deming refers to the Philosopher C.I. Lewis. Various aspects of Lewis' theory of knowledge held Deming's attention for more than a decade and give reason to believe that Lewis' though influenced Deming's principles for transforming American management.While Deming was concerned with the implementation of working principles, a philosophical analysis of Lewis' work can disclose what was important to Deming in Lewis' thought and why. Lewis wrote his major work Mind and the World-Order when the scientific community was confronted with the intellectual implications of both the theory of relativity and the uncertainty principle. These caused the scientific truths that were long thought to be fixed and final to be called into question, suggesting that knowledge, and therefore science, may not be possible. Skepticism of this type is part of the theory of knowledge.The new grounds for skepticism proved very disconcerting for philosophers. They understood the many consequences of the view that knowledge is not possible. Lewis' book is an attempt to vindicate knowledge while at the same time holding fast to both relativity and uncertainty.This article is an attempt to show how Lewis approached this problem. It shows why Lewis' conclusion, that knowledge is probable knowledge, is critical and necessary to Deming's work.Any attempt to avoid the responsibility for shaping the beliefs which we accept as true is absurd....Thought can live only on grounds which we adopt in the service of a reality to which we submit.-Michael Polanyi The Tacit Dimension

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  • Topics:
  • Keywords: Quality philosophy,Uncertainty,Knowledge management (KM)
  • Author: Cunningham, Nina
  • Journal: Quality Management Journal