Understanding process from within: An argument for 'withness'-thinking

  • Shotter J
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If our task is simply that of theorizing process, then there are many brilliant writers and thinkers in the recent past to turn to. But as I see it, these writers are mostly oriented toward helping us think about process 'from the outside', about processes that we merely observe as happening 'over there'. But if we are to rethink appropriate styles of empirical research, then we need a different form of engaged, responsive thinking, acting, and talking, that allows us to affect the flow of processes from within our living involvement with them. Crucially, this kind of responsive understanding only becomes available to us in our relations with living forms when we enter into dialogically structured relations with them. It remains utterly unavailable to us as external observers. I will call this kind of thinking, 'thinkingfromwithin' or 'withnessthinking', to contrast it with the 'aboutnessthinking' that is more familiar to us. What we can gain in our understandingsfromwithin, is a subsidiary awareness (Polanyi) of certain 'action guiding feelings' that can play a role in giving us an anticipatory sense of at least the style or the grammar of what is to come next in the ongoing process in which we happen to be involved, feelings which are lost in descriptions 'from the outside'.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Awareness
  • Constructionism
  • Dialogue
  • Process
  • Responsiveness
  • Tacit knowledge

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  • John Shotter

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