The Oxford Protocol : Modules


(relates to Good Explanation and Threshold Effects; offers an example of Generative Conceptual Inquiry)

Knowledge in respect to search—less specifically, know* (“know,” along with “know” plus any suffix of characters: “knowing,” “known,” “knowledge,” “knoweth,” “knowest”) in proximity to search* (“searching,” “searched,” “searchers”)—attests to a way of thinking about knowledge as a form of belief. This understanding comes by way of the 25 most “relevant” records—that is, top 25 records with the most frequently matched terms—of know* within 40 characters of search* in the full-text archive of Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO TCP).

Treating this data as a conceptual enclosure (a paddock, admittedly, more so than a field) for thinking about knowledge as an object of search and search as a practice of knowledge, I’ve herded together some reactions below.

This herding is not intended to produce an argument, to delineate an idea, or to expose an historical understanding. Instead, I’d like to offer this as an attempt at a generative conceptual inquiry: an implicative survey of my reactions to the form that the concept of search* seems to take in proximity to the concept of know*, and vice versa. Enfolding my reactions within an explanation, the purpose is to wander along the path of an understanding not already my own, or at least not predictably my own (relates to Good Explanations and Threshold Effects). To say that this understanding belongs to the 18th century would be to make an argument, treating the context of the search results as a proving ground and the explanation as conclusive. For the sake of this gambit, the 18th century context is relevant only as a generative context, something to gear the process of generating an explanation.

The words and phrases presented in quotes below are all drawn from the common stock of the search results. They are left unattributed, so as not to tempt treating them as recorded beliefs or representative ideas. Tracing them back to the records requires manual reading/observation, as the search results that I’ve posted here are not machine-readable (the full record of search results can be found further below; click on the image and then zoom to enlarge it so that it’s more humanly readable). The idea is that you get to follow my own wandering among/herding of these results; the hope is that as they generate an understanding for me, they become generative for you.

So: this module reflects on search*/know* (below), while the touchstone on offer is the notion of Generative Conceptual Inquiry (above).


A “searcher after knowledge” is “any particular person” who, by fact of being a “searcher,” knows “more than ordinary.” Being a “searcher” is an intentional state, in the sense that it involves beliefs and a general disposition of intuitional venturesomeness relevant to the goal of gaining knowledge.

Knowledge of this sort is goal-oriented, something to be pursued or discovered. “Searchers” “search after” knowledge, rather than produce it or direct it forward. They do so as rational (or at least deliberative) agents: they are “deductive,” “thorough,” “earnest,” “demonstrative,” “diligent,” even “scientific.”

Such rationality, however, belongs to a rare and special (a “particular”) frame of mind: the status of “searcher” accrues from a unique individual capacity for deliberate purposeful action, a “power,” “greatness,” or “superiority” which, in its essential virtuousness (“useful,” “enlightening,” in “the proper pursuit of good”) as well as its driven effortness (a “studiousness,” a “troubling,” a “conviction”), is deserving of “honour” and “reverence.”

Because “searching” of this sort brings “fame,” some may “search for praise” rather than “knowledge.” To differentiate between “praise” and “knowledge” is, therefore, to call into question the intentional stance of the “searcher.” A “True Searcher after knowledge” “labours” to achieve a virtuous condition (a “labour” of “love,” but in the sense that it “takes pains” and is “troubling”). “Recreation and idleness” is its “contrary,” giving the lie to praise-seeking acts of “searching” versus the “true” and “meritorious” pursuit of “searching after knowledge.”

A common person can be inspired to “properly” “engage” in “searching,” either by direct “encouragement” or indirectly out of “wonder.” “Searching,” in this way, takes the form of a “willed” practice. In such cases, something more like a design stance is assumed by the “searcher”: inward knowledge is at stake, with the “searcher” treating “hearts” and “thoughts” as objects designed to fulfill a certain function (“reputation,” or, more generally, the “foundation on which we stand”).

Money, too, can compel a kind of “searching” (“wild searches”), where the “known” is something that is accumulated through endeavor, and as such is subject to diminishing returns. In this case, a physical stance towards “knowledge” is assumed by the “searcher,” such that the “knowable” can be understood to obey certain laws of accumulation.

Alternatively, for the “Lover of and Searcher after Knowledge and Wisdom,” the achievement of “knowing” is compelled and sustained by belief (“eagerness,” “expectation,” “desire”). “True Searchers” gain a “more than ordinary knowing” through such belief and the persistence it inspires (a “gnawing into”), which is a “particular” privilege, as well as a “pleasure.” This “more than ordinary knowing”—understanding, or “wisdom,” arrived at by degrees—gains credit in an economy of recognition (“reverence”). Personal accumulation of “knowing” is “commendable,” even “honourable.” “Searching after knowledge” is a fact about “particular persons” that holds a weight of respect; the “searching” (the “conviction”) is what is appraised, not the “knowledge.”

“Knowledge” (“knowing”) in this form is non-standard: it can be weighted as a quality of belief, but not appraised as a positive thing. “Searching” comes before “knowledge,” both in principle and in practice.


Click on the results to load and then click again to zoom



Oxford Group, January 2014: Academy Turned Inside Out | Apotheosis | Core Technology | The Dedisciplinary Environment | Explanatory/Descriptive? | Fiction | Good Explanation | Mediation | Platform | Polemic | Portal | Problems | Protocol | Protocol (II) | Search*/Know* | Sciences/Humanities | Stuckness | Threshold Effects | Topology | Touchstones