I was reviewing a CV from a prospective employee today – a lovely concise one pager obviously done by the designer this person is. At the bottom of the page, the candidate listed

a) his “epistemology” (theory of how we know what we know):

· Design Theory

· Human centred Design

· Cognitive science

· Buddhism

And

b) His “axiology” (statement about what they value above all else):

“It is man’s nature to be his own creator; he forms and develops himself by working on and transforming the world outside him in cooperation with his fellow men”

(…a curiously sexist framing from a 20-something that betrays his own gender. But laying that aside….)

I take it that this applicant is optimistic in his axiology. That is, I take it that as a professional designer he will be like every other young designer I have ever met – full of hopes that his offering can make the world a better place, keen to apply his creative urges to making things new, humanistic in its best and richest sense to the core – longing for the best from and for people. So I am not diminishing his statement about what he values. I don’t think he is just spouting shrunken truisms of language constructivism – that we enact our world through what we see and say. If he were here, I would want to talk with him in ways that enriched both of us about what is possible in transformation and collaboration.

So I’m saddened that he is espousing a Buddhist foundation for his axiology. Again, I don’t know him beyond this one page, but I fear that he has caught a modern virus. Having accepted and owned the once unacceptable yet always inescapable reality that we are spiritual beings, he reaches for the now socially unobjectionable option of Buddhism to clothe his naked spirituality.

But I would want to ask him: How does his vision for himself and other as creators for each other fit with this epistemology: “Vedanta and Buddhism are the highlights of Indian philosophical thought. Since both have grown in the same spiritual soil, they share many basic ideas: both of them assert that the universe shows a periodical succession of arising, existing and vanishing, and that this process is without beginning and end. They believe in the causality which binds the result of an action to its cause (karma), and in rebirth conditioned by that nexus. Both are convinced of the transitory, and therefore sorrowful character, of individual existence in the world; they hope to attain gradually to a redeeming knowledge through renunciation and meditation and they assume the possibility of a blissful and serene state, in which all worldly imperfections have vanished for ever.” (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/vonglasenapp/wheel002.html)

I contrast the fatalism of karma as an epistemological soil for a designer with these texts:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said Let us make man in our own image… In the image of God created he them… and said Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….and whatever he named the animals, that was their name….”

And I’m maddened that those who own these texts as their epistemological foundations by birthright – the christians – have ceded the ground so pathetically that young men like my applicant are left with such poor frames for their hearts and lives. While he writes a feeling declaration about his life passions he is left to build on the wrong foundations.

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