Mark Nelson wrote up an interesting bit on design as the third discipline, in which he suggests that design is a kind of third-term offset against the old science/humanities split.
Mark notes that Whitehead is a precursor to such thinking, albeit in his educational writings rather than his metaphysics:
There are three main roads along which we can proceed with good hope of advancing towards the best balance of intellect and character: these are the way of literary culture, the way of scientific culture, the way of technical culture.
Nelson found this via Nigel Cross’s Designerly Ways of Knowing (warning: absurdly expensive Springer book). Cross contrasts the sciences, humanities, and design along three axes: subject, method, and values.
The phenomenon of study in each culture is
- in the sciences: the natural world
- in the humanities: human experience
- in design: the artificial world
The appropriate methods in each culture are
- in the sciences: controlled experiment, classification, analysis
- in the humanities: analogy, metaphor, evaluation
- in design: modelling, pattern-formation, synthesis
The values of each culture are
- in the sciences: objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and a concern for “truth”
- in the humanities: subjectivity, imagination, commitment, and a concern for “justice”
- in design: practicality, ingenuity, empathy, and a concern for “appropriateness”
I haven’t read this book, but I wonder how Cross would characterize, say, engineering or craft. Are those design? They certainly deal with “artificial” objects, with practicality and ingenuity, and with modeling, but they also deal with rationality and human experience.
It’s interesting to note Cross’s attempt to third-termify the nature/culture divide by means of the artificial world. It’s instructive, perhaps, to contrast this with OOO proponents’ refusal to distinguish between natural, human, and artificial objects. Seen in this light, the orientation of design is not much better (“better”) than a scientific or humanistic one.