Online from: 1945
Subject Area: Library and Information Studies
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|Title:||“To treat of the world”: Paul Otlet's ontology and epistemology and the circle of knowledge|
|Author(s):||Steffen Ducheyne, (Research Foundation, Flanders, Belgium, and Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Ghent University, Belgium)|
|Citation:||Steffen Ducheyne, (2009) "“To treat of the world”: Paul Otlet's ontology and epistemology and the circle of knowledge", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 65 Iss: 2, pp.223 - 244|
|Keywords:||Document management, Encyclopaedias, Entrepreneurialism, History, Information science, Knowledge sharing|
|Article type:||Research paper|
|DOI:||10.1108/00220410910937598 (Permanent URL)|
|Publisher:||Emerald Group Publishing Limited|
|Acknowledgements:||The illustrations from personal papers of Paul Otlet (Papiers Personnels Paul Otlet) are reproduced with the permission of the Mundaneum, 15 Rues Passages, B-700 Mons, Belgium (www.mundaneum.be). The author is highly indebted to Stéphanie Manfroid, the Director of the Mundaneum, for her kind assistance during his consultation of the archives.|
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to document how Paul Otlet, founding-father of what is termed at present as “information science”, attempted to provide a complete “image of the world” (and reality in general) by establishing the scientific discipline he dubbed “documentation”. The paper also aims to focus on how Otlet represented human knowledge and reality in a systematic and unified way.
Design/methodology/approach – A close reading of Otlet's primary works and some of his personal archives was undertaken.
Findings – Most importantly, it is shown that Otlet's views on documentation were immersed in a cosmological, objectivist, humanitarian and ontological framework that is alien to contemporary information science. Correspondingly, his alleged affinity with positivism is reassessed.
Originality/value – The philosophical foundations of the origins of information science are highlighted. Indirectly, this paper is relevant to the ongoing debate on realism and anti-realism in information science.
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