"The tree of knowledge" & knowledge trees
A metaphor used about the organization of human knowledge. Among the most known users of this metaphor are:
The Bible: Genesis 2,9.
"Perhaps it is useful to notice
that there are three different metaphorical trees. The oldest one is the Tree of
Knowledge from Genesis 2,9. Philosophers, however, are better acquainted
with the Tree of Porphyry: the tree of genus and species, born in the Fifteenth
century, discussed by medieval logicians and often represented in Medieval and
Renaissance books of logic. Both trees are mentioned in Peirce's Collected
Papers (CP 3.488, 2.391 and 5.500), and on the latter one he wrote the entry
for the Baldwin's Dictionary. But neither one is the tree I want to refer
to. The tree that has my preference is the Arbor Scientiae which was made
fashionable by Ramon Lull in the XIIIth century and which for many centuries has
been the most common metaphor of the genealogy of sciences. According to this
metaphor, all sciences are begotten from the common trunk of philosophy, which
provides their underlying unity. The metaphor survives until now in the common
usage of the expression "branches" to refer to the different areas of science."
(Nubiola, 1998, ).
Tree of Porphyry drawn by Peter of Spain (1329)
Deleuze & Guattari (1987) criticizes the three model and suggests the rhizome as an alternative:
"Deleuze and Guattari  make no bones about
the fact that they oppose the root-tree model. They see it as a model of
totalizing theory, a model that's specifically designed to function as a
restrictive stratum, imposing its forms on a maximum of flows, particles, and
intensities. They make their case quite clearly:
We're tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicles. They've made us suffer too much. All of arborescent culture is founded on them, from biology to linguistics. (17)
In opposition to the root-tree model, D & G offer the rhizome, a structure without a centralized, hierarchical organization, a structure that, in many ways, reflects the more "natural" pattern of geo-organic development. They say, "Many people have trees growing in their heads, but the brain is more like a grass than a tree" (17). We're taught to act like trees and forced to think like trees, but D & G believe that we more "naturally" think like rhizomes (grass not trees)." (Taylor, 1996).
In relation to the tree of knowledge is the root-tree metaphor. This is very influential in ordinary thinking, when we speak about "going to the root of the problem" or say that something is the root of research, e.g. "Genomic DNA: The root of all molecular genetic research".
Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translation and foreword by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hayes, B. (2004). Undisciplined science. Is the Tree of Knowledge an outdated metaphor? American Scientist, 92(4), 306-310. Available at: http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/34142
Kazlev, M. A. (1999). The world tree. http://www.kheper.net/integral/tree.html
Maturana, H. & Varela, F. (1987). The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc.
Nubiola, J. (1998). The branching of science according to C. S. Peirce. Originally presented at the 10th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science August 22, 1995, Florence, Italy. Available at: http://members.door.net/arisbe/menu/library/aboutcsp/nubiola/branch.htm
Peirce, C. S., 1931-35, 1958. The Collected Papers of C. S. Peirce. Harvard Uni. Press. Vols. 1-6 edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss; Arthur Burks edited Vols. 7,8. Vol. 1 available online at: http://www.textlog.de/peirce_principles.html
Taylor, A. (1996). Mus(e)ings on Deleuze & Guattari. Wanderings and reflections. A collection of short essays concerning the works of Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari and their relevance to the study of rhetoric. http://www.uta.edu/english/apt/d&g/arhizome.html
Walker, T. D. (1996). Medieval faceted knowledge of classification: Ramon Llull's trees of science. Knowledge Organization, 23(4), 199-205.
Wikipedia. Die freie Encyklopâdie. (2005). Baum des Wissens. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baum_des_Wissens
Yager, R. R. (2006).
Knowledge trees and protoforms in question-answering systems.
Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Published Online: 18 Jan 2006
Tree of Life: http://tolweb.org/tree/phylogeny.html
See also: Atlas of Science; Classification of the sciences
Last edited: 28-02-2007