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Zen in the art of methodology

Randall F. Clemens

I originally published this post on June 05, 2009, at www.21stcenturyscholar.org.

Recently, while reading Zen in the Art of Archery, I thought about the researcher as an instrument. In the short text, Eugen Herrigel, a German philosopher who spent six years in Japan learning Zen Buddhism by way of archery, describes his physical, spiritual, and mental journey.

Discussing archery, he says “[A]nd consequently, by the ‘art’ of archery he does not mean the ability of the sportsman, which can be controlled, more or less, by bodily exercises, but an ability whose aim consists in hitting a spiritual goal, so that fundamentally the marksman aims at himself and may even succeed in hitting himself” (p. 4). The process is as much internal as external. The individual eventually transcends technique, which transforms the method into an “artless art.”

An application of Herrigel’s book to the researcher and research process may not be obvious; however, I believe he provides some valuable insight for divergent ways of thinking about ourselves and professional practices.