Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Keeping one's hand in

by techno Sun May 27th, 2007 at 03:39:21 AM EST

Of all those great debates we were exposed to at the university level, the only one I still find interesting concerns how we learn.  As a published author, I probably should be a big proponent of reading books as the ultimate way to learn, but I don't actually believe that books are all that effective.  Given a choice for transmitting information, I would choose video in a heartbeat.  The reason video is so effective is that while books merely explain information, video forces you to DEMONSTRATE why you know something.

In between pure text and video are the various other forms of illustration--still pictures, drawings, graphs, mathematical formulas, etc.  In all these cases, however, these are only tools for transmitting findings between people.  They do NOT address the far more interesting question what methods work best for learning new information.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob


The most popular method for "creating" new knowledge in academia is the research paper.  Such thesis creation is required for most advanced degrees.  The bright and diligent scholar disappears into the bowls of a library and emerges many months later with a heavily footnoted paper that demonstrates she has examined the extant literature and fashioned this information into a unique perspective.

There are valid arguments that postulate that the research paper amounts to little more than academic hazing.  There is a reason why the overwhelming majority of Ph. D. theses disappear without a trace--it is almost impossible for a new paper to have more useful information than the sources cited.  There are a few exceptions to this grim reality, but without in most cases, the research paper is just intellectual entropy as every reinterpretation of the data becomes less useful than the original data itself.

Of course, this critique does not hold for papers that explain the findings of original research and experimentation.  So it is necessary to call the purely library-generated research papers some appropriate name to separate them from those papers based on experimentation.  So let's call them "book reports" since that is what they are.

But if the book report is usually a waste of time and only small numbers of questions require full-blown scientific investigation and very few of us have access to laboratories or other investigative tools, the question becomes--how do the rest of us get out of the library stacks (or away from google)?

Jacob Bronowski argues in his book "The Ascent of Man" that "the hand is the cutting edge of the mind"--we learn new things when we teach our hands to do new things.  While this sort of belief can eventually lead to world-class scientists forced to plant rice by hand during Mao's Cultural Revolution, such actions are usually just class resentment run amok.  As someone who once detassled corn I can tell you, the theoretical understanding of life doing such a job is learned in the first three hours.  On the other hand, a physicist could learn a great deal indeed by growing orchids.

Bronowski's insight was derived from watching children learn, but as CATSCANs and other tools that could show the brain at work were perfected, it turned out that there is much evidence to prove he was correct--learning IS more effective when the hands are involved.

I didn't wait for the scientific proof because Bronowski showed a way out of the library that was, at worst, harmless and at best, VERY useful.  I was probably not going to be good at something like growing orchids, but I could learn the skills necessary to build a house.  And so I did.  Bronowski was correct.  Learning those skills has affected the way I view the world.

It has been quite a while since I used my construction skills--actual construction is a young man's game.  But I recently had the opportunity to engage in a small task that reminded me how much can be learned by using your hands.

We have a door that exits the house on the second floor.  It once lead to a wooden balcony that has since been destroyed by winter.  The interior door is a leaky multi-light affair so an additional storm door is really quite necessary.  The winters that had wrecked the balcony had now rotted out the bottom of the existing storm door.  So a replacement was needed.

This was a perfect-sized job for me.  Like cutting rafters or building stairs, hanging doors is one of the high-skill jobs on a construction site.  Anyone good enough to do this job correctly would have to charge $250 just to answer the phone and the door itself cost less than that.  Besides, I LIKE the challenge of hanging doors.

 

This is the sort of storm door one can purchase for slightly less than $200.  For that money you get the door, the frame that holds it in place, a glass insert that can be interchanged with a screen, and a bunch of hardware.

The first problem encountered was caused by the fact that the opening was non-standard.  The house was built in the 30s so some of today's standards did not apply.  Moreover, this was an opening that had to fit under the eaves of a 1.5 storey Cape Cod.  So the original builders had framed an opening and when the door didn't fit, they simply sliced 25 mm off the bottom.  Since the replacement door was aluminum, this was not an option.  I COULD have gotten a short door made by special order but this would have required a six week wait and more than doubled the price.

Since the trim pieces were substantial, I decided I could find 25 mm by carving away at the trim molding at the top.  This modification would prove the most messy and difficult part of the job and of course, was not part of the instructions that came with the door.  Because I wanted this modification to be very accurate, I did it with a router, a mortising bit, and a simple jig.

 

The instructions that came with the door were typical of the breed.  They were reasonably helpful if you already knew how to hang doors but were probably of little use to anyone who is confused by the instructions included in the typical IKEA box.

Construction parts are usually big and bulky so they tend not to be shipped very far.  Because of this, construction methods tend to be regionalized and the effects of globalization are not so much in evidence as with, for example, the textile industry.  Yet while the large parts of this storm door were produced nearby, the hardware was all made in China.

This is the sort of latch set that used to come with an aluminum door.

 

And this is the latch set that came from China with the new door.

 

I remember when such hardware cost more than $175 by itself.  And considering how dirty the industrial processes are to make brass, I must imagine that MOST of the cost savings were due to lax environmental standards.

Most doors I have installed in life have only one closing mechanism.  They used to cost about $25.  This door had TWO of them.

 

So by my calculations, my $200 door came with $225 worth of hardware.  I have a LOT of trouble with the effects of globalization but this example shows why these practices have a lot of support.  So even though I thought I was buying a locally-produced product, the boxes of hardware were anything but.

So what did my little project teach me?

  1. Lack of standardization in construction is still one of the reasons why housing is so expensive.  Well over half of this project was spent trying to make a standard-sized door fit a non-standard opening.

  2. Do it yourselfers are often encouraged to try projects that are WAY beyond their abilities to do well.  When I explained what I was going to do to a friend, her eyes flashed as she exclaimed "don't even TRY to do this yourself--hire it done!"  She then told a gruesome story of how she and her husband tried to install a storm door--a project that had gone so badly it almost caused a divorce.  Folks often forget why construction work is usually classified as a skilled trade.

  3. Construction materials are usually considered the last bastion of localized production.  Yet even here, the forces of globalization can be found once the box is opened.

  4. There is something intensely gratify about installing a door that swings smoothly on its hinges and a lockset that snaps closed with a barely audible click.  Thorstein Veblen's greatest book is called "The Instinct of Workmanship."  Some consider this book "controversial" because humans are not supposed to have instincts.  My response is that the only people who don't believe in the instinct of workmanship are those unfortunate enough not to have it.

I suppose it is possible to have learned all this by reading secondary sources.  But I doubt it.  Google may have found me statistics on the inroads the Chinese have made in the construction hardware market but I doubt if that would have made such an impact as opening boxes of hardware that were clearly better than I could have afforded before.

Beside, I got a nice new door out of this research that I clearly needed PLUS I got one of those "only real men can hang doors" ego boosts that was so enjoyable, I had to write about it.

Bronowski was right--the hand IS the cutting edge of the mind.

Display:
Great Diary.

We need to reconfigure education around "action-based learning" IMHO.

I remember a really interesting conversation with a guy who used to work at the famous Xerox Palo Alto labs at the time when it was all happening.

He believes that the new "digital" generation need a refresher course in the analogue world that underpins theirs. If its not in the manual, they have no idea.

You are correctly identifying an intellectually entropic phenomenon through book-researched PhD closed loops.

A sort of intellectual "Oozlum Bird" - the fabulous creature which flies around in ever-decreasing circles until it disappears up its own fundament...

But, where you look to Veblen (and I don't blame you, he's part of the same "Quality" tradition) I always look to Pirsig and my "Bible" - "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".

Your door-hanging basically requires liberal applications of "Gumption".

And that is an increasingly rare commodity these days....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 05:00:23 AM EST
"The kids today ..." Fah. What do you think your Xerox friend was being called by his seniors when it was all happening?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 05:29:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is true. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

But it does not invalidate the point that "Common Sense" is an increasingly rare bird these days.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 06:25:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Chris.

I am also a BIG fan of Robert Pirsig.  In the 70s, I got stuck with a project that really had no instructions and a huge penalty for failure or abandonment.  I must have read his suggestions for finding gumption in Zen about 25 times before I got that project done.  Because of those instructions, I hold a 19-claim product-by-process patent.  I have not met Pirsig but I'm afraid I would babble incoherently if I did.

You also may be interested to know that both Pirsig and Veblen came from that Minnesota tool culture I admire so much.  Veblen was raised in an environment where MULTIPLE tool skills were necessary for mere survival.  Pirsig was the son of the Dean of the University of Minnesota Law School and actually felt like something of a failure because he was a "mere" technical writer for Honeywell (who wouldn't kill for a job like that these days) when he wrote Zen.  

I am not sure he understands the incredible popularity of Zen to this day.  My pet theory is that the people who LOVE to build and master tools feel woefully misunderstood and for them, Pirsig has become one of their philosophers.  I also believe that both Pirsig and Veblen got this understanding almost by accident--they were so immersed in the tool culture around here it became part of their intellectualization about other things.

My favorite example of how deep the culture is-- I personally know 4 men who have built airplanes they fly around in.  I met a guy who lives close by who is so skilled with a CNC mill, he got his employer to let him use the same tools to build an airplane for himself.  So the guy now has a "homebuilt" that conforms to the same specifications as an F-16--because he made tools for both.

But no, this door project needed almost no gumption.  Gumption is for the young.  We slightly more mature set have to get by on experience.  Not only have I hung more than 200 doors in life if you count furniture, but I have a builder brother who once showed me his 45-minute door hanging method that was so damn clever, I felt like I had been admitted to a secret fraternity.  This project took about 6 hours if you include getting rid of the rotten door and I used every one of my brother's methods I could.  Fortunately, slow and graceful still gets the job done.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 02:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you know, I had entirely forgotten where Pirsig set out on his motorbike FROM.

Dohhh.

And if I ever read about his father's antecedents, I had forgotten that,too.

Since I am maybe based more in the "Romantic" tendency I find I do not have the same connections with the book as people from the "Classic" tendency who have the skills and therefore a more intimate appreciation of what it is to work with the hands.

So the lessons that I draw, and the writing that resonates more with me are clearly different, but the genius of the book is that it not only appeals to both "traditions" / classifications, but it actually identifies them.

I was intrigued the other day to hear Professor Robin Downie - at the recent launch of Glasgow University's new "Centre for the Study of Applied Ethics and Legal Philosophy" (Pirsig would have been in there like a ferret down a drainpipe - it gives me hope that we may yet see a new Enlightenment) - quoting directly from Pirsig on this very subject, again from a "Classic" tradition, as one would expect of an academic...

For me, Pirsig's Metaphysics allows me to ask the right questions of Reality - adapting J A Wheeler's

"Reality is defined by the Questions you put to it".

That is Pirsig's - largely unrecognised, IMHO - genius.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 04:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Those of us on the classic side of things are utterly delighted when someone from the more romantic traditions get Pirsig.  Congratulations!

What I find so amazing about him is that his search for some philosophic truths led him to open confrontation with the Aristotelian traditions at the University of Chicago--yet the only way he can explain his frustration with that form of academic posturing is by talking about keeping his motorcycle on the road.  

Amazingly, Aristotle still has influence in the more conservative schools.  Of course, no one takes his science seriously, but classical logic is still widely taught.  Bart Kosko, the guy who first did the math that "proved" why fuzzy logic was valid, wrote a book with a chapter called "The Road from Athens."  In it he argues that we wasted over $20 billion trying to give computers artificial intelligence and failed utterly because we tried to teach them Aristotle.  Yes, fuzzy is a bad name.  Yes Zehdi is Iranian.  Yes, new forms of logic coming from Berkeley in 1964 were going to be met with skepticism.  But even so...

I believe Kosko was right.  The REAL problem was Aristotle's logic.  When the Japanese found a thousand applications for fuzzy, they knew all the criticisms but it simply did not matter to them--they had never made Aristotle into a demi-god.  I mean, can you even imagine the steady-cam routines built into even the cheapest videocameras without fuzzy?--I can't.

Veblen most biting criticism was to call some form of thinking "mere taxonomy."  That was Pirsig's problem with Aristotle, if you recall.  And yet, I'll bet there are still universities that grant advanced degrees in the teachings of Aristotle.  No matter how wrong, the Aristotelians never seem to give up their debating points.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 07:20:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is in the Scots' "Not Proven" middle ground between Guilty and Not Guilty that something new is emerging IMHO.

I had HEARD about "Fuzzy Logic" and never understood it until today's visit to Wikipedia.

To me "Fuzzy" Logic is better described as "Relational" logic (which probably means something else entirely!), and to have gradations of IF/THEN, but no ELSE is IMHO at the heart of Pirsig's argument, and at the heart of our relationship with Reality.

It is only when you realise that Money and Property are in fact RELATIONSHIPS and not OBJECTS that you can come to an understanding of exactly how the partnership-based phenomenon which I call "Open" Capital actually works.

We may now synthesise the conflicting either/or legal claims of (absolute/infinite "ownership") Equity and the (absolute/finite) Debt to give a continuous indefinite form of Capital ie for as long as I use Capital, I share the revenues or production from it...

"Transactions" are the "Value events" which occur as we go through economic life making "Value judgements" that A is more "Valuable" than B by reference to a "Value Unit".

And it's all Relative.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 08:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my experience the AI people are transfixed by Set Theory, Boolean Logic, and Statistics.  Aristotle?  Not so much.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 10:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they subscribe to the "law" of the undistributed middle, they are intellectual children of Aristotle.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 01:37:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The undistributed middle is a logical fallacy. If you mean the excluded middle you have a point.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 02:59:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I get those old Aristotlian terms confused--sorry.  It's been awhile.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:13:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I need to take another look at Fuzzy Logic. It's been many years and I was unimpressed by what I was told about it.

The economy needs to be thought of as a garden, not as a wild ecosystem
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:21:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suggest Bart Kosko's Fuzzy Logic for a layman.

My take on fuzzy can be found here:
http://www.elegant-technology.com/FUZZY.html

And it's applications in the social sciences can be found here (pdf alert):
http://www.elegant-technology.com/resource/THM_ITVA.PDF

I have been told that fuzzy instructions can be written in Java.  So it is not THAT arcane.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 08:16:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been told that fuzzy instructions can be written in Java.  So it is not THAT arcane.

Ah, so fuzzy logic can be underlied by boolean logic.

One of my problems with logic is that it seems the question of which logic is fundamenal is a matter of choice because all can be constructed in terms of the others. So maybe one should learn all of them and then use the one that is more suited to the question at hand.

The economy needs to be thought of as a garden, not as a wild ecosystem

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 02:36:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a more general point is that we learn when we use information, and we learn different things depening on what we use it for. All those Ph. D. theses that never is read probably learned the author the material. Now if that was a good use of time and money is another question.

Then again people have different learning styles. Studying math or physics was most instructive in learning this. I tend to start a course by looking at old exams. "What can I do with this?" is my central question. From there I go backwards to see what I need to know to do what I want to do. However I have noticed that some people read the books the other way, from start to finish that is. Odd people, but to each their own.

Building stuff is one way (and a very good one) of using information and making it your own. Another is to teach, and I bet there are lots of more that I do not think about right know.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 10:35:48 AM EST
that I learn things better whan I write them down. Even if I never ever read again what I wrote.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 01:20:22 PM EST
I do the same, I take detailed notes and never look at them again.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 01:21:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too. The detailed notes never seem to be of any use later on, but they focus the attention while they're being written. Sometimes, while writing, I stop (if I'm alone) and try to explain to an imaginary person what I think I've understood.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 03:40:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a lot of the effectiveness of note-taking is that it involves additional "channels" to gether the information. I think the best effect is obtained when you're taking notes from a spoken lecture, with visual aids. This is because it involves listening, taking in visual information, writing and reading what you write. If you take notes from a book, you're just reading and writing, and if you just read without taking notes, there's even fewer channels involved.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 04:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like an EXCELLENT habit.  And no doubt the brain-wave folks will probably show why it works so well.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 02:50:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too. I am a copious note taker at conferences, meetings, etc...and will usually read over the notes at least once later...but I definitely retain info better when I write.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 04:50:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I enjoyed your diary, thanks. Two comments :
  • The "sort of latch set that used to come with an aluminum door" looks exactly right, while "the latch set that came from China with the new door" somehow hurts my sense of aesthetics and appropriateness.
  • To all those who can't say enough about "Zen and the art of ...", may I suggest an absolute masterpiece, "The monkey's wrench" by one of the greatest, Primo Levi : when man-made structures acquire a life and a poetry of their own.
by balbuz on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 04:16:08 PM EST
First point, classic "form and function".

Secondly, thanks for the tip, Balbuz, I'll try and get my hands on a copy.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri May 25th, 2007 at 04:43:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, those big brass levers are a bit tacky.  But getting nickel plating (our first choice) for the hardware was a special order.  But more important to this discussion is the mass involved.  This lockset must have weighed two kilos--it requires a big spring to hold the levers level.  So my point is that I got WAY more mass than I would have under "normal" economic circumstances.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 02:47:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary.

The reason video is so effective is that while books merely explain information, video forces you to DEMONSTRATE why you know something.

However, books allow the recipient to digest information at her own speed, e.g. she can stop for some thinking or calculations or drawing.

I would also quibble your contrast between 'useless' library research and useful original research.

On one hand, library research can be useful for falsification (uncovering errors, misinterpretations of data by the original researchers), for digging auxiliary data for a new discovery (say, think of older photographs of a just discovered asteroid that allow a more precise orbit calculation), and sometimes it really can find overlooked patterns (this happens quite often in astronomy, where surveys amass heaps of data, which give work to astronomers for years to decades).

On the other hand, original research can be useless, too: when researchers go and measure stuff that was measured a thousand times, when they start with too little a sample, or a bad setup, or with a setup that makes it incomparable to other results, and so on.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 06:44:54 AM EST
However, books allow the recipient to digest information at her own speed, e.g. she can stop for some thinking or calculations or drawing.

Most video I know about has pause buttons.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 01:40:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And rewind, too. But that is cumbersome compared to just staring at the last few lines of text or the last few formulas, or even paging back for some earlier stuff which the last few lines are based on/refer back to.

When learning, I even prefer books to the internet, despite the advantage of Googling stuff needed.

This all may depend on what you are learning, though. (I was educated as physicist and astronomer -- lots of formulas to use, understand and connect to each other.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 05:07:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As one of the afore-mentioned library researchers in a past life, I'd like to make a bit of a defensive comment.

There are two types of library research - primary and secondary source.  Secondary source, by far the most common, is reading what someone else wrote about a topic.  Primary source is looking at data of one sort or another.

Secondary source has its limits, and can easily get caught up in the sort of infinite regression loop mentioned earlier.  Primary source research is an entirely different animal.

The fact is complicated by the fact that many disciplines take secondary sources as their primary sources - that is, they look at such writings not for their argument or whatnot, but rather for what the langauge and the nature of the argument made says about the people who did the research and their culture, assumptions, etc.  Anything can be looked at in this fashion, from novels and essays, to diaries, to recpiets and account books, to pages of numeric data left by old scientific studies.

The knowledge produced is, of course, historical, and of thus a different order than any sort of empirical science, and quite likely will have no practical use. However, it's still real research.

One other point, on video.  It's great if there is actually something to be shown to begin with.  When one is dealing with purely abstract notions (philosophy being the best example), video is wasted.  There's just nothing to see in a discussion of the nature of truth.

Again, one might make the argument that, since there's nothing to see, then the field is of questionable value.  But that's another issue entirely.

by Zwackus on Sun May 27th, 2007 at 08:20:28 AM EST
As one of the afore-mentioned library researchers in a past life, I'd like to make a bit of a defensive comment.

In a world where it is still possible to get a Ph. D. in Chaucer, it would seem your world is so entrenched as to need little defense.  Now if they start giving out Ph. Ds for learning to weld titanium a new way, then you might have something to worry about ;-)

There's just nothing to see in a discussion of the nature of truth.

Virtually ALL manifestations of truth can be seen and filmed.  For example, I happen to believe that Veblen's notion of conspicuous consumption is true.  And the reason I believe it is true, is because I can see multiple examples of it every day of my life.  I suppose there are forms of truth that do not leave behind visual evidence but I am hard pressed to think of any.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 02:46:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This has been a party political broadcast from the American anti-intellectual tradition.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 05:42:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is only anti-intellectual if you define an "intellectual" as an extreme example of a member of the Leisure Class.  If you define as intellectual as someone who thinks very hard about difficult problems, my point of view is not anti-intellectual at all.  

Not.  Even.  Close.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I'm not arguing with you in general.  The modern American educational system suffers from WAY too much emphasis on rather arcane fields of study, and far too little on practical abilities.  Part of this stems from the fact that nobody wants to pay Americans to actually DO anything anymore, but that's another issue entirely.

On the other point, I'm not talking about truth as in things that are true.  I'm talking about the nature of "truth" as a metaphysical concept.  What does it mean when you say that something is true, as opposed to false?  It seems sort of obvious, but it's really easy to get trapped in rather intricate logical holes.  All of which may be entirely irrelevant, but nonetheless, it's been an issue of importance in philosophy since the ancient Greeks.

by Zwackus on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 07:05:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not talking about truth as in things that are true.  I'm talking about the nature of "truth" as a metaphysical concept.

Come again.  You mean to tell me that there is a difference between something that is true and the "truth?"  I certainly missed that nuance as a child!

In fact, the MOST common way of "proving" something is true is to arrange a demonstration.  The legal profession even calls it "evidence."  And yes, if you are very fortunate, you can conduct a demonstration because it shuts up all doubters.

Didn't you ever wonder if a "logic" could somehow produce a trap that can make you believe something other than the evidence, that there just MIGHT be something wrong with the logic?  Is it possible that such a flawed logic might be popular because it allows folks to "win" debates even when the facts are not on their side.  

But the bigger point is that someone did indeed invent a better logic.  This logic works FAR better than the old kind because it can handle all the variations between long and short, strong or weak, fat and thin, etc.  This logic has utterly demolished its more primitive ancestors in the emotion-free world of computerized logic.  So isn't it possible that schools that charge money and hand out degrees in the old logic are knowingly misleading our children?


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon May 28th, 2007 at 08:03:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not nearly as aristotelian as you might think, and I'm not really sure if the problem of defining "truth" is a product of aristotelian thought so much as a problem of thought and language in general.

The distinction I'm talking about is not whether any fact is true or not, but what it means to say that something is "true," and what kinds of lines should be drawn around it.  Can something be only a little true, or partly true, or are those inherent contradictions in terms?  It's been too long since I've had these arguments as my philosopher friend moved away, so I'm not fresh enough on the topic to flesh it out here.

Those may be irrelevant questions, and the pursuit of their answer a waste of time.  That's another issue entirely.

by Zwackus on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:14:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The nature of Truth is based upon the assumptions, or as J A Wheeler put it:

"Reality is defined by the questions you put to it"

At the "cutting edge of reality" it is your hand as well as your eye which feeds back to you the answers to your questions.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 06:09:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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