Saturday, October 06, 2007

philosophical principles

I keep coming back to these as things that often guide my thinking and decision making. Or when I review something I've said, written or done then I see it as limited, insufficient or incomplete because it hasn't been integrated very well with the philosophical ideas that keep emerging as the important thing.
  • why I have changed from game maker to etoys / squeak
  • why I think engagement and motivation while important are not enough
  • why I don't want to be just a teacher of computing anymore but more of a teacher of the non universal powerful ideas
  • why I am thinking I can no longer teach in a school which doesn't grasp these ideas
The philosophical principles also form the basis of critique:
  • you can't sustain the critique of instrumentalism and / or technocentrism without a sound philosophical basis, since these forces are such strong drivers in our current society
  • everyone can be doing their best and trying their hardest within their perceived universe but things aren't really going to change substantially for the better unless people step outside of that to look at the bigger picture

1. Dramatic change is eternal, "you can't step in the same river twice"

2. No construction, without destruction

3. Augmentation / Symbiosis - Humans are natural born cyborgs

4. That a computer could be an immersive, dynamic medium for children to explore powerful ideas that are not accessible readily to children in other ways (eg. dynamically representing the exponential spread of an epidemic, teaching calculus through vectors)

5. Recursion: By making the parts as powerful as the whole then we avoid the tyranny of the subgoals

6. Map and the territory: Sometimes the map in our heads does not fit the territory in the real world.

7. Dialectics, grasping both sides of the equation
Hegel: all that is real is rational; all that is rational is real
Engels: reality proves to be necessity; all that exists deserves to perish

8. Historical materialism, the importance of looking at history to understand the present

This is really an amalgamation of some thoughts from Alan Kay, philosophical marxism and perhaps other sources (Daniel Dennett, Andy Clark, Rodney Brooks). Incomplete and not sufficiently explained.


Doug Noon said...

I appreciate, in particular, the bullet point about difficulty sustaining the critique of instrumentalism, since this has moved me in the last several months to evaluate my own philosophical positions. It's not easy to come to terms with the contradictions I face in my own educational practice (dialectics, again?).

And to throw another log on the fire for you regarding point #6, map and territory, the work of the general semanticist Alfred Korzybski has been popularized by Neil Postman and S.I. Hayakawa, (also Wendell Johnson, who is less well-known, I think), and they've used the map-territory metaphor extensively in their writing. I recently ran across an archive of articles published in ECT: A review of General Semantics. Maybe you can make use of some of them.

Bill Kerr said...

hi doug,

Your first paragraph might induce me to write a new blog about something I've been thinking about recently - the problem of living in the present (and how that's partly a critique of the "web2.0 movement"). At any rate, good luck with dealing with the pervasiveness of instrumentalism - sometimes to explain it to others does make some impact.

very interesting links to Korzybski - loved the anecdote in wikipedia where he demonstrates that people eat words, not just food

You will love this essay by alan kay, our human condition, 'from space'

You mention Neil Postman. I've been reading his book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death", his critique of TV on our discourse. It has made me see the world through new eyes. I discuss Postman in a couple of other blogs:
our intelligence
everything bad

Tom Hoffman said...

There is a pretty clear distinction between the modern (1., 2., 7., 8.), post-modern (6.) and the math/tech sides (3., 4., 5.) in your points.

One thing that drives me crazy about our favorite ed-tech K-12 Web 2.0 rhetoricians is the exclusion of modernity and modernism from the discourse. To get this right you have to understand modernity and then understand how new technology sits on top of it.

Bill Kerr said...

hi tom,

I hadn't realised that Korzybski was post-modern until I read Doug's wikipedia link. My influence there came from the alan kay article , which is beautiful in all respects (ideas, presentation, writing style) - but also from Gregory Bateson, read long ago ('Mind and Nature'). Actually Hegel comes in there too. Marxist philosophy owes a lot to idealist philosophy.

Your comment that 1,2,7 and 8 represent a modern view (despite some of them originating from more than 2000 years ago) is spot on. I guess the "web2.0" movement might find that a bit hard to understand :-) Most of them seem to think that history began with AJAX, without even understanding the AJAX :-) I haven't read Andrew Keen but liked the fact that he at least referred to the historical context in his debate with Weinberger

Bill Kerr said...

More in response to tom

I think 3,4 and 5 is part of modernity that emerges from the computer, that is a continuation of the Enlightenment / Marxist modernity of the other points

In that alan kay essay he points out that most of modern science (400 year tradition) can be done with simple tools - requires point of view, effort, time but not money - but that new forms of science do open up as accessible to children using computers (eg. dynamic systems approaches)

So apart from my Korzybski-ist PM deviation it all works for me