Friday, February 11, 2011

Stop The Book, I need to write something down

Still reading (sorry it's taking so long, Bob) Bob Godwin's book, "One Cosmos, Under God".

And I hit a sentence that I read 10 times in a row, it was so ... insightful ... and I had to stop the book to write it down.

Here it is.
The more educated one is, the more one tends to have a storehouse of concepts that are taken over as "finished products, without any encounter with the concrete reality from which the abstractions were taken".  
He was talking about religion and many theologians and blind adherents here, but it also applies to other knowledge especially in the soft "sciences" of the humanities, and it also affects the hard sciences.

This is not a slam on education in the true sense of the word (rather than the largely rote passing down of "finished product" concepts through educational institutions) ... it merely points out a big pitfall that all, especially those being educated ... should be aware of.   One can't avoid these things if one is not looking out for these things to avoid in the first place.

One of the main problems is, it takes a nominal amount of intellectual sophistication to even understand what the pitfall is.

Discuss amongst yourselves ;-)


Severian said...

If you ever want to experience this pitfall in all its glory, try being a TA in an intro humanities class sometime.

"Today, class, we'll be discussing the theory of separation of powers."

...[blank stare]....

"You know, the idea that one guy shouldn't have all the power in a governmental system. You know, checks and balances."

...[blank stare]....

"Checks and balances? Hello? The three branches of government? Let's review. Can anyone name the three branches of government?"

...[eventually someone ventures "uhh, the President?"]....

These are college freshmen, but you end up putting on an old episode of "Schoolhouse Rock" you downloaded from YouTube.

I sometimes felt I could read them Mein Kampf for an hour and instead of horrified stares and protests, all I'd get is "ummm.... is this gonna be on the test?"

They don't even know how much they don't know, and have no idea how to figure it out. They want the easy predigested answer.

[Of course, they're almost all Obama voters, but that kinda goes without saying].

jeffmon said...

If you're lucky, your formal edumacation will present you with commonly held wisdom and the reasoning that led to that wisdom.

You will be able to determine when to abandon conventional wisdom, and how to create your own.

And so on.