Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Emojis, Expressive Interjections, and Epistemology, All In One Convenient Blog Post!!!!!!!!!!

Side note:

For this post, “subject” will be used to define anything that can be understood e.g. an idea, a person, an object, etc. Please don’t take it as a dehumanizing word, because it isn’t intended to be. It’s just the most convenient word I could think of.

Do you ever just have a feeling about someone or something; like some indescribable knowledge of how that person or thing is, even if you may not know every fact there is to know about said person or thing? The ability to understand without ever receiving a comprehensive list of facts and information about the subject is a phenomenon that occurs all the time in the human mind, and it is a phenomenon that I find utterly fascinating.

I, myself, have friends and family members who I understand to varying degrees, or rather, I have come to an understanding about them. I think that phrasing fits better, since the understanding I have may not be the “Ultimate Understanding” of said person. I am tempted to cite Kant in saying that only one person, in being themself, is able to have an Ultimate Understanding or know the Truth about who they are, but even that is untrue. There are two reasons why this is wrong.

For one, a person may understand themselves less than the people who know them.

Secondly, the fact that the mind and the brain rely on different sections of themselves relaying information which is then interpreted by different sections of themselves refutes the possibility of any one section having a full understanding of the brain or mind.

Let’s assess these two points further, shall we?

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On Experience, Perception and Biased Expressions

Proposition: Knowledge is fueled by experience, influenced by perception and expressed in a strictly subjective manner

When creating a theory of what knowledge is I came to understand that it is fueled through experience. Whether that experience is physical (one is creating an understanding that fire is hot by touching it) or mental (one is creating an understanding that fire is hot by reading about it). There are so many different ways in which people can begin to understand and gain knowledge of different topics, just as there are many ways in which they encode that knowledge.

Klob’s theory of the experiential learning cycle outlines that there are four steps in the cycle of learning through experience:  Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation,  Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation.

Concrete Experience involves encountering a new situation or the reinterpretation of an existing experience.

Reflective Observation involves reflecting on the experience being sure there are no inconsistencies on the experience and the understanding of it.

Abstract Conceptualization involves the discovery of new ideas or the abstract understanding that come to mind through reflections.

Active Experimentation involves the learner applying new knowledge to real life in order to see what may result.

learning-kolb

 

In Klob’s theory, all parts of the cycle are necessary for a person to fully gain knowledge. No one category can be effective on its own.

Knowledge can be perceived differently person to person. Many people have different learning styles which affect how they learn and what they gain from their experiences. Klob’s theory also involves the different styles of learning that people may have. Different variables affect a person’s learning style, and how they perceive their experiences.  For example, social environment, educational experiences, or the basic cognitive structure of the individual all play a role in how that person learns.

Klob’s theory involves four different learning styles: Diverging, Assimilating, Converging, and Accommodating.

Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO): People who use the learning style of diverging knowledge are often able to look at things from different perspectives. These people are sensitive to their surroundings, themselves and others. These learners prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and using their imagination to solve problems. Diverging learners are best at viewing concrete situations at several different viewpoints and perform better in situations that require idea generation e.g. brainstorming. Diverging learners are generally more social as they prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.

Assimilating (watching and thinking – AC/RO):People who use the learning style of Assimilating knowledge use a logical approach when solving problems or interpreting information. These people value ideas and concepts over information from other people. They require a good clear explanation of a concept rather than a practical opportunity to physically use their knowledge.Assimilating learners excel at understanding a wide range information and organizing that information in clear logical formats. These people are more attracted to logically sound theories than approaches based on practical value. They prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through when attempting to gain new knowledge and understanding.

Converging (doing and thinking – AC/AE): People who use the learning style of converging knowledge can solve problems and will use their knowledge to find solutions to practical issues.They prefer technical tasks, and are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects of thinking.These learners are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems which enables them to specialize in technological tasks.

Accommodating (doing and feeling – CE/AE): People who use the learning style of accommodating knowledge tend to be ‘hands-on’ learners, and rely on their intuition rather than logic. They use other people’s analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach when solving problems. These learners are often attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. They act on ‘gut’ instinct rather than logical analysis and are the most prevalent learners in the general population.

A typical representation of Klob’s learning styles looks something like this:

kolb's_learning_styles_businessballs

The east-west axis of the cycle is called the Processing Continuum. This is how we choose to approach a task. The north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum which is our emotional response to our experience.
Many people agree that knowledge is obtained when a person is able to express that knowledge. While I believe that one does not have to express their knowledge to have it I do agree that the best way to prove that one has obtained an understanding of something is to express that understanding. When attempting to express knowledge, it becomes clear that knowledge obtained through experience is often subjective. In an article titled Subjective Knowledge by Rich Stutton he writes of the subjective view point. Explaining that:

“In it, all knowledge and understanding arises out of an individual’s experience, and in that sense is inherently in terms that are private, personal, and subjective. An individual might know, for example, that a certain action tends to be followed by a certain sensation, or that one sensation invariably follows another. But these are its sensations and its actions There is no necessary relationship between them and the sensations and actions of another individual. To hypothesize such a link might be useful, but always secondary to the subjective experience itself.”

He touches on what would conventionally be argued as objective knowledge. Information such as science and math involving definite particles and equations with definite solutions and concrete explainings. He talks about the objective, realist view explaining the belief that knowledge is objective in that

“In this view there is a reality independent of our experience. This would be easy to deny if there were only one agent in the world. In that case it is clear that that agent is merely inventing things to explain its experience. The objective view gains much of its force because it can be shared by different people. In science, this is almost the definition of the subjective/objective distinction: that which is private to one person is subjective whereas that which can be observed by many, and replicated by others, is objective.”

He points out both the flaws and the appeal of these views pointing out that:

“The appeal of the objective view is that it is common across people. Something is objectively true if it predicts the outcome of experiments that you and I both can do and get the same answer. But how is this sensible? How can we get the same answer when you see with your eyes and I with mine? For that matter, how can we do the “same” experiment?”

Stutton concludes that knowledge is subjective; a point that I whole heartily agree with. Knowledge is biased as no one person will experience, perceive and express their knowledge exactly the same way as another. Thus my theory of knowledge is that knowledge is fueled by experience, influenced by perception and expressed in a subjective manner.

 

 

 

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The Art of Cartography

A map is more than just a way to convey geographical information about the world. A good map, to me, is the ultimate crossroads between truth and beauty – a work of art that simultaneously manages to be explicit in its imparting of wisdom and reality and yet still indicates subtleties much too deep for a single image to convey. More than that, its form can be as delectably aesthetic and enrapturing as even the most esteemed Van Gogh, for there is nothing more beautiful than an illustration of our sum knowledge of the world we live on.

A map’s aesthetic design can, of course, be beautiful in and of itself. In the picture above, the illustrations around the edges can be understood as an attempt to signify, in some way, the wonder of the world they were in the process of discovering. Still, though, the prime raw beauty of the map lies in the sections displaying the world, not in the artwork around it – one can only wonder at the incredible attention to detail and deftness of hand that one would need to turn information about the entire world from a dozen sources into a coherent whole, all without the artist leaving his studio. As a work of human achievement, a map before the age of satellites stands with few equals.

Since satellites, though, our cartography has taken a different shape. No longer finding it a challenge to display

the shape of the world, we began focusing on what else maps could tell us. Thus the beauty and aesthetic appeal of a map became even less about the form and more about the meaning it could impart. Colourful the map right may be, few would say its appearance alone makes it beautiful. But to me, it is beautiful, and stunningly so, that a few colours, varyingly spaced around the world, can tell us so much and raise questions about so much more.

The blue – that is, the rich parts of the world – is concentrated in only a few sections of the world. That is the truth the map communicates, but it makes us ask something else: what makes them different? We know, of course, that most of the world’s rich countries are built upon a foundation of democracy, human rights, and the free market – but what’s that blue bit in the middle there? Saudi Arabia, the same colour as Canada, Japan, and Germany? A theocratic quasi-command economy lacking every fundamental freedom we in the West hold dear? How could this be?

The answers given by a map do little but pose more questions. But as I see it, this makes it the greatest art of all – what else is art for but to inspire, to make one think, to impart wisdom, to leave the viewer with a sense of awe at the scale of human achievement(think of the work that went into discovering the knowledge in that map!) and hungry for more? True, it may not seem as ‘beautiful’ as the Sistine Chapel or the David – but when we see that beauty for what it really is, that which makes our eyes go wide and our jaws drop and sets our mind to furiously examining whatever we are beholding, we see that a map is the embodiment of true art, in its purest form.

It is with this last understanding that a map’s beauty can be best understood. For all the talk of truth, a map need not be based in reality to be art. Perhaps the most famous fictional map of all time, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, has a beauty of its own. But that beauty lies not in the truth it communicates, but in the possibilities it hints at. What hidden world lies behind its tea-stained tones? As we peruse its markings, we can hardly stop the questions from jumping out, wondering   about what may lie behind the innocuous names of “Gondor” and “Mordor”. What lies out east in Rhun or south in Harad? Does anything exist out across the sea? Its purely visual appeal outside, even a fantasy map shares the greatest attribute of the real ones: the ability in inspire wonder.

I suppose the true beauty of maps lies in the map that is the least like art of all: Google Earth. Almost entirely devoid of human input, Google Earth is naught but a collection of images serving to display our world. But take a moment to open the program, if you have it. Zoom out really far, until the whole brown and blue globe is just a sphere on the screen. Then begin zooming back in, watching as the continents acquire definition, as borders become coloured in, as city names appear out of thin air and roads begin to criss-cross the land. Watch as grey blurs over the land become cities, as 3-D buildings spring out of nothingness, and tiny toy cars begin to dot the landscape. At the last, enter Street View, and take a moment to realize that in mere seconds you went from a view of 7 billion humans to the view from one human’s naked eye. So much achievement, education, ingenuity, and simple hard work – all so, for a few seconds, you could zoom through the sky, watching colours become cities and mountains and flitting over the all human existence. If art is that which makes you wonder, that which leaves you in awe and inspired to ask ever more about the world we live in – well then, a map is the greatest art of all.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @LiamTheSaint

 
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