For Freud, our parental figures are extremely important to the development and interactions of our consciousness. His model of consciousness is a little different from the others we have encountered so far in that it takes into deeper account the internalization of our external experiences and influences. Unlike the slave consciousness in the Hegelian Dialectic which eventually transcends external objects, Freud describes a process of token keeping in which external influences like our parents, culture, and “what is taken over from other people” are internalized and ever present in the “psychical province” which he calls our superego (An Outline of Psycho-Analysis 147). Continue reading →
In order to help us better understand things like Foucault’s encompassing concept of power, John Storey introduces his (or Foucault’s) methodology of “discursive formations” (Storey 129). In adopting his world of discursive formations we are forced break free from our binary mentality where things either “are” or “are not” and accept that there is more than one direction to everything; rather than classifying something as oppressive or enabling we must acknowledge that it can be oppressive in some ways and enabling in others and entirely both things at the same time. Continue reading →
Chapter two of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed reads with the same sort of urgency as any section out of The Communist Manifesto. Freire uses powerful language to deliver a sense of romance and importance to his cause, which is educational reform. Although I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had assumed his cause to be something bigger, on the grander scale of overthrowing a government or something like that. (Ok, maybe I am being dramatic but I found Freire’s style a little overwhelming). Continue reading →
In the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” queue on my Amazon account (where I bought all of the required texts for this class) there was one one modern looking cover among a lot of Locke, Hume and Plato titled The Ego Trick by Julian Baggini. So I googled the book and found a TED Talk by the author addressing the main idea of his book which is basically that our “self” is not a fixed permanent essence or object that has experiences but rather our “self” is just a collection of experiences.
This idea seemed to fit perfectly with what we are learning in class about identity, in fact it seemed like a good unifying capstone for our discussions so far, so I watched the TED Talk. The speaker gives a comprehensive view of identity according to different philosophers including Locke, Hume, Buddha, and even modern psychologists and neuroscientists. He synthesizes ideas from these respective philosophies (though he takes from buddhism more than anything else) and optimistically concludes that identity or our “true self” is a process which is fluid and forever changing like a waterfall, except it is different from a waterfall because we have the capacity to direct our flow and shape ourselves. So according to Baggini the ship of Theseus paradox with regards to identity is a total nonissue because our identities or our “self” is not an object, which we can expect to be the same from one moment in time to another. So according to Baggini’s ideas, whether you undergo a heart transplant or belief transplant, you are still you and it is silly to worry whether these things changed you or made you fundamentally different because change is the very nature of your identity.
According to Baggini, although this easily understood people do not easily make it work in their own consideration of themselves because it is human nature to think of ourselves as a separate, maybe even tangible, being of experience rather than the sum of our experiences. It is human nature to objectify ourselves. Haha. Still, we shouldn’t fret because even if there is no permanent object of self Baggini maintains that we are not completely powerless and that we have the capacity to direct the development of our self.
“The true self, as it were then, is not something that is just there for you to discover. You don’t sort of look into your soul and find your true self. What you are partly doing at least is actually creating your true self” – Julian Baggini
“Self consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged.”(Phenomenology of the Spirit 111).
In his Phenomenology of the Spirit Hegel describes consciousness as an independent thing whose independence is only achieved through the acknowledgment of its own dependence on outside objects and the subsequent struggle to negate this “self externality” in order to achieve true independence (Phenomenology of the Spirit 114). He retells this elaborate genesis as a dramatic “life and death struggle”, in the story of the Lord and the Bondsman where each must engage in this struggle in order to “raise their certainty of being” (Phenomenology of the Spirit 113). In both stories one thing is clear: in order to develop a truly independent consciousness it is essential to first acknowledge and be acknowledged by another consciousnesses. In other words, we need the recognition of other consciousnesses — this is the first step to attaining our own freedom. Continue reading →
In the first chapter of his Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel discusses the concept of sense certainty. Like Kant, Hegel maintains that the process of obtaining knowledge is not purely sensory (Empirical) nor purely in our minds (Rational) but instead a cooperative act between mind and matter, one always mediating the other. Unlike Kant, Hegel discusses the implications of this duality and thus makes the distinction between certainty and the truth. Continue reading →
In Book II of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke succeeds at confusing me. Which I can only assume is what he was trying to do because I have no idea what his intent was otherwise—I was that confused. From what I gather, our identities are basically a continuum of awareness of ourselves at any instant in time? It is mind boggling to think of myself as being aware of myself in a series of “insensibly succeeding” snapshots of being and it is very bleak to think that now, that instant where I was so hopelessly mind-boggled by Locke is a part of my collective self-awareness and inextricably a part of my identity for as long as I remain aware of that instant. Which brings me to one of many questions: Does reality even have anything to do with our identites? Continue reading →
In Book One of his Metaphysics Aristotle gives a brief history lesson on the evolution of knowledge.
“Hence when all such inventions were already established, the sciences which do not aim at giving pleasure or at the necessities of life were discovered, and first in the places where men first began to have leisure. This is why the mathematical arts were founded in Egypt; for there the priestly caste was allowed to be at leisure.” (Metaphysics, Book I, p. 1553).
Here he describes a departure from the condition of the “practical,” a condition which he uses to qualify the rest of his intellectual virtues. Even to art Aristotle prescribes a practical pursuit: to bring “into being” or to give pleasure (Nicomachean Ethics p. 1800). In this short passage Aristotle mentions a sort of pointless knowledge, with no utility beyond that of knowing for the sake of knowing, and certain conditions for pursuing this sort of knowledge—leisure. Continue reading →
In Plato’s Republic Socrates’ character states that people are better off restricting themselves to one craft than practicing many(Republic 370b). He makes several comments of this nature, going so far as to insist that a person should, “stick to [his trade] for life, and keep away from other crafts so as not to miss the opportunities to practise his own craft well”(Republic 374c). Interestingly enough, there is a slightly-more-modern- than-Plato figure of speech which basically sums up the idea that a person with many skills is not necessarily outstanding at any one skill: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Although the question of many trades versus one was not brought up as part of the education of the guardians(it was only made relevant to the formation of the city), I think it is important to our classroom discussion on education. Should education be broad or focused? Continue reading →
In Plato’s dialogue Meno, a young, baffled Meno challenges Socrate’s logic and stance on knowledge by posing his famous paradox which describes the impracticality of searching for something you have no knowledge of as well as the issue of recognizing that you have found it when you do not even know what “it” is. Socrates simply dismisses this paradox as a quibbler’s argument, instead, offering up his theory on learning as “remembering” and something to do with our immortal souls(81d). Whether or not this is the case, Meno’s Paradox doesn’t seem to cause anyone any grief in the real-world pursuit of knowledge. Further into Plato’s Meno and Protagoras we are provided hints as to why this is.
“How silly of us not to realize that it isn’t always knowledge that’s guiding people when they do things well and succeed in their affairs”(96c).
Knowledge isn’t the be-all and end-all of education or learning, it can’t be. Knowledge, whether it is known or unknown, is just useless fact if you lack the skills to apply it. “Isn’t it clear that what we desperately need is, for a start, some kind of measuring ability?”(357b). Throughout Meno and Protagoras Plato refers to this ability to operate knowledge as “knowledge of measurement”, “opinion”, and just plain old “good sense”. What Plato describes is a discerning ability, the ability to say yes or no, to accept or question, and to piece the different components of knowledge into something functional— something similar to judgement. By exercising our judgement or “good sense” we are easily able to overcome Meno’s Paradox and fearlessly navigate the unknown.
“Even with a blindfold on, Meno, anyone could tell just from talking to you that you are beautiful.”(76b)
Even if we are just stumbling around in the dark as long as our feet remain firmly planted in what is familiar we can feel around for edges and use our judgement to piece together an outline of what we are searching for. Scientists do it all the time. They define something by defining its surroundings, where it will fit, then study it by studying its surroundings and how it fits(eg. Higgs Boson Particle). Using “good sense” and the trusty “guess and check method”(very much the same concept behind a baby’s shape sorter toy, see image below) you will often find what you were searching for, or didn’t even know you were searching for and then recognize “it”as what you were searching for because it fits.