All posts for the month April, 2003

Someone (George Bernard Shaw apparently ?) said [Quote] The communication problem is the illusion that it has taken place. [Unquote]. In checking this out I also came across a whole screed of apposite Albert Einstein quotes … [Quote] Imagination is more important than knowledge. [Unquote] and [Quote] The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.[Unquote] and [Quote] Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.[Unquote] and [Quote] Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.[Unquote] and [Quote] The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.[Unquote] and [Quote] The only difference is that there is no cat.[Unquote] and [Quote] If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.[Unquote] and [Quote] The [new technology] has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.[Unquote] and finally [Quote] Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.[Unquote]. Source : The Quotations Page.

Just a quick progress note – day job precludes extensive analysis – Finished Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil, and re-started Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror on Nature.

So much Nietzsche rings true, and his arrogant self-assured style is breathtaking. Mysogeny – OK got me there – well let’s put it down to the chauvinism of his time, his arrogance, two rejected marriage proposals, an upbringing in an all female household including a very meddlesome sister … and hopefully a small dose of playful irony – so the guy wasn’t perfect. Nazi – I don’t think so on this evidence – just about every “race” nation and people comes in for no-holds-barred critical analysis. Jews he’s sympathetic to and warns against extreme reactions. Us Brits (the English actually) he has spot on. His own Germany fares no better. Anyway I digress.

Rorty is back on track – as I suspected his impenetrable jargon laden opening chapter was deliberate – to show the language of modern philosophies against the obligatory history of thought from Aristotle at the rest. I wonder how many other readers he lost with this ploy. Got the “glassy soul” / mirror analogy from Measure for Measure. Anyway I’m happy now. Duty calls.

Blinded by the Light #2 – Blogged this link yesterday. Having now read it I thought I’d share this substantial quote from Rory Remer at Kentucky Uni (working in “educational and counselling psychology” – though it could be any domain of interest IMHO.) I know nothing of the source credentials, but I feel I could have written it myself – I have in so many words.

Logical Positivism (LP) has provided the structure under-girding the scientist/practitioner model. [....], the time has come to supplant it with a more functional one, more consistent with the goals and identity of [the organisation .....]

Did you ever hear the story about the police officer who one dark night came upon a drunk on hands and knees under a light in a parking lot? “What are you doing?” asked the officer. “I’m looking for my keys,” said the drunk. So wanting to be helpful the officer got down and searched too. After about a half hour without success the officer asked, “Are you sure you dropped your keys around here?” To which the drunk replied, “Oh, I dropped them somewhere over there in the dark.” “So why are you looking for them over here?” queried the officer. “Because the light over here is better,” responded the drunk.

A joke to be sure. But only a joke? I think not. In many ways this little tale is a metaphor for what is going on in [our business] today. Like any good metaphor, it has numerous levels of meaning. I would like to explore are what it says about theory/research and about practice in [our profession] today

The task is huge, perhaps too much for a single article. Up-front I will own that I am trying to convince you to believe as I have come to believe. Like testing an hypothesis, I cannot prove that what I say is right. I think and hope I can demonstrate that the present alternative, LP, is extremely limiting – more than we realize. Dynamical Systems Theory (DST) is a much better fit and a “healthier” perspective to adopt. [I will use the label ?Dynamical Systems Theory? (DST) rather than other possibilities, especially Chaos Theory, because it is not only adequately descriptive, but also relatively concise and has a more ameliorative connotation.

Like acting on any conclusion, we act like something is "right" by the behaviors we manifest - thus trusting a process of decision and ourselves. I am asking you to join me in doing just that. I am trying to convert you, because what we are talking about here is belief. [R]egardless of what we have learned and what LP tells us, LP is only a belief system. A powerful one, one that has worked well to a degree (or seemed to). LP “looks good” (i.e., “scientific”), but it is no more or less a belief system than religion or mysticism (for that matter so is DST). If you judge my arguments strictly by the “rules” of LP, then LP will seem more tenable–by definition. I am not asking you to abandone logic. I am asking you to weigh [....] the biases and arguments of the system/environment in which we are functioning, your biases, and other intangible influences. Struggle with whatever discomfort that may be engendered, not discounting what I say simply because it is not easy to hear or accept.

Trust both your intellect and your intuition [....] In metaphoric parlance, we must give up the light/?objectivity? (more of the same) and learn to rely on becoming comfortable with the dark/subjectivity/intuition.

So much to recommend a thorough read of this paper ….
The metaphorical joke at multiple levels – encapsulates so many issues.
The inspired metaphor of the “Blinding Light” of scientific / logical positivism.
The fact that “right” (knowledge / truth) is about a dynamic process or behaviour.
The Catch-22 of trying to make a “scientific” case against scientific method (LP)
The skirting around the intuitive attraction of chaos. A “Strange Attractor” indeed.
The (obligatory, but suspect) inclusion of Uncertainty and Quantum theory references, ….
…. and every other aspect of the “great convergence” of science and philosophy.

See my “story so far
Dawkins would mock the “Great Convergence” angle no doubt.
Looking directly at the light source, can seriously damage your health, etc ….

Philosophical Profile – The Ethical Philosophy Selector [via Alex Halavais] [via Jeremy Hunsinger].

My profile is …
1. Spinoza (100%)
2. Aquinas (89%)
3. Stoics (89%)
4. Aristotle (86%)
5. Nietzsche (85%)
6. Jeremy Bentham (70%)
7. Epicureans (68%)
8. Jean-Paul Sartre (68%)
9. Nel Noddings (65%)
10. Plato (64%)

No great surprise in fact except the 100% hit on Spinoza – must investigate that.
(Jeremy Hunsinger’s blog too many topics, too little time looks worth a second look.)

Social Software Alliance – Interesting that a main topic of the early work of this group, apart from ontologies / definitions of “topics” / interoperabilities, is unique identity of (social) individuals and communities – Friend of a Friend (FoaF) has been suggested. Given the significance of identity (URI’s) for knowledge factoids, and the need for context information “about” these resources, it is also interesting that FoaF covers a great deal of information “about” an individual. In fact, the context information about the resource is pretty much one and the same as that about the individual. It’s contextual information, including the “motivation” of the individual communicator, that allows the recipient to assess the validity of the information. In fact FoaF is very much along the lines of who cites who – Why should I believe that – Who said that – What are their credentials ? (FoaF even includes the individual’s Myers-Briggs classification !)

So identifying individuals is more about their credentials than their identity per se. (Reputation Management.)

SSA is organised via a Wiki – the first one to which I’ve signed up – a kind of communal web site where you can add new, and edit each other’s, pages. Often seen as a more interactive alternative to blogging.

Stealing Ideas ? – Quote by David Gurteen from Howard Aitken [Quote] Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.[Unquote] Compare with this apparently conflicting Victor Hugo quote blogged earlier. [Quote] An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.[Unquote] Ah, the wonder of metphorical aphorisms.

And two clicks later here is another metaphor from blogroots, quoted by David Gurteen [Quote] Weblogs spread memes like no other medium. More ideas are being pushed around the network of minds connected by blogs than any other set of communications. It is like a petri dish for knowledge. [Unquote]

So how do you spread a good idea – warlike invasion, ram it down throats or sow tiny seeds ? How is it all three metaphors ring true ?

Conflicting Models of Learning and Knowledge – Excellent analysis from Oliver Wrede at Seblogging (Seb Fielder’s aggregator ?) [via McGee] (Such a tangled web it’s getting hard to distinguish whose thoughts are who’s in this analysis). Anyway [Quote] Needless to say that the same dilemma can be found in countless corporate environments, too. [Unquote]

Seblogging is an interesting collection – Is “cognitive architects” an interactive community or merely an aggregation ?

Interestingly, McGee’s musings on this blog make deferential reference to the late Donald Schon, the other half of the Argyris and Schon works to which I also I keep making reference.

More on Motivation and Context – A little parable brought to my attention by Seb arising from a misunderstanding between two “communities” of knowledge personified by Stephen Downes and David Wiley. Of course bloggers are not “the” community, just one (set of) many (sets of) communities with vaious levels of communication links between them. In fact even within any one such “community” the communication links vary enormously. Anyway, the conclusion, and my main point of interest, is in “knowing the communicator” – without any context or understanding of the motivations of those with which we are communicating, very little of the information content communicated can be considered to be knowledge.

Repeat after me, “Motivation is a necessary component of any knowledge model.”