All posts for the month April, 2004

We’re all children in the long run. Only just noticed a post by Mitch Ratcliffe, from over a year ago in response to one of my “Nothing new under the sun” threads, quoting William Barrett and Ortega y Gasset.

[Quote] One can find all sorts of tools for dealing with new problems in history, if only you let go of the conceit that you’re inventing everything. I tell my kids this all the time, when they are banging their heads against experience that is easily borrowed and improved upon. We’d do well to recognize we are all children in the long run. Better than just being dead, because it leaves your whole life in front of you and millennia of history to parent you through it all. [Unquote]

Well said.

Knowledge Dialogue. Lilia posts, and several other people pick-up on Lilia’s recent post on “Questions Powering Knowledge”. No doubt about that. Just look at the popularity of FAQ’s as a substitute for more planned communication.

A question is (generally on the face of it) an indication of someone wanting to know something. As Jack Vinson notes (quoting Denham Grey) questions come in all shapes and sizes. The problem with this list of categories is that it is a bit one-dimensional as ontologies go. In fact many different aspects of questions are being categorized. Who’s asking who, with what kinds of objectives, and using what strategies & processes. In fact 9 times out of 10 gaining knowledge in the form of a direct response to the question posed is not the main motive, or not even part of the motive, notice.

Lilia also concludes “KM is about motivation to learn”. Well OK, but for me this still begs the question about the motive in the learning itself. It’s about making or influencing a decision to achieve something else. Learning for it’s own sake – to simply have more knowledge as a resource as the outcome, is rarely the sole objective.

The Q&A process, and dialogue more generally, is definitely where knowledge is created, though gaining the A to the Q is only (a small) part of it. Secondly, classifying people’s motives in Q&A / Dialogue is really back to what makes people tick generally – anthropology, Maslow, Hertzberg, Heylighen, Pirsig, etc. An (evolutionary) ontology of life, the universe and everything.

Lilia also links to Andy at Croeso. Must follow-up the Shell EP connection – a customer in my day job.

At last …. blogged about this over a year ago, when BBC Radio 4 “Today” reported on a Dutch experiment to do away with traffic signs and road markings, and just leave the drivers to it. Sounds irrational, but it’s proven that there are less accidents and more courtesy, because the humans have to use eye-contact and body-language to work out priorities and safe manouvres.

Well yesterday it was announced that such a scheme was going to be adopted in an experiment in the UK that included a busy zone passing a school, where many “traffic calming” measures had previously been tried – doing away with speed-bumps, chicanes, cameras, speed limits, and in fact all road signs and white lines – the lot. (The Thursday Today link is ephemeral – I’ve downloaded the interview and will upload a link – needs Real Player.)

Less is more – you better believe it.
Irrational (subject-involving, non-objective, non-scientific rationale) is better than rational, for any complex evolved system involving humans. That’s MoQ.

We humans are not rational, we are “post-rationalising” for reasons of comfort – Argyris Theory I Model in Use, etc… Wake up from that meme dream (Blackmore) …. need I go on ?

(Our current bee-in-bonnet is new white lines appearing all over multi-lane roundabouts – how does any traffic planner believe these can possibly help anyone, except cover his own arse, and his employer’s arse, in the event of an incident ?)

Classical Physics Cannot Explain Consciousness. Blindingly obvious when you see this straightforward opening quote from Henry Stapp. [Quote] Classical mechanics arose from the banishment of consciousness from our conception of the physical universe. Hence it should not be surprising to find that the readmission of consciousness requires going beyond that theory. [Unquote]

Taken from his 1995 paper “Why Classical Mechanics Cannot Naturally Accommodate Consciousness but Quantum Mechanics Can” of which copies reside in many www locations. This QEDCorp version has editorial input from Jack Sarfatti.

A bit of a brain dump after following the new Adler link from Jorn in the previous post. All old ground, but suggesting Pirsig missed aspects of McKeon as the “Chairman” in ZMM.

Richard Peter McKeon (1900 – 1985) Columbia – Woodbridge & Dewey AB’20, AM’20, PhD’22, Sorbonne, Columbia’25, Hutchins – Chicago’35, Dean’36-’48, Ideas & Methods 211 (Room Cobb 112 first floor corner), Retd’74, (Bibliography)

Mortimer J Adler (1902 – 2001) – Columbia PhD’22(approx), Chicago’30 Law’31 (Great Books / Synopticon ’52)

Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899 – 1977) Yale AB’21, LLB’25, Law Dean’27, Chicago President’29-’51, (World constitution – post Hiroshima)

Charles Hartshorne (1897 – 2000) Chicago’28-’55

In the polarizing battles surrounding the general-education movement at Chicago, McKeon was often stereotyped as a Great Books advocate, an Ancient (vs. the progressive Moderns), and a strict Aristotelian who analyzed texts based on the requirements laid down in the Poetics. His schematism made it possible to appreciate the philosophy of the past without taking sides.

Common themes – The Great Books, Liberal Education, Ford Foundation, Encyclopeadia Brittanica.

Frederick J E Woodbridge
John Dewey
George Anastaplo
Richard Rorty – McKeon AM’49, AB’52
Robert Pirsig – Minneapolis BA’50, MA’58, Chicago McKeon Ideas&Methods’61
Doug Mitchell – McKeon AB’65 (book)
Zahava McKeon (his wife) – McKeon PhD’74
David Owen – McKeon AM’66, AB’80, PhD’84
Milton S Mayer (1908 – 1986) – McKeon
Robert Coover – McKeon AM’65
Susan Sontag – McKeon AB’51
Paul Goodman – Mckeon PhD’54
Paul Rabinov – Mckeon AM’65, AB’67, PhD’70
Wayne C Booth – McKeon AM’57, PhD’50
Morman McLean – McKeon Phd’40
William McNeill – Mckeon AB’38, AM’39 (Book – Hutchin’s University)
Richard Buchanan – McKeon AB’68, PhD’73

With thanks to Andrew Chrucky’s “In Search of the Real University of Chicago” for the many direct and secondary links.

Robert Maynard …. both Hutchins & Pirsig – spooky.

“Our erroneous notion of progress,” Hutchins writes, “has thrown the classics and the liberal arts out of the curriculum, overemphasized the empirical sciences, and made education the servant of any contemporary movements in society, no matter how superficial.” Consequently, a student who entered the university would find a “vast number of departments and professional schools all anxious to give him the latest information about a tremendous variety of subjects, some important, some trivial, some indifferent. He would find that democracy, liberalism, and academic freedom meant that all these subjects and fractions of subjects must be regarded as equally valuable. It would not be democratic to hint that Scandinavian was not as significant as law or that methods of lumbering was not as fundamental as astronomy. He would find a complete and thoroughgoing disorder.” Hutchins advocates at the collegiate level “a course of study consisting of the greatest books of the western world and the arts of reading, writing, thinking, and speaking, together with mathematics, the best exemplar of the processes of human reason.

That’s a plea for values in my book, shared with Adler and KcKeon I’d guess. Can’t see Pirsig would disagree ?

Mortimer Adler dropped out of school at 14 years of age and went to work as a secretary and copy boy at the New York Sun, hoping to become a journalist. After a year, he took night classes at Columbia University to improve his writing. A biography Pirsig would recognise !

Jorn is Posting Again. Same e-mail and same links to RobotWisdom. Came across this Mortimer Adler reference in a recent post of his. Jorn’s weblog at Robot Wisdom is still untouched since October 2003. He’s back posting (since Jan 2004 it seems) and on his ontology for human life quest again.

An interesting aspect is this quote … Since Adler’s day (1952– pre-Double-Helix), advances in biology have made more practical what I call an ‘etymogeny’ (cf etymology), a sorting of concepts in the order they evolved in nature:

This is very close to Pirsig’s levels of value, and he and Adler were on opposite sides of the Chicago divide. This looks like a very important connection. Must resurrect my “Circle of Life” metaphorical image again soon.