Friday, April 17, 2009

Objectivism's Benefit to Me #5

Another one of the many things I had to relearn was the idea of certainty. I had bought into the notion that certainty was not possible, that our knowledge can only be probable, never certain. It never occurred to me to ask if something doesn't exist, like certainty, how can you have degrees (probability) of it? Of course you can't. So certainty must exist but how? How can one tell when one can claim certainty?

In studying the philosophy of Objectivism, I learned that existence exists and that it is governed by the laws of identity and causality. The law of identity, A is A, things are what they are, means that all things have a specific nature and will behave according to that nature and that this nature represents the context in which it exists. What I understand from this then is that reality itself is contextual.

Since reality is contextual, this in turn means that our knowledge of reality, to be true, that is, to correspond to reality, must also be contextual.
"Concepts are not and cannot be formed in a vacuum; they are formed in a context; the process of conceptualization consists of observing the differences and similarities of the existents within the field of one’s awareness (and organizing them into concepts accordingly). From a child’s grasp of the simplest concept integrating a group of perceptually given concretes, to a scientist’s grasp of the most complex abstractions integrating long conceptual chains—all conceptualization is a contextual process; the context is the entire field of a mind’s awareness or knowledge at any level of its cognitive development." (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology p.55)
This understanding has helped me to see that out of context statements cannot be trusted as knowledge. For example, 'All swans are white' is an out of context proposition and is refuted with the discovery of a colored swan. But the statement 'All swans known to me (within my field of awareness) are white' is contextual and is not refuted with the discovery of a colored swan. In this case the context of my knowledge has expanded to include colored swans. This new expanded knowledge does not contradict or refute my former knowledge that 'All swans known to me are white.' Expansion of previous knowledge is not a contradiction of it.

In terms of certainty then, it was proper for me to be certain of both of my propositions since they both met the requirement of contextuality. Context however, is not the only requirement for certainty. Just as in the categories of 'possible' and 'probable' knowledge, there must be some evidence in support of the proposition, so it is with certainty. but with certainty, all the available evidence must be in support of the proposition. There can be no contrary evidence. If there is some contrary evidence then certainty cannot be claimed.

There is the argument that as long as it's possible to be wrong one cannot claim certainty. But Objectivism has helped me to understand that this is the argument from infallibility and is false. The possibility of error is not evidence of it. Such an argument is just another example of the arbitrary which, per post #4, is always meaningless and is to be dismissed out of hand.

So, this then is something I can add to my always allow list, at least for consideration, 'propositions that are contextual' and the fifth way that Objectivism has benefited me.

Friday, April 03, 2009

March VDA Newsletter

Because education is so important, here is the latest newsletter from the VanDamme Academy. After reading it I strongly urge readers to click on the words 'Follow this link' for more interesting articles.



"Pedagogy": The art and science of teaching.
:: Calling All LifeLong Learners: Learn Science the VanDamme Academy Way!
:: Recommend Pedagogically Correct to five friends, get Lisa VanDamme's e-book, "Reclaiming Education," for free!
:: Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog


Follow this link for the latest VanDamme Academy Newsletter, which features the following article entitled "Does My Child Know Grammar Better Than Me?"


I would say that a debate is raging in our culture over whether or not we need to preserve the formal rules of grammar, but the sad truth is that there are too few defenders of grammar for a debate to rage. I am lonely in my fervency. Nevertheless, a few recent books and articles have brought the dispute between grammar snobs and grammar slobs to the fore.

Pundit of punctuation Lynne Truss tried to rally readers to her "zero tolerance approach to punctuation" with her bestseller Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. Alas, Birmingham, England didn't heed the call. In January, the city council abolished apostrophes from street signs, inviting criticism from pro-grammar organizations like the "Apostrophe Protection Society," and from our own students at VanDamme Academy, who condemned the decision in a paper written for Mrs. Battaglia's (or "Mrs. Battaglias," if we follow the Birmingham precedent) writing class. "If children grow up there, they will learn not to put apostrophes in possessive words," said 8-year-old Greta. "Usually kids learn from their surroundings."

This debate has also been given center stage unwittingly by President Obama. Obama, widely praised as a consummate intellectual, has been criticized by advocates of grammar for committing such common blunders as the inversion of "me" and "I."

In a February New York Times op-ed, Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman echoed the sentiments of many Americans when they defended President Obama against the "grammar junkies," claiming that the rules for pronouns are 19th-century creations that have no necessity in reality.

Really?

To illustrate my answer, I brought the following example into my Room 4 grammar class. Rather than the innocuous, "President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I," what if President Obama had said, "Michelle likes President Bush better than I." Is this a mere difference of opinion about the former President, or a scandal? The ambiguity is resolved with a universal understanding of the rules of grammar.

"Michelle likes him better than I," as my grammar students can tell you, contains an elliptical adverb clause with "I" as the subject, and means, "Michelle likes him better than I like him." On the other hand, "Michelle likes him better than me," contains an elliptical clause with "me" as the direct object, and means, "Michelle likes him better than she likes me."

So, if you whose children are gaining a thorough mastery of the rules of grammar have ever asked yourselves, "Does my child know grammar better than me?" the answer is no, he should know you better. And by the time he graduates, he will know better than to ask the question like that.



Calling All LifeLong Learners: Learn Science the VanDamme Academy Way!
Now Anyone Can Understand The Fundamental Principles of Science Better than Most Scientists
"Fundamen tals of Physical Science: A Historical, Inductive Approach"
By David Harriman, Historian and Philosopher of Physics

Learn all about it at our brand new website.

Here's what other Pedagogically Correct Readers are Saying:

"I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in physics, and I was amazed at how much I learned from David Harriman's course. This course stands head and shoulders above any other course or textbook I have encountered."

"It's perfect for someone relatively new to physics like myself; it's perfect for even advanced people who want a deeper historical perspective than is usually taught...I found Mr. Harriman's physics course to be an exciting walk through the fascinating world of physics."

"I think this type of course is needed for everyone, as in my experience, it's so far above the courses I've had throughout my life as far as the actual transmittal of knowledge is concerned...In short, this course has made science and math much more intelligible for me, and was completely worth the time and cost - I highly recommend it."

I was a physics major when I entered college, yet I can easily say that my actual understanding of physics is much greater as a result of this course than I can credit to any other class I've taken.

www.vandammescience.com

With this course you will:
* Finally understand the world around you, the world of science and technology, in a way you never thought possible. (No, you don't have to be a math wiz.)
* Learn the thinking methods of the greatest minds in history.
* Understand what all those physics equations and formulas you once memorized really mean.
* Be inspired by scientists' amazing 2500-year quest to unlock the mysteries of the physical world.
* And have a great time in the process!

All thanks to a one-of-a-kind science teaching methodology available in no other course or textbook.


www.vandammescience.com


Recommend Pedagogically Correct to five friends, get Lisa VanDamme's e-book, "Reclaiming Education," for free!
Lisa VanDamme's educational career began when a group of parents, disillusioned with standard public and private schools, hired her to educate their children. In 1998, she chronicled her successes homeschooling and explained the methods that made them possible in a lecture, "Reclaiming Education." The audience, fascinated by her insights about education, and inspired by the stories she told, gave her a standing ovation. In 1999, she made "Reclaiming Education" available in written form, to the delight of thousands of readers. Since 1999, the essay version of "Reclaiming Education" has been unavailable. Until now.

For the first time in almost 8 years, we will make this remarkable work available. And we are giving it away for FREE as an e-book to those who help us grow Pedagogically Correct by recommending it to their friends. Just send enter the email addresses of at least five friends who might appreciate an invitation to receive PC--along with a brief personal note, or our standard note below. We will not add anyone to our email database without their permission.


Click here to refer five friends and get your copy of "Reclaiming Education."

Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog
www.pedagogicallycorrect.com
Check out our 'blog, which will contain much (but not all) of the material we sent out in our newsletters. Spread the word!

VanDamme Academy
email: custserv@vandammeacademy.com
phone: 949-581-1881
web: http://www.vandammeacademy.com