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Anna G's picture

While I agree with much of

While I agree with much of what has been said, this paper discusses a few things I am wary of agreeing with:

1. The fact that "properties and rules" are constructions of our brain (which are emergent systems, with therefore no "purpose" as seen by a conductor or architect) seems to relegate the theories that we come up as no better or worse than the next one. To me, this seems to give too much liberty to the fact that there could be realities out there which we know nothing about, and therefore cannot create "properties and rules" about. If it is true that we ourselves are emergent systems, that gives us an even greater reason to trust what our brain tells us (while admitting its obvious limitations). As emergent systems, our way of inquiry is to set up "properties and rules" so that we can pit them against one another to see which theory can stand the test of time.

I'm not sure that “neither predictably nor reducibility to a fixed set of properties and rules are appropriate general criteria by which to measure the success of inquiry" because when you can predict something, time and time again isn't that a measure of how "right" you are? If the scientists building airplanes weren't "right" about their sums, well they sure got lucky. Sometimes things are "right enough." What is stated next, is that what is important to an inquirer is not accounting for present things, but what new things into existence can be explored. But for those new things to be explored, I think that you need to set up rules and properties that set up a framework that can be torn down by later scientists. When working on the genome project, a slow but methodical approach was taken, and when the scientists were halfway through, a maverick scientist came up with an even faster way to do it; but were it not for the initial scientists efforts and some might say "lost" years, the new method would never have been discovered.

2. I also don't know how useful empirical non-foundationalism can be in a classroom. Teachers becoming partially students are dangerous to the dynamic of a classroom if the classroom isn't prepared to handle such a dynamic. The fact that a teacher can be partially a student not only effaces some of their power, but also makes students less likely to trust what the teacher is saying. This may be okay, even ideal, if the students then take their own learning into their hands, but if the students then become naturally distrustful of all or any authority figures without the will to learn for themselves they will become merely skeptics with no education. Being an informed skeptic is what science is all about, but being an uninformed skeptic is what this idea threatens to implement. Imagine a school in say, West Virginia where a teacher admits we don't know the whole story about evolution, and opens up the floor for the kids to teach what they think happen. You can imagine the lecture about Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, etc that would follow. Relegating both stories to just that, stories, forgets that we have much more evidence for evolution, many floods, and perhaps a Mitochondrial Eve and a Y-chromosome Adam (who never would have met) but not the idyllic Adam and Eve of the bible. This distributed authority system is like Castalia in Hesse’s the Glass Bead Game; in a perfect scholarly world, it can be stable, but in the world as a whole, it cannot.


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