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LinKai_Jiang's picture

What are we learning about?

It was natural for me that substantial learning entails getting to know something outside of yourself. Things like feelings, emotions and inner intuition are for private entertainments and pastime materials with friends. It was so natural for me, and perhaps for many others, that those “subjective” elements of the self are not appropriate for intellectual inquiry. The thought was partly influenced by the rigid elementary schooling I had received. What mattered was the precise calculation of numbers and equations, and the correct definition of words and their proper usage. Even when creativity was encouraged, I thought I was supposed to be creative with things “outside” of myself. I did not really question the epistemic limit that others had set for me and I, myself, had reinforced.   

The rebellion against this prescription sprouted as I felt discontent about the coldness of knowledge. The capacity to do well in school does not automatically engender a passion for it. Fortunately, the urge to be righteously subjective was given the opportunity to be expressed and explored.  It has been that subjectivity, no matter how little, that sustains a meaningful connection to “objects” of knowledge.

The denial of the subjective is troublesome in another way. Calling things we’re learning “objects” of knowledge implies the dualistic divide between the subject and the object.  I do not want to say that the divide does not exist but it is not a clean cut division. What we perceived as the “object” of knowledge has to be processed through our mind. So to constitute an object a subjective processing is implicated. Kant calls this filter the categories of understanding. Since we’re looking at the brain today, I’m interested to see how those categories of understand are manifested in the physical structure of our brain. Somehow I feel it is a long shot, but worth the exploration.      



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