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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

College Seminar 2006 Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

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Getting started ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-05 09:22:21
Link to this Comment: 20263

Welcome to the Story Telling as Inquiry course forum area. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to, but I hope you'll come to value it as much as students in other courses have.

The first thing to keep in mind is that its not a place for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts". Its a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Maybe simpler, imagine that you're not worrying about "writing" but instead that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking, so you can help them think and they can help you think. The idea is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

So who are you writing for? For yourself, and for others in our classes primarily. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about.

Glad to have you along, and hope you value/enjoy sharing the an exploration of story telling as Inquiry. To get started, what's the "story" of the picture on the cover of our course pack? It's copied below (click for an enlargment). Post some of your thoughts for our Thursday discussion.

Looking forward to seeing where we go with this and ...

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-09-05 14:27:05
Link to this Comment: 20264

The picture represents how the complex and dimensional "puzzle" of thougts linked to understanding as a whole leads to more questioning. Since the picture portrays the "puzzle" of thought as colorful and segmented, the emphasis is put on thought,rather than the outcome of answers, which is why the cube containing the question marks is so dull and small. Thought is the key to understanding and is a very diverse concept. It is also closely linked to interpretation, which is free from any "concrete" box of answers.

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-09-05 15:59:36
Link to this Comment: 20265

Each color on this box represents someone who is judging you. I feel like the blue represents the optimistic people in the world, while the red and green represents people who are trying to hold you down and waiting to see you fail. WHY? There is know one true answer to this question?

Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-05 16:22:44
Link to this Comment: 20266

First of all, I've explored Serendip before. I *think* I've actually seen this picture and read the story of it, but I'm not sure. My conscious mind forgets all the details, but my unconscious mind may remember elements of that story... All of that may leak through into my explanation.

Without further ado, here's my story about the picture:
It seems to be about learning. The funky multi-colored sphere is the world, full of diverse ideas and opinions. Then the pieces all fly up into a block, which is the individual learner, to fit together and form a whole. Along the way, the individual mind edits the pieces according to individual biases -- so that's how the multi-colored sphere becomes red/blue/green. For example, one might ignore Eastern religions in his/her search for spiritual meaning and instead focus on Christianity. As for the base... It says, "Understanding is ???", so I'm interpreting that to mean, "Ask questions to understand."
It's an ambiguous painting, and I can think of a lot of different ways to interpret that. But the above story is the one that seems to make the most sense to me at the moment.

Quick note about the class -- I like the idea a lot. The whole Internet setup is awesome... sometimes, in classes, it's hard for me to speak up until I settle into the class... but it's easier for me to say something online. It's an unorthodox class, but that's exactly why I'm so excited about it.

an aside ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-05 17:19:17
Link to this Comment: 20268

Interesting diversity in class along, among other things, several parameters re writing experiences/difficulties/preferences. A third or so of the class at one or the other other extreme along each of several spectra ...
  1. analytic/creative
  2. organized/disorganized
  3. short/long
  4. about self/about other things
Wonder how independent those parameters are? If completely so, then we have at least sixteen types of writers ("analytic, organized, short, about self", "analytic, organized, short, about other things", etc). If position along one spectrum tends to predict position along another spectrum then maybe peoples' writing experiences/difficulties/preferences reflect some smaller number of slightly different variables? Curious too about what other characteristics might covary with those we've noticed so far, and to see in what ways what we do this semester grows from these (and other) differences in our starting points.

Intrigued too by the swing in our conversation from "thinking is easier than writing" through "thoughts change?" to trees change to people change like trees? differently from trees? And the relation of that to "identity" (which includes "writing experiences/difficulties/preferences"?). Looking forward to seeing where we go with those thoughts too.

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-09-05 17:44:26
Link to this Comment: 20269

To me, this picture symbolizes the way we see and understand. As humans, we need to categorize objects and place them into boxes in order to make sense of them. However, nothing fits perfectly into a box no matter how much we try to color it only one color or claim it should (even in an obvious example such as anatomy, organisms are put into different phylum’s, regardless of the fact that they may not fit perfectly into one). The orb of colorful puzzle pieces represents to me the mutable, changing world that is when we simply observe. And then, in order to make sense of this blob of color, we lift the puzzle pieces, tear them out as we observe them, and fit them into a distinct section of the box. When they leave the colorful orb, they lose their ability to conform to any color or shape, but help us in understanding questions that would be impossible without categorizing them. (Using a previous example, without putting organisms into specific families and phylum’s we might assume that cats and dogs are more related b/c of the way that they look than either of them are to wolves, which is not true. However, animals are constantly evolving and at one time, distant in the past, wolves and felines did share a common ancestor.)

between idealism and realism
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-09-05 18:01:42
Link to this Comment: 20270

The picture seems to me as a representative way for the communications among people all over the world . The different colors of the puzzle are the different cultures and the different thoughts that are trying to build a wholly organized and well_built cube which is the world. But at the same time the base for this cube seems to be very fragile and able to be broken at anytime , this base is the "understanding" which should be the strongest way to gather people and let them create the coherent world, but unfortunately it is weaker than what it is supposed to be. And this explains the question marks at the bottom, which are the confused people who are really lost .What should they do? Should they trust the unreal and ideal thoughts or they live the real life with all its complexities. But over all, there are still some individuals who prefer to go further than a small shattered square of misunderstanding, to integrate with each other in a perfect world of their own which is the small ball that is brightening in a very colorful way to indicate the union of all the races and differences. And I think this ball has nothing to do with anything other than "love" which is the only thing in this world that has nothing to do with differences and falsified thoughts. So let's , class 2010 ( csem 12) , love each other without looking at our differences.

What's Understanding?
Name: Maggie
Date: 2006-09-05 20:26:09
Link to this Comment: 20275

The cover picture makes me think of information coming from a diverse and colorful world to form the box of knowledge. Everyone in the world knows something that will help complete the puzzle and each idea or fact has its own place. The basis or foundation of the box is made of countless questions which have been or are still being answered which is one of the reasons why the box is not complete yet.

ask questions.
Name: Jen
Date: 2006-09-05 21:18:10
Link to this Comment: 20276

I feel like this picture is representing the notion that you must ask questions to piece in the puzzles of life. It seems as if the pieces of the puzzles come or more so, form from the multi-colored sphere in the corner. That particular sphere seems to be a symbol of the world. It seems like the picture is trying to tell us the key to understanding the world, or anything and everything is to ask questions... that asking questions is the foremost step.

About the Picture
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-09-06 01:00:29
Link to this Comment: 20280

The box is the individual mind amidst the gray---uncertainties, ambiguities, and the complications of life. The gray is also connected with the light blue which may represent the emotions generated by the interaction between mind (the cube) and matter (the gray mass). Questions have the power to destroy. Rather than pieces of the puzzle falling out into the sphere I like to think of it as the sphere being the one that sustains the cube by provide pieces to fill the holes created by the effort to understand. The sphere is an external world that is bigger than all of us but is identified with our being. So we may possible have a circuit in which the mind output questions and the "world" input answers which lead us to enlightenment (the yellow).

for a possible interpretation...
Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-09-06 08:10:59
Link to this Comment: 20282

If we take the box to be all people that exist, then understanding and the asking of questions is what holds that up. The multi-colored sphere is the world, and true understanding comes when the different colors (sort of people whether from different cultures, locations, beliefs, or even organisms) mix and become not indistinguishable (notice that the sphere is speckled) but integrated.

Understanding is a question itself. What is understanding? ask the words on the picture. Understanding is, answer the colors; it is mixing, moving of separate puzzle pieces to form something new.

Just a thought.

The picture on the cover
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-09-06 11:18:07
Link to this Comment: 20285

The image on the cover that grabs my attention first is the box. One side faces green, one blue, the other red, and the side we cannot see is probably yellow. There are puzzle pieces missing from each side, but the pieces being propelled up by the orb in the lower right corner are not all red or all green or all blue- I have a feeling that if we could see the frames after the pieces are suspended in mid-air, none would fit. This is really telling with regard to "understanding is ??????" I think the image symbolizes our (humankind's) need to classify things as good/bad, right/wrong, black/white- but the reality is that nothing is truly good or truly evil or truly right or truly wrong or purely white or completely black.

I also just wanted to add that I really enjoyed yesterday's class, and that I can't wait to meet with everyone again tomorrow.

Name: nimrah
Date: 2006-09-06 12:28:30
Link to this Comment: 20286

The cover picture to me is like a diagram on understanding. On the left there is this whole muddle of colors and pieces, reprsenting different thoughts; it maybe like our thought process. On the right though, is an organised cube representing how we organise our thoughts and how we write by piecing together different bits of information and thoughts. The left just seems more spontaneous

Name: Nimrah
Date: 2006-09-06 12:29:34
Link to this Comment: 20287

The cover picture to me is like a diagram on understanding. On the left there is this whole muddle of colors and pieces, reprsenting different thoughts; it maybe like our thought process. On the right though, is an organised cube representing how we organise our thoughts and how we write by piecing together different bits of information and thoughts. The right just seems more spontaneous

Re: an aside ...
Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-06 16:36:03
Link to this Comment: 20291

Good point about the parameters, Paul. (Can I call you "Paul" or do you prefer "Mr. Grobstein"?) I wanted to say something the whole time, but I never did. Thanks for bringing it up.
Anyway. My feeling is that, no matter the subject being discussed, I am in the middle of just about every spectrum. Gay/straight, liberal/conservative, intellectual/athletic, you name it. So:
about self/about other things
I'm in the middle of all of those. Now, I lean to one side or the other in most situations -- for example, I lean more towards the 'creative' side than the 'analytic' side -- but I'm in the middle. In respect to writing, I feel comfortable writing a lot of different things. Essays, poems... I'm working on a novel right now, which is a challenge, but I like it.
But then, I was fortunate enough to have a really good English teacher as a freshman and junior in high school. He made us write analytic essays as usual, but he also made us write a "self-assessment" each quarter. As Paul said,

Intrigued too by the swing in our conversation from "thinking is easier than writing" through "thoughts change?" to trees change to people change like trees? differently from trees? And the relation of that to "identity" (which includes "writing experiences/difficulties/preferences"?). Looking forward to seeing where we go with those thoughts too.

Re: an aside ...
Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-06 16:36:48
Link to this Comment: 20292

Agh, I pushed the 'post' button before I was done. Ignore the last comment.

Good point about the parameters, Paul. (Can I call you "Paul" or do you prefer "Mr. Grobstein"?) I wanted to say something the whole time, but I never did. Thanks for bringing it up.
Anyway. My feeling is that, no matter the subject being discussed, I am in the middle of just about every spectrum. Gay/straight, liberal/conservative, intellectual/athletic, you name it. So:
about self/about other things
I'm in the middle of all of those. Now, I lean to one side or the other in most situations -- for example, I lean more towards the 'creative' side than the 'analytic' side -- but I'm in the middle. In respect to writing, I feel comfortable writing a lot of different things. Essays, poems... I'm working on a novel right now, which is a challenge, but I like it.
But then, I was fortunate enough to have a really good English teacher as a freshman and junior in high school. He made us write analytic essays as usual, but he also made us write a "self-assessment" each quarter. As Paul said, practice is the best way to go in regards with writing.

To clarify
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-09-06 19:58:26
Link to this Comment: 20293

Ellis emailed me and asked me clarify and elaborate on what I meant when I said "...if we could see the frames after the pieces are suspended in mid-air."

I was trying to explain that I see the picture as a snapshot of one moment in time. At that particular second (when the photograph/"snapshot" was taken), the puzzle pieces are in mid-air, as though whomever is manipulating the picture is in the middle of trying to put them in the slots. I think that if we could fastforward a bit in time, to the next snapshot or two, we would see that the pieces would be unable to fit into the slots. I assumed this was because the pieces aren't all green or all red or all blue, a visual indicator that the pieces are wrong.

I hope this helps!

Name: Sarah
Date: 2006-09-06 22:48:15
Link to this Comment: 20294

This image reminds me of this story I was told in elementary school about two kids who were asked to stand in front of a classroom, facing each other and holding a box between them. When they were asked to describe what it looked like, they started fighting because they each saw something different. What they didn't know was that the box had a different image on each side. So in that respect, I think this picture symbolizes the importance of respecting and realizing that there's another side to every argument. I also think that the puzzle pieces coming from each sides represent each person's contributions to the world, which is the patchwork ball that is composed of a wide variety of other puzzle pieces. The pieces don't necessarily it together, but they form a cohesive whole when they're bunched up together, like the world...?

Name: Ivana
Date: 2006-09-07 01:25:36
Link to this Comment: 20296

The picture is about the nature of knowledge and understanding.

On the base and support of the structure is the statement, "UNDERSTANDING IS ??????" The positioning of the words implies that Questions are a base, over which Understanding precariously supports (what I understood to be) Knowledge--a weighty and multi-dimensional form.

Each plane of Knowledge is a different color, separating the planes into different types of information. The sides should form a unified block when put together. However, each area is incomplete, just as our body of Knowledge inevitably is, with fitted pieces missing.

The pieces of information which should complete our body of Knowledge seem to come from the ill-defined orb at the bottom right of the picture. The confused colors in this form represent unsorted pieces of information.

The picture seems to be a sort of strange diagram about learning and how we relate to all the information (potential knowledge) available to us in a world of confused stimuli. The structure of knowledge and understanding, although it is incomplete, visually dominates confusion and ignorance in this image.

from a picture to stories
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-07 09:23:37
Link to this Comment: 20298

Interesting, rich array of stories, different in lots of ways. Which one is "right"? Shall we fight about it? Be accepting of differences? Or ... ? Here's the artist's story. Maybe differences in stories are not just to be accepted but valued? And stories should be evaluated in terms of .... ? Their contributions to further stories?

Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-09-07 20:28:40
Link to this Comment: 20305

I think the picture is of a person. The different colors of the box are the different parts of our life. A social aspect, acedemic and the things we are passionate. If the think/ strech outside of the box we will create a well rounded self with many different aspects( the colors). The sphere repersents the well rounded person.

Telling Stories
Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-09-11 19:36:13
Link to this Comment: 20351

I'm sorry if I don't write much here, I am not that comfortable in this medium.

We did not get a chance to talk about the poem for the reading last week and I wanted to know what other people thought of it. I really loved that, poem, and maybe that is because storytelling and poetry are two of my greatest joys.

I particularly identified with the idea that "there is a fiction in the space" between you and almost anything, all things in fact.

What did people think of the idea of the "fiction in the space?"


Name: Jen
Date: 2006-09-11 21:29:45
Link to this Comment: 20353

That's funny you bring up the poem, Anna. I, personally, don't like poems. They seem too abstract for me. I can't seem to pick out the story, symbols, and/or meanings behind one or any of them. If someone were to reveal to me the story, symbols, or meanings, I can usually enjoy it. But on my own, I'm completely lost.

week 2
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-12 10:12:15
Link to this Comment: 20360

Never fear. Earlier postings haven't disappeared. They've just been moved so this doesn't get too long. You can find earlier postings in the forum archive. Have a look also at September 11, 2001, to September 11, 2006 and share thoughts in the forum there if inclined.

Some interesting themes from our last meeting ...

Looking forward to further conversation about lives of learning. And to talking about another kind of story, fairy tales. For Thursday, put some thoughts here about which of those stories particularly appealed to you and why (as well as, of course, anything else that you'd like to add to our conversation).

fairy tales
Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-09-12 17:08:57
Link to this Comment: 20370

I feel as thou fairy tales were made to amuse people back in the days. I feel like our ancestors did not have entertainment so they begin to make up stories. For instance in the short story "Why They Name The Stories For Anansi" there was a guy name Anansi who wanted stories to be named after him. In order for this to happen the king told him to catch a wise blacksnake...WHY? I begin to think while reading this story, "Do you actually think im going to beleive this. That a king told a man to go catch a wise black snake in order for his name to be put as a title to stories. Did Anansi actually want people to remember him that. He sould have faught a war and become a crucial hero for his country or something. Then as i kept on reading i begin to interpet this story as a lesson. The snake who was wise and cocky, he thought he couldn't be trick, but he was. How smart are you now? Good one Anansi!LOL. The lesson that i got out of this is that you can never be too wise. There are other ways you can be tricked, so make sure you watch your surroundings and stay on top of things. If you don't you might ended up like the snake. How slick is he now? " I'll order everybody else to do the same, because you were able to trick the wisest and cleverest of creatures", said the king. I guest animals sybolized many important things in their lives.
Isn't story telling for us to use our imagination?

Name: Anna G.
Date: 2006-09-12 17:56:34
Link to this Comment: 20372

In response to what...Shanika I think it was said today, about how stores don't need to have space, they can represent understanding, I, finally, have a response to. Stories all are inventions of the human mind, whether we are taking something we imagine or have gone through, we are processing it in our mind, and then re-telling it. And if YOU understand something and try to tell a story about it, there still is a space or a gap, only that gap is no longer between you and reality perhaps, but between you and the audience you are trying to show your experience to (where this gap exists b/c they DON'T have the same experienec as you, although they may have similar ones.) The fact of the matter is, human thought IS what creates the space between everyday existance (such as eating, mating, and sleeping) and functioning at a "higher" realm. You wouldn't have a story to tell if all you did was eat, slept, and mated. (someone else might be able to "create" one for you, but this is the same point we made about animals having stories) We have stories to tell because we think, and that is the gap between living and really living with stories to tell about it.

Name: Anna G.
Date: 2006-09-12 20:42:16
Link to this Comment: 20376

I think that fairy tales were a good way to let the general public know how they were supposed to act. By telling stories, you could interest people, children, in a social atmosphere and have them listen to what are really "rules of conduct." For example, in Cinderella, the daughter who was pious and good and who did work, was the one who prospered in the end (Notice however, in order to win the prince, she still needed to be pretty). In this story and in the Briar Rose story, girls who were kind and chaste and pretty ended up winning and the witch whose "uterus was empty as a teacup" lost in the end(a sign that infertility is bad, while pretty young fertile girls are good?). In the story of the stone smoke and anansi, cunning and wit was valued, as well as the ability to dance...probably traits that were valued in that culture and would have led to better survival, such as if you could deal with snakes and creatures of the forest. These fairy tales seems to be lessons that cultures could orally transmit to one another. Their value is not just in entertainment, but survival.

Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-12 21:29:30
Link to this Comment: 20378

A few thoughts.

First of all, I thought that the paper-reading session was interesting. I read Anna G's paper, and she said it's fine if I talk about it. Basically, I wrote a paper about how I didn't believe people when they said that I'm smart, then I talk about how I go from there to acknowledging my talents -- though I still have issues about how unfair it is. (Is that a good summary, Anna G?) Anna G's paper was almost like a perfect inverse of my paper -- she talked about how she went from being an arrogant young person who knows everything to a more humble person. Did anyone have interesting experiences like that with their paper-reading partner?

As for the class discussion, I'm having mixed feelings about it. (Excuse me if I'm being blunt.) I felt that there were a lot of interesting ideas put on the table, but there was very little coherence. There were people who... I wanted to hear their opinions. After some time, I felt like, "Oh, OK. We're talking about interesting stuff, but where is all of this going? What's the purpose?" (shrug) Anybody else feel the same way?

As for my contributions to the discussion, I realized that my comments in class today probably seemed like non-sequitirs. So I'm guilty of incoherence, too, I guess. I'm not entirely comfortable with communicating in person -- somehow, my thoughts organize themselves better in writing than orally. Anyway, it seemed to me that, with all the talk about stories and such, the inevetible question is: "What's reality?" That's why I started talking about Philip K. Dick's essay about the subjective nature of reality. (Which, by the way, is here -- it's about eleven pages on paper, but well-worth the read.) Uh, so that's where I'm coming from.

Fairy Tales
Date: 2006-09-12 23:54:50
Link to this Comment: 20381

Fairy Tales
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-09-13 00:02:39
Link to this Comment: 20382

I found this weeks readings very enjoyable. I love reading stories and trying to find the lessons they are supposed to teach you. The Grimm stories the lessons were obvious and were told to scare children into doing the right thing. The Beauty and the Beast story was the oppisite. I couldn't find a lesson that was told I just found it to be kind of violent when the father just kills his daugter's husband. If anything that story taught kids to judge people by what they look like and that if they are any different its ok to hurt or even kill them. Why would any fairy tale send this message and further more why would any parent want those to be the values they impart ot there children. Children learn a lot and are effect for the rest of there lives by the stories they here. They shouldn't here that one.

Fairy Stories
Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-09-13 11:10:32
Link to this Comment: 20386

I apologize in advance, fairy stories are my thing, I spent a fair ortion of last year rsearching them so that's where I come from on this matter.

Shanika, you said that fairy tales were created to amuse, but I have to disagree. Fairy stories were created to teach, to warn, to remember by, to encourage. They were not in fact, actually the property of the nursury until the advent of children's literature mostly in the Victorian era when people decided to make them gentler and better for children, hence the stories we hear mostly today. The older fairy stories are warped, dark, cfrightening, and eldritch. They express the danger of the world, the fear of the unknown, the wonder, the mystic.

Sure, there is an aspect of existing to keep people occupied in the evening, but the tales are far more important to life than are our current amusements.

Of the fairy tales we read, some experts actually separate the version of Cinderella where there is no fairy into a separet category. I think fairy stories are among the most important tales out there and I would like to quote the saying that flies all among the storytellers (not only have I read this in mulitple places, but heard it said and said it myself within storycircle and without):

fairy stories do not exist to tell us that dragons are real, but to tell us they can be defeated.

fairy tales
Date: 2006-09-13 12:25:19
Link to this Comment: 20388

Sure your right Anna. Fairy tales serve more then for the purpose to amuse people, but while i read this particular fairy tale "Why They Name The Stories For Anasi", i felt like this was unreal. Like I mention in my previous comment, If he wanted to be known, or a story to be named after him...why not fight a war, or do something besides catch a snake that honored his country. I guest when i think about history, i think that in order for your name to be remebered, you have done something heroic, or honorable that had an impact on the world or your community.I know, I know it was a wise snake that he caught...but how did it affect people. While writing my other comment i did realize that the snake probably symbolizes something, but what?

Anne Sexton's Briar Rose
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-09-13 17:14:34
Link to this Comment: 20396

I agree with most of the comments made about fairy tales.

Personally, the tale that stood out to me the most was Anne Sexton's version of Briar Rose, more popularly known as Sleeping Beauty. While the earlier version of Briar Rose (Grimm's telling) was sweet and sugary, this last version was haunting and sinister. The last image of Sleeping Beauty's father
hovering over her is particularly disturbing as it threatens the innocence of Sleeping Beauty. After sleeping for hundreds of years, Sleeping Beauty now seems lethargic and helpless as the world around her spins with darkness and looming dangers. I found it very alarming, instead of cheery. But I suppose that was the author's point. This re-telling suggests the crippling effect Sleeping Beauty's deep sleep had on her. But since Sleeping Beauty is not to blame for this deep sleep, but the evil witch who cast the spell on her, the lesson of this fairy tale is more vague. Maybe there is no lesson. The fact that this is a "fairy tale" is probably the author's ironic twist, because, unlike in Cinderella, there are no benevolent fairies involved, only an evil and envious witch seeking and finding bitter revenge.

Fairy Thoughts
Name: maggie
Date: 2006-09-13 21:49:15
Link to this Comment: 20399

I too enjoyed reading the fairy tales, especially the revisions that Anne Sexton made simply because it was interesting to look at familiar stories from such a unique view point. I agree with Stephanie that her tale of Briar Rose is extremely sinister but I thought her revisions of the other stories where often funny and intriguing - such as the lines "This is the way with amputations. They don't just heal up like a wish" in Cinderalla. I also agree with Anna that fairy tales were generally created to help people learn and often teach them moral lessons. I also seemed to remember something about fairy tales being used to help teach aduls to read which is why they could be so hideous - there was no intention of directly giving them to children, at least not for entertainment. Although some of them seem implausible and extraneous to us, I feel that culturally they probably have strong symbolism and teaching important lessons.

On a different note, I enjoy the discussions we have in class. I guess I am used to going back and forth with questions because last year in AP Lit we really seemed to argue philosophy more than anything else and would often have "arguements" about religion, culture, and just life in general in an unstructured setting. My teacher was a fan of the "socratic circle" and most of the class was discussion based. I kind of like the idea of letting our thoughts float back and forth without any apparent cohesion because there are always unseen links which can become visible from that type of freedom.

Date: 2006-09-13 21:49:57
Link to this Comment: 20401

Karen Armstrong's Portrayal of Buddha seems a bit unconventional than the ones I read before. The basic storyline is the same but the author’s reflections are a bit too strong. She writes “Suddhodana is an example of exactly the kind of authority figure that later Buddhist tradition would condemn. He forces his own view upon his son and refused to let him make up his own mind. This type of coercion could only impede enlightenment, since it traps a person in a self which is inauthentic and in an infantile, unawakened state”.

I find this language too strong and perhaps controversial. Is there any parent who wouldn’t see their child succeed? The Buddhism I know of preaches the riddance of all violence and namely hate so how can Buddhists hate and Buddha being Buddha how could he teach his followers to hate his own father? It’s true his father might impeded him but his father is “unawakened” too. I think “authority figure, and condemn” are such modern especially libertarian phrases. Also the part that Suddhodana “forces his own view upon his son” seems like a bad thing. But think about isn’t everyone of us trying to force our belief upon someone else. The talk of tolerance, open-mindedness though masking the virtue of not forcing one’s belief is really saying one force shouldn’t be too powerful and dominant.

You have been treated unjustly by an authority but to me the best way to fight back isn’t rebel out right but to be pious and kind and honor your parents or whoever is above you; sort of like Cinderella. In this modern age some may believe that being obedient and pious is equivalent to be a doormat and unable to stand up for oneself. That’s not true. I still think there is value in old values.

Sorry if it seems that I’m defending Suddhodana, but no, not really. I’m just using him as an example to illustrate some point. I don’t intend for my comments to offend anyone but if I did anyway then too bad.

P.S.~ I agree with Anna L on Fairy Tale didn’t have a bright beginning contrary to what most people believe. I read a little about it in high school.

Forgot name
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-09-13 21:51:50
Link to this Comment: 20402

Sorry I posted the comment on Buddha but forgot to enter my name at the end. I was in a hurry to go to the bathroom.

Fairy tales
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-09-13 21:57:56
Link to this Comment: 20403

I agree with Maggie and Stephanie that Anne Sexton's take on the fairy tales was unique and sinister. I found myself with mounting horror as I read her rendition of Briar Rose, where our princess becomes an insomniac as a result of her father's abuse.

This makes me want to bring up the idea of parents in fairy tales. In Sexton's Briar Rose, her father is clearly evil - but this comes up in many of the other stories. In the boarhog story, where the girl's father shoots her husband... in Buddha, where his father tries to impede his destiny... and in Cinderella. (Ever since reading Ella Enchanted, I've found myself shocked at how little gumption her father showed!) What is it about parents and fairy tales? Does it fit into the Grimm notion of a cautionary tale?

my view to "fairy tales"
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-09-13 22:48:10
Link to this Comment: 20404

I really enjoy reading fairy tales. When you read or even write a fairy tale you are set to let your soul floats in a world of imagination. Fairy tales thoroughout history of humans were the good way to discharge human feelings and let their sense of imagination, creativity and sometimes humor mixes with the eternal spirit of "the perfect world". Humans try to escape from their real life that is so filled with alot of problems, even if we believe that we can think of genious solutions, but we always fail to apply them. So fairy tales were created to let us create our world of virtues. They are not only for children, we do need them to teach children how to be good and teach them the morals in an amusing and simple way (as we present this through animals, unreal creatures,...), but I do think that we need fairy tales more than children. When we are exhausted and feel depressed with this world, we don't have other than a fairy tale that we wish that we were its characters. With respect to the best one of these fairy tales, I can't choose a one in particular, because I think every one of them has taught me something different even if Cindrella and Briar rose were presented twice, but each time they were presented in a different tone and different way.

Name: Nimrah
Date: 2006-09-14 09:27:22
Link to this Comment: 20408

I thought this weeks readings were very interesting and engaging. Although the tales were of Cinderella and the Sleeping Beauty/Little Briar Rose, both of which II have seen/read in my childhood, they still resonate with me as much as they did then. These stories also comment on the culture and norms of the days they were written in (i.e. kings, castles, myths etc...).

Fairy Tales and Memoirs
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-09-17 20:03:36
Link to this Comment: 20451

I believe fairy tales and memoirs are definitely not the same thing, but share some similarites. Fairy tales are created to teach a lesson, warn, and celebrate cultural practices. Memoirs, on the other hand, are told and written in order that the author can offer his or her pespective on his or her own or another person's life. In doing so, a memoir can also teach a lesson learned or simply about the life of the author. Memoirs can be written and told in a way so they are similar to a fairy tale. One major difference between fairy tales and memoirs is that fairy tales are universal and cultural, whereas memoirs are personal reflections on one's own or another's life and memories. However, both memories and fairy tales can be fabricated.

From memoirs to fairy tales and beyond ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-19 09:45:53
Link to this Comment: 20468

Rich conversation last week about folk tales. Among the things that stick in my mind is the notion that they tend to be "dark, frightening, eldritch" (yucky), that they may or may not have "lessons", and that the "sugary and sweet" conception of folk tales may be a contemporary artifact. And the interesting realization that it is NOT true that there are no "strong women" in folk tales; the notable counter-examples being evil witches, step mothers, even mothers? Nor is it generally true that males are always positive; there are some pretty wimpy fathers running around in many of them.

Some more general issues that arose to think more about: are folk tales "culture specific" or do they generalize across culture? What are the similarities/differences between memoirs and folk tales (ie two kinds of story)?

The reading for this week, Bettleheim's "The Uses of Enchantment" may help us think a little more about the general issues, as well as some of the more specific characteristics of folk tales. Put your initial thoughts from reading Bettleheim here and let's see what we can all make of them.

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-09-19 17:53:20
Link to this Comment: 20475

When I started to read, I really was impressed with what Bettelheim had to say. I hadn’t really thought about fairy tales as a means of… outlet for children to grow up with? I had thought about fairy tales as created to talk down to kids and to teach them lessons, however, he sees them as a tool children can use to understand the world around them and to grow up. Although I doubt they were created for this purpose, he does make some very good points about how fairy tales allow children to address their inner emotion and how without them, they might feel as though they were evil and wicked because they alone had these thoughts. However, I immediately was repelled when he started to talk about the oedipal complex in fairy tales. The fact that he was trying to justify his reasoning with oedipal reasoning really made me re-think what the basis for his other conclusions are. To quote an author I like, who happens to be a distinguished scientist and professor, and has written on this topic in his book, “How the Mind Works.” Steven Pinker’s thoughts are, “Take the hydraulic model of Freud, in which psychic pressure builds up in the mind and can burst out unless it's channeled into appropriate pathways. That's just false. The mind doesn't work by fluid under pressure or by flows of energy; it works by information.” So, to me, seeing that we know Freud was wrong with is Oedipal Complex, it is strange that someone would use it explain how fairy tales are an outlet for that sort of thought. Other than that, I though he had some good points, but I’m no longer sure if his reasoning was based on fact or just…some idea he fancied without proof.

Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-20 14:16:52
Link to this Comment: 20479

I have mixed feelings about the passage.

What I liked:
A) In my personal experience, Bettleheim is right about this much: fairy tales are awesome. Even if there is no freudian oedipal shit in fairy tales, they're just awesome.
B) He mentioned that kids have sadistic imaginations. I was like, "Yeah, that's what I was trying to say in class the other day! When I was talking about how cool the monsters were..."
C) The article was interesting because I'm a dork when it comes to psychology, simple as that. I read about Milgram and Skinner for fun... yeah.

I did not like:
A) Bettelheim's implication that autism is a psychological, rather than physical, disorder. It's a small thing, but it really did stick out for me. My speech therapist worked with autistic kids, so she would tell me all these things about autism... it's too complicated to imply that it's a result of infantile thinking.
Same with kids who turn to magic in later years -- it's not neccessarily a result of infantile thinking; I know perfectly intelligent folks who believe in 'magical' things... like quantum mechanics, or God, or psychic phenomena.
B) In that vein, I do not like Freud's Oedipal complex theories. Honestly, I just thought it was complete BS. When I was younger, I identified with Calvin in "Calvin and Hobbes" -- and this kid had *two* stupid parents, not just one. Besides, when I was young, I had no idea what sex was. How can a young kid have oedipal feelings if he or she doesn't even know what sex is? Doesn't make sense to me... To me, it seems that the oedipal complex is something that messed-up adults project onto children. I mean, aspects of it make a lot of sense. But for me, it's ultimately flawed.
C) Bettelheim's theory seems to be based on a heteronormative view of the world. That is, "a girl will grow up into a weak princess rescued by a strong prince; a boy will grow up to slay dragons for his princess. Little girls want to spend time with their fathers, while little boys want to spend time with their mothers..." I think life is more complex than that. I have a friend who is a lesbian, which I realize isn't saying much given that we're in Bryn Mawr... Anyway, she says that she didn't identify with fairy tales as a child... "Why would the princess go for the prince? Wouldn't she rather go with another princess?" I don't know how common that feeling is among lesbians, or gay men for that matter, but it just goes to show that not everyone is heterosexual. Bettelheim seems to be implying that heterosexual is sane/healthy.
More to the point, although I don't identify with the straight mainstream society, I still enjoyed fairy tales because they were good stories. That's all I cared about -- how good the story was. I didn't waste time thinking about whether I'd rescue a princess or have a prince/princess rescue me or whatever. It was more, "Oh, that's a cool story! Tell it again!"

In a nutshell, I found the article really fascinating. I'm a dork when it comes to psychology, so all the id/superego/ego talk was cool... but I just don't buy the idea that fairy tales serve a deep sex-driven purpose. They're stories. Cool stories, at that.

OK... the post was long. But the article was long. Bear with me. I look forward to Thursday! :)

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-09-20 16:09:29
Link to this Comment: 20485

So is there really a difference between a fairy tale and a folk tale?

While reading this passage, I found myself believing that folk fairy tales is wrtten to serve more then for the purpose to entertain, however it does entertain people as was written in this story. I am convinced that children can learn so much from these fairy tales. It helps them be aware of thier internal conflicts and it also warns them to not get carried a way with thier negative emotions. I have not experience this before, but some how i think that it is true. For instance; I remeber that at home my niece would get mad at people when she didn't get her way, she would start to cry and do bad things. Once my mother or sister pulled out a story to read to her she would settle down. It seemed as if she was in a different world. While in this different world she realizes that she has to be a big girl. I believe that her realizing this is dealing with her internal problem that she isn't a baby any more. "The fiary Tale is furture-oriented and guides the child- interms he can understand in both his consciuos and his unconscious mind...", Bruno wrote. I'm defiantly thinking about reading my children some folk tales in the future. It seems true. A tale is "optimistic". I'm really never looked at fairy tales as solutions to childrens problems.
I'm really confused with his oedipal reasoning.

Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-09-20 17:13:53
Link to this Comment: 20486

The has been my favorite reading or far, because I agreed with almost everything the author said. I could see the qualities he talked about in my childhood as well in the kids I was a summer counsilor for. I thought he understood that a fairy tale could have many meanings and many different purposes. The author summerized the discussion we had last class. He said fairy tales give the message "Know that you are never deserted." This statement for me was powerful because many times in my life I have felt alone or deserted. Another quoted in from the article is "While the fantasy is unreal, the good feelings it gives us about ourselves and our future are real, and these good real feelings are what we need to sustain us." I completely agree with and understand this statement. Fairy tales make me feel better about myself and my situation in life. They also provide a means of realiving stress. It is much more healthy to put your anger and frustration into an evil fictional character an to start shouting at everyone around you.

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-09-20 19:05:13
Link to this Comment: 20488

I thought this reading was exceedingly fascinating. I thought that there was probably a psychological aspect as to why we still use fairy tales, but I lacked the knowledge to formulate any ideas of my own. I think Bettelheim's analysis helped answer one of my questions about fairy tales: why the parents are dead/wimpy/evil step-parents. Before Bettelheim launched into his extensive Freudian analysis of fairy tales, he did address how grandma can be sweet, loving grandma and also the wolf, and how the mother can turn into the evil stepmother if she denies the child what he or she wants. I really like this interpretation! I also feel that the reasons he gives for the shortcomings of realistic stories are accurate.

I highlighted a ton of lines in this passage- lines that struck me as smart or endearing or reflective of my own childhood experiences. Like Stacy, I really thought about the line "...the promise that you will never be deserted," because I think that was a big theme with me as a child. The other line that really affected to me was "...every child knows that he is not always good, and that even when he is he would often prefer not to be." I was SO that kid growing up, too! I honestly can't remember what fairy tales I was a fan of when I was a kid, but I really wish I could because I think it'd be really interesting to analyze now.

The Uses of Enchantment
Name: maggie
Date: 2006-09-20 19:13:18
Link to this Comment: 20489

I found Bettelheim's article intriguing but also long winded. I agree with numerous conceptions and arguements that Bettelheim states, such as the idea that "parents want their children's mind to function as their own do" or "factual knowledge profits the total personality only when it is turned into personal knowledge." If we do not have a background or personal understanding in which to place a new conecpt than there is not a great chance that we will remember/comprehend it.

There were also many notions which paused me to pause and wonder, like do fairy tales truly help children to know their "inner monster" and therefore conquer "it" better? To fairy tales really offer such solace of prosperity, hope, and companionship to all children who hear them?

But I also disagreed with a great deal of Bettelheim's ideas. I do not see a strong relationship between fairy tales, children, and Freud's Oediptal complex. Certainly every child has a darker side but do these emotions really run so deep that we need fairy tales to protect kids from what they would do without them? Were these tales actually created for these reasons and to meet such complex needs?

I think that Bettelheim makes a lot of valid points and present a very useful way of analyzing and examening fairy tales but I'm left to wonder what type of information he has to back up his claims.

The Inner Child
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-09-20 21:49:31
Link to this Comment: 20491

Still it seems to me that the author is claiming that Fairy Tales are important to a child’s psychological development. He wrote “‘True’ stories about the ‘real’ world may provide children with some interesting information. But the way such stories unfold is as alien as to the way the child’s mind functions as the supernatural events of the fairy tale are to the way the mature intellect comprehends the world”. My parents never read me any bedtime stories and I had to look up fairy tales on my own which didn't impact me too profoundly at all. The reason being I spent too much time as a child trying to internalize the real world through factual information such as science to the point that while I became matured intellectually, I never grew psychologically. Thus another question is, can our own invented fairy tales reveal a part of our repressed self? I arrived at this question by looking not at what is in a fairy tale but what is lacking.

P.S~ I find this reading very beneficial. In that it explains a lot of questions we discussed in class (especially the part that one defining characteristic of fairy tale is the “love gift”). I also agree with Jessica and Maggie’s points.

Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-09-20 22:11:10
Link to this Comment: 20492

Here is the excerpt from the reading which gave me a lot to think about. Earlier I was looking for it but lost track.

Here it is:

"When the unconcious is repressed and its content denied entrance into awareness, the person's conscious mind will eventually become partly overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconcious elements, or else he will be forced to keep such rigid, compulsive control over them that his personality maybe severely cippled."

Name: Ivana
Date: 2006-09-21 01:47:05
Link to this Comment: 20493

The article by Bettelheim was particularly interesting.
I was immediately engaged when the writer explained the shortcomings of modern children's books. I worked in a library for two years, and was truly disappointed by the mundane nature of the books people borrowed for their kids to read. Every story is about playful puppies, or Dora the Explorer--mind-numbing stuff. I competely agree with the author's statements concerning the benefits fairy tales, and other stories with some gravity, have for children.

However, I am somewhat skeptical about much of the author's claims because they seem very theoretical to me. Same goes for most of Freud's work, which the author frequently uses to make sense of his own theories. I found this to be especially true regarding the explanation about late-adolescents who "escape in" astrology and magic a la Harry Potter. I would have a hard time believing that adolescents recede into those outlooks because some sort of "magic requirement" went unfulfilled during their childhoods. Unless there was some sort of clinical proof or decent argument, I see little reason to believe that humans have to become comfortable with magical explanations before they can comprehend rational ones.
I see no reason why a child would be more comfortable with the earth being held by a giant than being held in orbit by the sun.

The way Bettelheim describes the relationship children may have with fairy tales, and the messages that may resonate with children, makes a lot of sense. I enjoyed reading that, even though it was a bit long-winded.

Name: Nimrah
Date: 2006-09-21 07:32:06
Link to this Comment: 20495

I think Bettelheim accurately describes why I and so many other people loved fairy tales in their childhood. I like that he supports all of his statements with specefic examples and his years of experience as a child psychologist do give him more authority over this topic than most people have. I agree with him when he says that not only do children find enjoyment in these tales but also solace. The same way that a child's body cannot take physical excersion, his/her mind cannot cope with harsh realities, and fairy tales teach important lessons but in a manner that is suitible for younger minds. And there is nothing wrong with children developing an imagination.

So interesting!
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-09-21 10:29:02
Link to this Comment: 20496

What has interested me in Bettelheim's article for the first moments is the psychological approach he made. When wrote about id, ego, and superego, I felt comfortable with telling something I might have some knowledge about these terms, it reminds me of my home and my high school. I kept saying to myself " there is something in common, there is something that I am familiar with".This was a personal feeling.
But with respect to the concepts of fairy tales and stories Bettelheim's associate to his article, i felt that i have thought in fairy tales as a psychological relieve ( when i tried to explain what i mean by "perfect world" but i couldn't) but i've never thought that the fairy tale is addressed to the child in a way to interat with his personality complex (id-ego-and superego)and motive him to understand the world in general through its events. Bettleheim tried to differentiate between the myth and the fairy tale which i have never succeeded in doing so. yet, i don't feel comfortable with his oedipal approach to fairy tales, because i believe that the child is more innocent than to think in this way, and this needs an ultraunderstanding and degree of maturation that i think the child doesn't possess at this age.
I don't know, i felt strongly towards his article, but i liked to stop reading sometimes because he kept reminding me of mom when she was telling me fairy tales and stories when i was young. I miss you mom, and wish that i am still young to tell me a lot and a lot of "the emotional reliever" , the fairy tales.

Name: Sarah
Date: 2006-09-21 11:33:32
Link to this Comment: 20497

I thought this author had some really interesting and novel ideas about what the new role of fairy tales should be in every child’s life, and I agree them, for the most part. The one aspect I disagree with him on is the degree to which fairy tales could influence something as vast as a child’s thoughts, life outlook, and personality, but I was conflicted about this for a couple reasons. I still remember from psych last year that a child’s thought process is completely unlike that of an adult, so he has a really good case for unorthodox, child-ccentric books, and I liked his idea of holding off on the scientific explanations. Because of this, I understood his reasoning behind the impact on a child from reading fairy tales early on, however I still think he’s exaggerating how much a child would reflect on and internalize the subtle lessons those stories impart.

From folk tales to science
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-09-25 17:40:12
Link to this Comment: 20526

Our reading this week is a play (a story? a folk tale?) about science (a story? a folk tale?), Bertold Brech's Galileo. Your reactions to the play? and/or thoughts about what is similar/different about memoirs/folk tales/reflections on folk tales/science?

A quotation
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-09-25 19:59:55
Link to this Comment: 20527

Today I found a quote I'd like to share with you all, because I think it kind of fits with our recent discussions. It's by Marie Curie.

“A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales."

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-09-26 19:04:02
Link to this Comment: 20536

I thought that the play on Galileo was interesting in regard to the fact that it really stresses the atmosphere in which his learning took place. We have been talking a lot about how fairy tales may be specfic, but they have universal appeal. While I was reading this play, I caught myself wondering if the story of Galileo's life of learning was an essay just like ours that we wrote about our life of learning. We see Galileo grow as a thinker through inquiry, and then deal with the hardship of fitting his learning life into his social and public life. We all have had to make accomodations based upon culture and outside forces, and it is really interesting to see how Galileo dealt with his problems (stealing an idea, not really renouncing his ideas). I think a lot of people can identify with Galileo's story, even if it was very specific to his time period. Also, censorship isn't something we have really talked about, but it is prevelent in this story.

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-09-26 20:49:26
Link to this Comment: 20539

First, I wanted to share a poem of sorts which I thought of when we were discussion the relation of science to learning and to childhood:

The Hundred Langauges of Children

The child
Is made of one hundred.
The child has
A hundred languages
A hundred hands
A hundred thoughts
A hundred ways of thinking
Of playing, of speaking
A hundred always a hundred
Ways of listening
Of marveling of loving

A hundred joys For singing and understanding
A hundred worlds
To discover
A hundred worlds
To invent
A hundred worlds
To dream.
The child has a hundred Languages
(and a hundred, hundred, hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.

The School and the culture
Separate the head from the body
They tell the child:
To think without hands
To do without head
To listen and not to speak
To understand without joy
To love and to marvel
Only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child:

That work and play
Reality and fantasy
Science and imagination
Sky and earth
Reason and dreams
Are things
That do not belong together
And thus they tell the child
That the hundred is not there
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

- Loris Mallaguzzi (Reggio Emilia Approach)

How much are science and imagination separated soley because society says so?

Galileo seems to be a mix of memoir from the third person and a folk tale which could be interpreted morally and symbolically. I agree with Anna that Galileo's story has a lot of universal entities which everyone can relate to. Most people have experienced having an opinion/new idea which others don't agree with and everyone has been ostracized at some point. I think it would be interesting to examine what Brech excluded from the story and why. I also thought there was a lot of emphasis on Andrea who is important but really just a side character but maybe it was to highlight his betrayal and then later acceptance of Galileo?

Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-09-26 23:54:18
Link to this Comment: 20540

I ask something in relation to class today, and in truth, I actually want an answer.

Why do we bother to do our homework? Is it really just about getting the grade, the apps, the resume, the job? Or is there some other reason we write?

I write because I have to. I love it and it is who I am, but I have no choice but to write. And thus, much of what I write I show to people because I want to communicate what I created, or need their comments, or want to share something.

Give, for this class, I have written because our Professor told us to; the only thing we've written that I would have done on my own was the story, which has lived inteh back of my mind for some time now.

So. Why do people write? and let me carry on, why do we think? This is all what we talked about in class today, but somehow I don't feel like we reached anything.

Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-09-27 15:45:22
Link to this Comment: 20549

Last class, I did not see the point in "Galileo". Now having finished it I do. It is to put science in it's place in terms of the public and how it is viewed. For a few weeks there has been disscussion about how science is "real" and fairy tales aren't. Science is trusted as fact and fairy tales aren't. "Galileo" shows us that this was not always the case. Fairy tales and things not based on absolute fact were trusted. Galileo was imprisoned for placing this faith in science and speaking out about it. Today, it in the opposite, science is trusted and tales are doubted. This shows that putting your beliefs and time into science or fairy tales is wrong. Both can be very benifital in different ways. Perhaps the best way to have the best of both worlds is to have proven science embedded in fairy tales. Today science can created what seems to me many magical things, so it wouldn't be so out of place in the stories.

On page 112 Andrea says "You can't make a man unsee what he has seen." This quote really spoke the truth in my mind. Once a person has experiences something, they are changed and can never go back to the way they were before. This statement is made thinking of a new discovery in science, but it also applies to stories. Once you have learned a lesson, our a story has given you some type of knowledge it will stay with you like facts in science do. That is one of the reasons children are told fairy tales, because they will help to shape who they will become in the future.

Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-27 17:18:11
Link to this Comment: 20550

A few things. (Read: Another long entry.)

Anna L (or M?)... you asked, "Why do we write?" For me, the issue is not in the fact that I'm writing papers for this class, the issue is in the fact that I'm not writing what I want to write. The many reasons for that is too long to go into here.
As for the CSEM, the reason that I write what I'm "supposed" to write in the CSEM is, well, because I do think that the papers are interesting, and they feed into each other. And, y'know, it's almost like a mother telling me to eat my vegetables. I might not want to do it, but it's good for me. It stimulates intellectual growth.
Looking at the topic for this week, though, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Mostly because I don't understand the prompt yet. I'll talk to Paul about it. I'm the type of person who won't hesitate to "modify" a writing assignment quite heavily. We'll see what happens. I guess that the anology for this week, if I do decide to modify the assignment, would be talking to my mother and asking her to cook kale with bacon bits in it instead of cooking broccoli. Both are good for me, but I'm more likely to eat the kale than the broccoli... so the kale is more useful.

Maggie, I loved the poem that you shared. I think that imagination is key to understanding science, especially with all this new quantum mechanic stuff. I mean, if we can't *see* the particles that make up atoms, I call that "imagination". I've said it before -- I don't like how a lot of scientists seem to deny imagination and place faith in science because it's "real". Especially in the more established sciences. Scientists are great, and I think they're important, but so are other types of folks, from painters to plumbers.
Also, I'm dubious about the need for school. Does school confine us, or does it stimulate our growth? Especially if the "we" in this question happen to be artists, who might not really need a degree to get a "good job"?

As for "Galileo"... It was interesting. In high school, I did Academic Decathlon, and because of that, I know a lot about the history of Astronomy. (I'm a closet nerd, so I'll admit that the history of Astronomy is fascinating... *blush*) But I didn't know so much about the Church-related stuff, and I thought that that was interesting.
Also, wondering how many people read the introduction and afterwords. I started to read the "five difficulties to writing truth", and I found it too political for my taste. I'll probably try to finish it tonight -- again, it's like eating broccoli. Or kale; pick the analogy that you like better.

One more thing...
Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-09-27 18:06:07
Link to this Comment: 20551

I knew I'd forgotten something in my previous post.

About thinking... Paul asked last class, "Do you think that you think all the time?" I didn't raise my hand.
I'm one of the lacrosse goalies on the BMC team, and I think that being a goalie is one of the most integrated mental/physical disciplines. I mean, even the best goalies inevitably let in at least one or two balls. I find that I have to just not think about the balls that I let in and focus on the next task, which is making more saves for the team. Likewise, I can't have a constant stream of thoughts like, "Oh my god! I have to do fifty pages of reading!... I'm excited to see 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' this weekend... I can't wait to talk to my sister this weekend..." etc. I have to cut down on the "mental background noise" and focus on my task. If I think in the way that I do during class or during my free time, I don't play as well, period.
I could talk about a lot of other things in this vein -- church, sleeping, etc, but I think I've said a lot already.

Brecht's "Galileo" and more
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-09-27 20:20:08
Link to this Comment: 20553

This is REALLY long; I apologize in advance.

I was really compelled by how Brecht's "Galileo" fit in with our other readings. Stacy mentions that back then, science wasn't trusted, while nowadays, tales aren't trusted. I had a very similar thought this morning, that sometimes people view science as the absolute truth... and some people disregard parts of it because it "disproves" their religious ideas. To illustrate this point, I'll use an example from my own experience. I'm from a small, conservative Midwestern town, and in my AP Biology class, some of my fellow students would whisper to each other during our lectures on Darwin, saying things like, "Do you actually believe in any of this?" It wasn't shocking to me at all to see the same thing happening in "Galileo" - just as heliocentrism rocked the religious views of Galileo's time, evolution by means of natural selection continues to challenge Christian beliefs.

I really enjoyed Brecht's rendition of Galileo's later years. I think it's important to remember that Brecht did stray from Galileo's biography in several telling ways - both of his daughters, for example, were illegitimate and lived in a convent for most of their lives. Virginia was actually known Sister Mary Celeste, so she wouldn't have been courting Ludovico. This part was probably dramatized to serve a function (how Galileo learns of the telescope) and to show how his actions would have effected his family. Likewise, I think it's important to note that Cardinal Bellarmine really did want to keep Galileo out of trouble. I'm going to paste a bit from Wikipedia on the topic:
Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo's book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberate, Simplicius, the defender of the Aristotelian Geocentric view in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool. This fact made Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems appear as an advocacy book; an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defense of the Copernican theory. To add insult to injury, Galileo put the words of Pope Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicius. Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book. However, the Pope did not take the public ridicule lightly, nor the blatant bias. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to explain himself.
As a result, he was tried, told to recant, imprisoned (which changed to house arrest), and his Dialogue and all future works were banned - hence Galileo's character hiding the manuscript for "Two Sciences" in the globe.

I find Galileo's use as a character in the play positively fascinating - this is what, in literary theory, really gets me off. I hope we get to discuss this in class.

Science---A Betrayal
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-09-27 21:47:44
Link to this Comment: 20554

The conflict caused by science in our society today, I think, is a two-way street.

Galileo in scene six of Bertolt Brecht’s play believes in the brain. That is the common notion of a majority of scientists today. There is perhaps nothing wrong with that. There are those who equate believing in the brain as to believing in the one’s self-sufficiency. And there is perhaps nothing wrong with that either. The problem as I see it is when this nature is so strong the message it conveys to the public is that if somehow I can be like the scientist then I’m superior too. Galileo then in scene 13 says once the public learns to doubt (as science trades knowledge which is the product of doubt) “They snatched the telescopes out of our hands, and had them trained on their tormentors: prince, official, public moralist”. Furthermore he admonishes “If you give way to coercion, science can be crippled, and your new machines may simply suggest new drudgeries”. Science is tainted by the feebly opinionated.

P.S. ~ The quote “once I was so high, I was standing on a ship that was pulling away from the shore and I shouted, “The shore is moving!” I know now that it was the ship which was moving” is referring to the Galilean Transformations, the reference frame used to describe uniform motion before Einstein’s Theory of Relativity stirred the world.

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-09-27 22:52:11
Link to this Comment: 20555

A lot of people it seemed gave Galileo a lot of thought. While I did find it a surprisingly easy and somewhat enjoyable read, nothing really struck me, except Andrea's quote about what man sees cannot be unseen. I can see why some would derive much thought from Galileo. After all, it is the story of a man who dared to see things differently than anyone else (supposedly ever had) and express those ideas. But was Galileo the only one to think that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around? I'm more likely to argue that science is real, but in this case, Galileo is a scientifc figure who I naturally brush off. Galileo, himself, is very skeptical. It's hard to explain, but it's almost like I don't "believe" in him and that this revelation of his is his.

Name: Ivana
Date: 2006-09-28 02:37:54
Link to this Comment: 20556

I thoroughly enjoyed Galileo. Especially Scene 12, in which Galileo is being coerced into condemning his own research. Federzoni says, "June 22, 1633: dawn of the age of reason. I wouldn't have wanted to go on living if he had recanted." They believe Galileo has made himself a martyr in his own religion--that of Truth. Even the word "recant" reflects a religious attitude. I was particularly delighted this part of the scene. The history of the Renaissance and the flourishing of European culture into an Age of Reason is, to me, is a more romantic and beautiful story than any fairy tale I've ever been told, and science is a more wondrous process.

It was at this time that Science was born. It is a method by which we systematically study our world through experimentation and proof of observation. The goal of science is to expand humanity's understanding of the world by gaining irrefutable knowledge. This understanding expands exponentially as we learn more and consequentially ask more questions. However, it is obvious to most people that we cannot understand everything, that what we know is not necessarily irrefutable, and that often what is considered scientific is actually misconception. I've heard people speak of these problems, I believe even in our class, as intrinsic imperfections in the field and reasons to doubt science altogether. I want to point out that these problems are not Science's fault, but Humanity's--human error, and more often, natural perceptual limitations.

In this play, Galileo weilded reason to combat the fiction, the fairy tale, that was geocentrism. The difference between the two is the methods behind the theories. Galileo was using observation, logic, science. Because of that, he was closer to the truth. There are no crystal spheres, and the earth is not firmly fixed at the center of the universe. The geocentric model of Aristotle and Ptolemy didn't have the mathematical proof that Galileo did when advocating his heliocentric system. The fact that Galileo wasn't perfectly correct either is irrelevant in a fairytale vs science debate. For example, Galileo believed that the earth and other planets travel in circular orbits; the planets in fact travel in elliptical orbits at varying speeds. However, the reason we know that many of Galileo's assumptions were wrong is because the of the work of later scientists, who are even today proving and disproving each other's theories. It is an ongoing process. Science will help us climb higher and higher towards that asymptote of universal knowledge, even if we aren't perfect enough to ever get there, or understand everything along the way.

Fairy tales can be enlightening and enjoyable in an emotional, spiritual, cultural, and often artistic sense. However, because the answers they offer are unsystematized and often arbitrary, they will only misinform when we are looking for answers about the natural and the material world around us. That is science's department.

science and stories
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-03 09:46:45
Link to this Comment: 20575

Interesting discussion about what motivated Galileo ... why he wanted to change from a story that the sun goes around the earth to one that the earth goes around the sun? Similar issue, of course, with Flatland, this week's reading. Does that book help us better understand why people feel motivated to change stories? to try and persuade others to change them? Your thoughts about Flatland? Along those lines or any others ....

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-10-04 16:47:16
Link to this Comment: 20596

Flatland seems to give at least one clear motivation for changing stories - when new and improved knowledge is discovered is should be shared to increase the knowledge of society as a whole. The square in flatland seems to want to share what he has learned about the other dimensions so that everyone can have a fuller understanding of the universe and then go on to learn about the other dimensions currently undiscovered.

I found Flatland to be a bit too metaphorical with so many shapes and I thought that the introduction to the whole culture/concpets of Flatland was a bit long winded. Still, some of the ideas were intriguing, such as how do we know that we aren't the simple shapes who don't know about other dimensions becasue everyone who knew about them has been executed? The questions: what do we really know and how much more could we discover is brought up but the book also addresses the destructive consequences of trying to make changes. The idea of the Cube coming down from Spaceland reminded me both of alien stories (which some feel have replaced fairy tales) and of the story of Jesus, coming down, finding disciples, ect.

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-10-04 16:58:22
Link to this Comment: 20597

While reading the beginning of this story i found my self disturb by the way woman were viewed. I found myself yelling at the text. The author made it seem as if the world evolved around men, like women were not important. But I realize that it is his story and his world, in which he creates the way things are going.

However I did agree with him when he said, "For why should the thirst for knowledge be aroused, only to be disappointed and punished?"(70) I feel the same way sometimes. Why try to be interested in something or try to learn something that you cant have an impact on. How could one be punished for believing in something? What happen to our freedom of speech?

Galileo did something similar, his thirst for knowledge and teaching others got him in trouble. Why can't one beileve the unbelievable?

This then makes me think, Is there room for thoughts to be expressed?How can we change the wrong in the world if we can’t make a story or a solution with a new idea?

Sorry, No Explanation This Time.
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-10-05 00:06:09
Link to this Comment: 20600


A Question
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-10-05 00:07:47
Link to this Comment: 20601

For those who seek, for those see, is martyrdom the only end?

A Reply to Shanika
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-10-05 00:31:40
Link to this Comment: 20602

Mind you the book was written in the 19th century and most scholars agree that it's a satire on the victorian society, an era which I don't have much knowledge in but according to my understanding, women during that period did not have much class status at all, one's only hope was to marry well. Though they did gain the legal right to their property upon marriage through the Married Women's Property Act, the right to divorce, and the right to fight for custody of their children upon separation. Anna M probably can tell you more.

Anyway, that's not my main point. And this point I make now will seem very contradictory to my previous comments. You said "How can we change the wrong in the world if we can’t make a story or a solution with a new idea?".

Somehow I've come to believe that young people such as ourselves always have the strong tendency to change the world, to right the wrongs. We are idealists. We suffer because we are idealists. But can you entertain the thought that maybe it's okay to not feel the need to "change the world" all the time? Maybe one should accept the proposition that he or she have but a role however small (or large) in the grand play? I know this suggestion is not satisfying but I like to think there is benefits to restrain oneself from youthful passions. Perhaps we can't change the world because it's already changing, constantly. We can't change the world because everyone else like us also wants to change the world. So much competiton for change leaves real change stagnant.

Yet at the same time, being a young idealist too, one can't help but striving for new visions and wanting to enlighten the rest of the world. What do you do then? Knowing it's wise to give up but also it's equally compelling not to?

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-10-05 00:40:21
Link to this Comment: 20603

The most interesting aspect of Flatland, in reference to what we have been talking about with fairy tales and Galileo seems to me to be about perspective. The fact the the shapes literally cannot see what other shapes look like from an above view is a metaphor that fits well into how human's "cannot" see the different angles and form of people b/c things such as predjusice blinds us. I also though it was interesting that in Galileo he talks about a boat pulling away from shore and how if you have your perspective wrong, you may think it is the shore that is moving, very similiar to how in Flatland, a square may look like a line. I think it is interseting to put this in a social context though, and you can see how with limited information, people get very heated over which is the "right" way to view it and what your supposed to and not supposed to say.

Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-10-05 07:49:37
Link to this Comment: 20605

Flatland has a distinctly religous tone to it. The idea of a completely and "higher" (literally and figuratively) view of the world if utterly compelling and the narrator feels like his has to share it because the entire world would be better off if it knew. But obviously the message, like Galileo, is that minds cannot be changed. The narrator's experience in Lineland and Pointland show us that it is nearly impossible to see outside one's own ken and that people would rather remain where they can understand and explain.

See people later.


Flatland and other reading
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-10-05 08:23:08
Link to this Comment: 20606

At the beginning of "Flatland" I hated it and couldn't understand why we where reading it. But at the end I liked it better and saw the point in the book. It goes along with our discussion of where Galileo got his motivation. The square once he had a little bit of knowledge had a craving for more that couldn't be silenced. He also stopped caring if he was imprisioned, because telling people the truth he had learned was more important. Galileo and the Square had equally difficult jobs in convincing people and shapes of unfathimable concepts. This book makes me more convinced that my original feeling that Galileo's motivation was mostly a thirst for knowledge is correct.
And the author is lucky females didn't hit him on the street whenever they saw him.
The other reading I can see no point in. He rambled on and on and thourghly convinced me NEVER to read anything he writes because he makes non sense and is boring. He should have taken a C-Sem and learned to be concise. That reading shouldn't even have been there it was about science and organization and that is all. He could have simply said science should be organized and orderly, and been done with it.

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-10-05 09:25:59
Link to this Comment: 20607

I thoroughly detested this book up until about page 70. 85% of the book was tedious to read. I had a difficult time getting through it, and I was often confused because my brain just doesn't do... pictures. I think that once I realized why Square was boring us with details of his existence in Flatland (after he dreams that he visits Lineland and it becomes clear that he'll soon be sharing his experiences in Spaceland), the novel picked up steam and I actually began to feel sympathy for poor Square, who has this amazing firsthand knowledge of the truth - and the other two-dimensional figures can't understand it. Even Sphere can't grasp the idea of a fourth or a sixth or a fiftieth dimension the way Square can. It was heartbreaking when Square's grandson, the perfectly reasonable hexagon, laughed at Square for actually thinking that there was a use for 3^3.

Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-10-05 09:27:18
Link to this Comment: 20608

I've been reading "Invitation to a Beheading" by Vladimir Nabokov, which is a book that also deals with a different reality. The main character knows that the world is not quite "right"... he's in a sham reality -- a dream land. He's the only alive, solid human being in this entire world, which is an illegal act.

But part of the problem, perhaps, is the fact that nobody can comprehend the meaning of his crime. He says, "All of you are dummies," but if a dummy is a dummy, how can one expect him to understand that fact? I get the impression that if he *had* indeed said, "This whole reality is a sham! I'm alive!"... people would not have understood him.

So, how can one rebel through ideas alone if nobody understands the ideas? I mean, people can stand on the street corner and shout, "Gender roles are the ultimate oppression in our society!"... but people will just pass the shouters by and go on with their day. A much better tactic, in my mind, is to take action and *explain* it. In this particular example... Instead of just dressing/acting in a manner inconsistent with one's birth gender, which doesn't have much explanation behind it, I think that it's more effective to write an essay explaining why one believes that gender roles are not good. Action is great, but not without explanation.

Name: manal
Date: 2006-10-05 11:06:32
Link to this Comment: 20609

i just wanted to comment on something from the last discussion in class about Galileo's motivations. Why did he want to change the story? i believe that we as human beings behave the same as our smallest units, the atoms. the atoms undergo alot of chemical reactions and changes, become ions or other shapes, lose electrons or gain, just for one goal which is to be in a lower energy level, or in other words, to be more STABLE. so all the changes we undergo are just to satisfy some stability. and i feel that the discussions in the class lack this idea.
another thing, that i remembered from my philosophy classes at high school is that, throughout history philosophers and thinkers searched and searched very hard to find what is the greatest motivation that controls over our actions, emotions and all aspects of our personality. so Aristotle proposed seeking of Happiness, Fraud proposed sexual intoxication, and Larshfocko proposed selfishness to be this greatest motive. but they all proposed different motives. so i think we can't judge over someone's motives, because everyone will judge depending on how he/she sees the story and how he/she feels towards it.
regarding Flatland, i am sorry i didn't complete reading. but i felt that it includes alot of metaphors and symbols and i enjoyed reading it. but i was trying to relate everything to mathematical concepts and formulas so i had a hard headache and couldn't continue reading.

Date: 2006-10-05 11:19:54
Link to this Comment: 20610

I read this in 9th grade for extra credit in geometry class and I remembered it as really dry and boring, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much more interesting it was the second time around, I think because the satire stood out more than the math.
My favorite part of the book is when the Sphere takes the Square to check out the dot, the universe of one, which is a metaphor for an egocentric, self-absorbed person. It was really funny to read the smug reaction of the dot after hearing the Square tell him the truth about how little he mattered in the universe and assuming it was hearing its own thoughts. This comes after the Square has had his own rude awakening, and it was a really good way of showing how entirely possible it is to ignore the truth around you and just keep on living a lie.

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-10-05 11:24:13
Link to this Comment: 20611

I thought Flatland was rather interesting. I like how in the first part of the book the shapes, which we merely see as just shapes, represented different social classes and backgrounds. I though it was very similar to the way we classify social classes now. For instance, the lower classes had more sharp edges, i.e the women and the soldiers. In today's society I think that represents how the poor and the minorities exist. The upper classes tend to avoid, ignore, and are indifferent to them beacuse of their socioeconomic status. They are viewed as inferior and a threat to society, which their sharp edges represent. Also, there tends to be violence in poor and minority communities, which is represented by the clashing of the sharp edges. The poor and minorities might also rise up against the affluent, which is why their sharp edges pose a threat. The irregulars are also an accurate portrayal of those in modern society who are often times isolated and misunderstood. The equilaterals and square represent those in our society who are rather smoothed and polished around the edges, the wealthy. The have an equality in sides, which makes them superior to the lower classes.

from Galileo to Flatland to Evolution ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-09 20:29:40
Link to this Comment: 20652

Galileo and Flatland are about historical/imaginary events. Dennett is writing about contemporary changes in stories with signficant contemporary social/political implications. Your thoughts about Dennett? About lessons from Galileo/Flatland about how proponents/opponents of story change should/should not act in the present?

Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-10-10 23:45:14
Link to this Comment: 20656

This has been one of my favorite readings so far. There were many comparisions I hadn't thought of before. Darwin's natural selection was as mind boggling as Capernicus's assertion that the earth went around the son. I also liked the idea of Orgin of Species being sort of a shot heard around the world. I also never knew that Nieches's quote "God is dead" was in responce to Darwin's theory.
I generally associate algorithms with codes and code breaking. The fact algorithms were all over the place was new to me. It also in a way makes science/math easier for me to understand and simplier. I began to wonder if there were algorithms in human behavior that are studied in Psychology. Are conditioned responces like Pavalo's dogs considered to be an algorithms. If there are algorithms in human behaviors then it is possible for there to be algorithms in the actions in some of the actions of Galileo, the Square, Darwin and other scientist. They might be conditioned to share there info. Then it is unlikely for there to be any algorithms in human behavior because there are always exceptions which algorithms don't allow for. I cannot see how there are no exceptions in natural selections. Everyone has about the same atonomy, the body works in the same way for everyone (of course accepting differences in gender). But we know there are mutations and exceptings. Calling natural selection an algorithm to me says there are not mutations or exceptions which is very unlikely.
In terms of including God in natural selection I like the quote "God did His handiwork by designing an automatic design." This allows for God as a creater and natural selection to exist along side each other. I also liked the crane idea. I thought of imaginary cranes that could lift your spirt when your having a difficult time. This isn't a new idea because of the Japinesse cranes in a way lift the spirits to those left behind after someone dies. Also cranes and storks are similar and storks bring joy with babies.
The ideas of Darwin to encommpass has grow sense Orgins was published. Most of the facts came from others later. Darwin was just a big stepping stone in finding the truth of evolution.

Darwin's Dangerous Ideas
Name: Nimrah
Date: 2006-10-11 19:18:05
Link to this Comment: 20659

Even though the reading was long, I thought it was very interesting and as someone interested in Darwin, I thought it was very relevant. This was published in 1995 but I feel that it applies to the debate between Darwin and Intelligent Design today. The title 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' is a little misleading but once I read the whole article I realized that it summed up the author's thesis since he believes that Darwin's theory trumps all other theories. He explains and gives sufficient examples as to why Darwin's ideas can be dangerous because "[they] promise- not threaten- to put our most cherished visions of life on a new foundation". Sometimes I feel he goes to the extreme and it is a little strange how he is writing such a controversial piece on such a controversial issue.

Name: Anna
Date: 2006-10-11 22:30:12
Link to this Comment: 20660

I actually have this book on my dorm room bookshelf, I'm about halfway through it, and it only gets better. I really like Dennett as a philosopher who is able to take what could be overlooked and make it necessary to anyone who wants to understand the world. In response to what Stacy said about algorithms being applied to natural selection, I think what Dennett was saying was that, the algorithm is just a mindless process that takes inputs, and ends with a "winner." This is what evolution through natural selection is. It takes what is created, and the "best" one wins, or survives. It doesn’t mean that all humans are created through a single formula but rather that through the algorithm of environment, a winner is the end product. Just like in his coin toss example, not all the contestants are the same, in fact their luck is very different during that random tournament, but one still comes out a winner. (If it had to do with skill, that winner would then conceivably, get to pass on it's genes and its skill would also be passed on, with exceptions and mutations, of course, possible.) I also really liked how cranes were able to take over from skyhooks, showing the transition from relying on what cannot be proved as proofs to using rational bases. Another thing that really stuck out to me was Paley's argument from design, and how Hume was so close to stumbling upon another way. Without Darwin however, there was no logical reason to oppose the argument from design. Richard Dawkins has said that there was no logical way to be an atheist before Darwin, simply because there were no arguments for a logical existence without skyhooks. I also like how Darwin took the argument from design, and used it in his own way. Without accepting that some process and work needs to go into design, evolution does not solve anything. Dennett says that, "Like any good revolutionary, Darwin exploits as much as possible of the old system." One last thing I want to comment on his talk about reductionism. I think that reductionism is the key to unifying all different disciplines. I believe that is the key, the thread, that can weave together all disciplines and ideas with, (as Hofstadter writes about) and I think that he is right in pointing out that Darwin’s dangerous idea has helped cut through many barriers.

Darwins Dangerous idea
Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-10-12 00:15:31
Link to this Comment: 20661

Evolution: "is the process of working out and or developing something."as of an idea). {webster college dic}. I looked up this word becuase i was wondering how it effected society. I beleieve that the world need people who believes in evolution because i love the idea of people bringing foward the new long as hey can explain them. The world is challenging.

Name: Jen
Date: 2006-10-12 02:41:51
Link to this Comment: 20662

I think many of Darwin's theories and ideas make sense. I don't think there are many controversial issues that surface from his theories though there are some that are a bit extreme. It's possible that some people find this "answer" to be more comfortable for them because it is much more concrete and tangible as compared to the concepts behind various religions. Nevertheless, I found this to be an interesting but lengthy read.

A Response to Stacy
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-10-12 10:02:35
Link to this Comment: 20663

Disclaimer: My brain is toast thus what I say here may be not valid at all but I don't care. My brain is jammed.

Dennett interprets natural selection as an algorithmic process with the aim to defend "strong Artificial Intelligence," which says that thought literately is computational or roughly machines can be programmed to think. Evolution and artificial intelligence combined is a way to explain the inner mind. Skyhooks are, in Dennett's creative wordplay, virtual entities emerged from an algorithmic frame. Cranes, on the other hand, are the motors that pushes the evolutionary process. Here he is talking about the current, hot theory of emergence---complex systems can be built base on levels of stupid agents. In Dennett's view, God is a skyhook. Thus he is actually making fun at Intelligent Design people for thinking that creation springs forth from somewhere out there---he is attacking the top down approach. Thus I find it difficult to conclude that “Dennett is including God in natural selection”.

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-10-12 10:51:45
Link to this Comment: 20664

I found Dennet's article interesting although very wordy. I feel that evolution is so controversial because as Dennet says, people feel too much is at stake to just accept this explaination. I thought it was interesting how Dennet clarified that Darwin didn't know anything about genetics and that he still had many issues to work out with his theory. I liked the idea of universal acid - I think it is exciting to think about problems that seem to have no answer or explaination and then come up with your own. If people refuse to do this, the limit on progress becomes extreme.

Name: manal
Date: 2006-10-12 10:56:56
Link to this Comment: 20665

before speaking about the context of the reading, the style of writing in this reading was amazing. it was so clear, backed up with explanations, and at the end a small summary summing up the general idea of the whole chapter. also the outlining he introduces his reading by was interesting since it gives a general idea of the issues discussed.
concerning the context, i liked the way Dennet tried to convice the readers that evolution is an algorithmic process. the way he defines algorithmic process seems applicable with evolution. and i still remember this quotation "no matter if what you say is wrong or right, it is right as long as it is applicable with your general definition". but i still can't understand how species can evolve in a mindless process? if everything has evolved from something before, and the origin of life is a tree then what is the origin of this tree and how did it evolves? still, i am confused how a scientist who relies on the rational and the mindful way of thinking, relates everything in nature to a mindless process, by this way is he neglecting mind or appreciating it? and there are other questions came to my head but i don't know, i've forgot them now. please i need an answer.
by the way, i enjoyed this reading, though it was long, may be because it was clear in its style.

mind from mindlessness?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-12 11:01:45
Link to this Comment: 20666

Maybe this picture will help?

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-10-12 11:25:49
Link to this Comment: 20667

I really liked how Dennett set the stage for peoples' rejection of evolution by natural selection deep in philosophy. His idea of a "Platonic bias" against change over time because for so long, people have been thinking that essences are unchanging except when God makes them change. I liked having the visualization of Locke's cosmic period and seeing how Darwin subverted by starting in the middle, without implicitly taking God out of Order and Design, but also without leaving Him there.

Mostly, though, I felt like Dennett was voicing concerns that I had already dealt with, in my classroom experiences with my "do you actually believe Darwin?" AP Biology class and even with what I've learned so far in my introductory philosophy class. It was interesting to have ideas I had thought but not truly developed played out in front of me. I would never have viewed evolution as an algorithm, but by hearing the concept, it reflects hunches I already had.

Date: 2006-10-21 16:17:52
Link to this Comment: 20712

Responses, anyone?

From fairy tales to science to ... the story telle
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-24 10:27:06
Link to this Comment: 20735

Except to a handful of biologists, there is little "dangerous" in the idea that Biology is Engineering. There is something dangerous, though, in the idea that Darwinism transcends biology, undermining our views of culture, consciousness, and morality ... Dennett has long championed the notion that Darwinism might explain why some ideas and styles flourish while others perish. Darwinism thus explains not just the biological origin of consciousness and culture, but their changing contents.

H. Allen Orr, "Dennett's Strange Idea", Boston Review

Is biological evolution sufficient to account for culture, consciousness, and morality? For not only the biological origin of consciousness and culture but also their "changing contents"?, ie for stories? Where do stories, cultural, scientific, and otherwise, come from? What are stories and what gives humans the capability to create and reshape them? Those are our concerns for the next section of the course.

A starting place: the bipartite brain

Next three writing assignments: be a "scientist" This week: reactions to Polanyi, Lakoff and Johnson here ...

Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-10-25 16:48:35
Link to this Comment: 20758

Tacit knowledge was really diffucult to ge my head around at first. But once I read the second reading and it said that 95% of cognitition is not on a consciecous level it made more sence. Question though do some bodily functions count? Because when my dad sleeps he stops breathing a lot. His body convolses and he is forced into breathing again. Is this like the people dealing with the electro shock in the experiment, or is it not cognative at all?

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-10-25 17:43:57
Link to this Comment: 20760

While reading the second passage,"Introduction: who are we...", I begin to realize that yesterday in class we were actully learning Cognitive Science. Im not a big fan of science but this actually interest me.

I agree with the author when he writes "A radical change in our understanding of reasoning is therefore a radical change in our understanding of ourselves." This reminds me of something Grobestein would say to us.(lol) I agree with the author because i believe that once we learn and understand new things we begin to change the way we do things most of the times (if we liked what we learned), which then leads up to understanding, which can determine what kind of person you are. Then you begin to give reasoning to why you believe in what ever you learned=understanding. For example, i came to Bryn Mawr to learn new things, and to understand who i am. When i started this symester i knew that i wanted to have an independant major of communicatios/Journalism, now I think that i want to major in syke and minor in edu. The reason why is becaus i am starting to understand myself a little better because i have taken cousres that i understand because of others resoning (reading passages, and books).

I am understanding new things everyday. Who know's, in two weeks i probably want to major in econ or something? I am learing about things that i never would think of learning, and because of that, i am slowly shaping into this Bryn Mawr women= undestanding myself. When i find out who that is I will inform all of you.

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-10-25 22:00:29
Link to this Comment: 20762

I found both of these readings really interesting. In the piece about tacit knowledge one part of it really struck me in regards to a question we raised in the beginning of the semester. We discussed that you need to break former ideas in order to create new ones, and that breaking old ones wasn't necessarily a bad thing. In this article, he talks about how "unbridled lucidity can destroy our understanding of complex matters." But then he discusses how this can be a good thing if we interiorize the particulars and recover their meaning by showing how they fit into a comprehensive relatinship. He notes that you can never recover the original meaning, but you can improve upon it and find a deeper meaning. I also found really interesting his discussion about how the ideal goal of science, of eliminating all personal elements from knowledge, would really aim at the distructin of all knowdedge. Another quote I liked that he said was, "To see a problem is to see something that is hidden." He answers Plato's question posed in Meno with the answer of inplicit knowledge as how the question can be answered. This leads to the fact that we know things we cannot tell, and he talks about how people can have conviction about something that they still can't out into words. He uses the Copernicans as an example of people who belived in something that was not able to be proved until 140 years later. He says something that really strikes me in regards to our talks about Galileo also...he says, "The discoverer is filled with a compelling sense of responsibility for the pursuit of a hidden truth, which demands his services for revealing it." This really addresses what could have compelled Galileo to share his story. He also talks about how, the discovery may turn out to be a delusion, but it doesn't matter because it is futile to try to find inpersonal criteria of validity for the answer to a problem that you cannot fully see. The problem that this creates for science is to find a "stable alternative to its ideal of objectivity". I think that this article is really important to read and understand because it shows the faults in our current methods and thinking without suggusting that science is simply, "irrational" or on the same level as religion and things that use "skyhooks". The next thing we read was also really interesting. Although it was too long for me to really discuss everything I liked about it, I will just comment on the main ideas I thought were very interesting. I liked that he addresses the fact that reason is a product of evolution, and therefore we are simply on a scale with other animals, not in a completely seperate catagory. He also talks about how "philosophical theories are largely the product of the hidden hand of cognitive science" which is intriging because it shows that we do not even know most of the time where our assuptions come from, and it is our brain and the world around us, the brain shaped by evolution to understand the world. Like understanding a concept such as color, what we understand is dependant on the limitations and quirks of the mind and the sensorimotor system. I like this idea of the mind being simply a product of evolution and embodied. It makes sense and accepting it is the next step in understanding the world better.

Csem all day long!
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-10-25 22:08:23
Link to this Comment: 20763

In the second reading, the author says that "some insightful philosophers did notice some of these phenoma, but lacked the empirical methodology to establish the validity of these results and to study them in fine detail." Gosh, that sounds like tacit knowledge to me right there!

Today was kind of paradoxical today: in the second reading, we discover that apparently all of the philosophy we've had these last 2,000 years is wrong because of our newfound understanding of reason and the unconscious - but today, my philosophy class was just like our csem. We were discussing matter and how Thales, the Ionians, the Pythagoreans, Plato, and Aristotle all told different stories about what makes things different and what makes them the same. We talked about the earth resting on water, held up by a giant turtle. My professor even calld science a story. I was definitely thinking about csem all day :)

Tacit Knowledge
Name: maggie
Date: 2006-10-26 00:22:04
Link to this Comment: 20766

I found the first article really interesting. The first thing I thought of while reading it was Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and how experiments have been done demonstrating people's ability to "thin-slice" or make decisons based on rapid cognition that occurs unconsiously. He talks about a couple's relationship can be thin-sliced based on facial patterns similar to what Polyani talks about. I also liked the idea of having "tacit foreknowledge of yet undiscovered things." This seems like a possible explaination for waking up from a dream with a break-through idea ... maybe it has been running in the background and finally soeting clicks and the discovery occurs so that it is no longer just tacit knowledge.
In the second article, I also lliked the idea of a radical change in understanding leading to a radical change in how we understand ourselves. Our thoughts are always evovling and when we change how we think, we change how we see ourselves and percieve our own world and everything around us.

Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-10-26 09:40:56
Link to this Comment: 20768

I was a little bothered by the first reading. I can completely understand the idea of tacit knowledge. What concerns me though is when the article talked about problem solving. On one level, I can handle a kind of pre-knowing when dealing with a problem, but I feel like it is pushing it to say that you already know the answer to be able to ask the question. If that were the case, then this implies we already hold a full understanding of the entire universe and everything in and effecting it. I like this idea lot, but I remain a little concerned by it.

Name: Jen and Ni
Date: 2006-10-26 09:54:53
Link to this Comment: 20769

Note: We read this together, so we thought we would just combine our views and post this together.
The idea that 'we know more than we can tell' is interesting because it explains why so many actions and thoughts cannot be explained. There are many habits and actions that we cannot describe but we can do proficiently. The example with the "shock syllables" was a good example of how tacit knowledge works. What one can learn through personal experience, cannot be learnt through textbooks, guides etc...
For the second reading if we are to believe that the three findings/statements of Lakoff and Johnson are all proven and have evidence to cite, then we have to dismiss central tenets of the major philosophical traditions. While it is true that philosophy should have more empirical data to back it up, empirical data is truly not enough and years of philosophical research and thought cannot just be disregarded this easily. The authors make an attempt to bring a major change in this field, but their argument is not very effective because it only appeals to those who interested or understand well what the authors are talking about.

understanding ourselves
Name: manal
Date: 2006-10-26 10:00:40
Link to this Comment: 20770

An interesting reading assigment! It is a good key to compromise our science with philosophy. it opened a new perspective of understanding ourselves. i felt that i don't know anything about myself, i felt that i do everything unconsciously. i wanted really to explore myself more and know more about what is going on in my nervous system. few weeks before i was decided to major in biology with a concentration on molecular biology but now i am considering neurobiology concentration.
the first reading reminded me of my philosophy class in high school. i have studied something about our perception and conception from different points of view. one of the points of view was idealistic where it considers that we perceive objects and ideas as parts and then we form up the whole image mentally. another one was really the opposite which is Gestalt's point of view, and at that time i was so confused (which one is more likely to be close to reality since both seemed to have their own proofs?) but after this reading, (and after considering some of the examples like the pianist when we he tries to concentrate on his movements, he misses his good performance, and when we repeat a word several times focusing on the sound and the phonetiques, it sounds a hollow word without any meaning and this is what we can notice in everyday life), i know feel more comfortable with Gestalt's point of view towards our perception.

Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-10-26 10:36:37
Link to this Comment: 20771


Problems Concerning Tactic Understanding
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-10-26 11:01:56
Link to this Comment: 20772

Problems I have:

Is he for or against Positivism? If positivism means authentic knowledge can only come from positive affirmation through strict scientific methold which consists of observation, hypothesis, experiment, etc, then isn't this what he wants? On the other hand if you focus on the "strict scienctific method" part then Polyani seems to be against it which he says in the book "The ideal of exact science would turn out to be fundamentally misleadin and possibly a source of devastating fallacies".

I guess the confusion comes from my inadequate understanding of Positivism. Sigh...

Also it's very bold of him to say that you can have discoveries through utilizing the body in scientific pursuit. That is saying, yes discoveries are impossible in old philosophy---dualism, but it's okay for us so long as you use our philosophy---empiricism? Holism? (I'm not sure)


His Linguist/Scientist got a better of him. I just don't see his book as a complete philosophically developed work in that he make too many bold claims however genuis they are without rigorously backing them up. Unless he is playing a game with us that oh with Tactic Understanding, Formalization and Rigor are fallacious hence I'll just make a bunch of claims and you the reader through enaging in the experience of reading will know/understand more than you think you can through your unconciousness.

Common Traits

Both Polyani and Lakoff are overtly ambitious---they are trying to undo 2000 years of philosophy. He do not like Western Philosophy especially Rationalism and Cartesian Duality.

Tacit Knowledge and The Embodied Mind Theory are Empiricism in disguise.

Polyani and Lakoff's philosophy are of Eastern Influence.

Problems:Does this mean that they are Relativists? Are they Internalists or Externalists? Does this mean they are poseteri philosophies?


the unconscious and story telling
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-29 11:00:22
Link to this Comment: 20794

Interesting conversation last Thursday, from Polanyi and Lakoff/Johnson. IF "everything comes down to being human", then perhaps there is no "universal reason", since reason is a "product of our bodies." To the extent our bodies are similar, we would share "reason" (ie "stories"), and there certainly are lots of similarities in our bodies. But there are also differences, from the time we are born. Do we get more or less similar as we get older? Is culture perhaps a way of making us more similar than we start out being? Are we more or less similar consciously (in our "stories") or unconsciously?

I saw a very relevant play Thursday evening, Pillowman at the Wilma (see my thoughts about it). And that in turn reminded me of a relevant movie, Big Fish.

Lots to think about in all this. Thanks all for the conversation.

exploring the unconscious
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-10-31 08:53:22
Link to this Comment: 20820

Looking forward to hearing how you've all gotten started on our three week exploration of "tacit knowledge"/the unconscious. If you're still looking for ways to collect observations, here are some additional suggestions ... There's also a relevant article in todays New York Times Science Times: morality "inaccessible to the conscious mind"?

Vygotsky and Pinker should shed some additional light on the subject, and additional ways to explore it. Your thoughts from these readings here, for discussion on Thursday?

Name: DJ
Date: 2006-11-01 15:54:22
Link to this Comment: 20838

The reading was interesting, but I particularly liked the Oliver Sachs readings.
I won't lie -- Sachs has his flaws. For example, in his book about the deaf community, "Seeing Voices", he tries to be a sociologist even though he's just a neuroscientist and he also has insanely huge footnotes.
Sachs does has his flaws in these readings. In "The Last Hippie", he takes a very rigid view on what is "normal" and calls Greg a man without much of a life. Sure, to the outsider, Greg may seem pathetic, but we don't know what goes on inside of his head.
Notwithstanding Sach's flaws, his essays are absolutely fascinating. I have "Anthropologist on Mars" on my bookshelf, and I enjoyed reading these essays. I mean, Greg learns how to navigate the hospital without conscious thought? That's cool... and relates very well to our discussion.

Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-11-01 16:35:41
Link to this Comment: 20839

I really enjored this weeks reading. The things about children and their learning to speak. I had always thought that children learned language from their parents and surroundings. I idea that children learn to speak in grammatically correct forms even if there parent don't, is new. But, I think the authors give the children a little to much credit. Children that aren't around language at all, don't develop langauge at all. If you are all alone all the time language cannot be instict. If this is true, would such a child develop inner speach? Would they have thoughts at all, and if they could how could they be articulated?

Language and Speech
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-11-01 18:27:16
Link to this Comment: 20840

I enjoyed the first reading and found it interesting, although it was rather long and became muddled at the end. I liked how language and speech were analyzed as two different things, yet related at the same time. Examples make readings, especially these types of readings, so much easier. I appreciated and understood the examples used to portray how one's thought is translated into speech through a process. I specifically liked the examples about how people communicate with one another. I enjoyed the excerpt from Anna Karenina showing the unspoken communication between Kitty and Levin especially since I read the book last year and remember their conservation. Unspoken communication is definitely something I would love to be able to do.

Name: jessica
Date: 2006-11-01 22:35:53
Link to this Comment: 20843

The idea that has stuck with me, two hours after reading the passages, is Vygotsky's idea that "every sentence that we say in real life has some kind of subtext, a hidden meaning behind it." I applied that idea to how I use AIM; my away messages range from "showering!" to "waiting for someone to call..." to song lyrics. The latter types exemplify the idea of the hidden meanings behind what we say/express. I would leave the "All you need is love is a lie cause/We had a love but we still said goodbye/Now we're tired, battered fighters/And it stings when it nobody's fault/Cause there's nothing to blame/At the drop of your name, it's only the air you took/And the breath you left" message (lyrics by John Mayer, "Split Screen Sadness") when a former object of my affection was online but not speaking to me. To others, it was just words of a song, but to me... they said a lot more.

Having worked with young children in a production of "The Wizard of Oz," I felt that Vygotsky's ideas on how young children communicate were accurate to my experience. Our five through seven year old munchkins communicated much differently than the older (fifth and sixth grade) munchkins.

I also really enjoyed the Pinkler reading, but I was a little concerned about how he thinks language originated. In my anthropology class, we have talked about how we don't know, and cannot prove, if language originated before homo sapiens. It's postulated that FOX2P may be a gene that is involved with the development of language. There is a family that expresses a mutation of the FOX2P gene, and they suffer a severe, inherited language disorder. The form of FOX2P that humans carry is different from that in other animals. The reason homo sapiens may have survived beyond the other species of the genus homo may have to do with the evolution of anatomically modern humans who could communicate with language in Africa. In that sense, I do think that there is a reason to believe that language is innate - but I'm not sure whether I follow with it to the extent that Pinkler does.

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-11-01 22:50:25
Link to this Comment: 20844

I really liked the examples used in Thoguth & Word. They really helped to exemplify the points the reading was trying to make. I agree that people in close contact can often understand each other without consious thought but at the same time, two people can see one word and think completely differnt things. Everyone gives their own meanings to the same words. The idea that "Inner speech is speech almost without words" is intriguing and makes me think about my own thoughts. There are certainly times when I have thoughts floating through which are represented by simple images or singular words which encompass entire ideas.

I found Pinker's article interested but I also disagreed with many of his points. I doubt that "every sentence a person utters or nderstnads is a brand-new combination of words." Certainly some aspects of language are innate but how much can we truly attribute to in-born knowledge?

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-11-02 00:34:05
Link to this Comment: 20845

I found both of these readings really interesting. That word meaning was the unit to be looked at both makes sense and is a smart way of approaching this problem...He says that, "A word without meaning is an empty sound, no longer a part of human speech." Word meaning is the unit that combines both thought and speech, and I think that he has a found this unit really helps when he is making his argument. He goes on to talk about how real communication require meaning, which reminds me of an argument that Socrates makes a rhetoric vs. dialectic. He also strikes a very similar chord with Polanyi, when he talks about how thoughts must be generalized before they can be communicated to others, and since a person's experience resides only within his own consciousness, it is not communicable. Sound like the idea that we know more than we can tell? In addition he talks about how traditional psychology is flawed in separating intellect and affect, saying that this presumes that "thoughts think themselves" segregated from the fullness of life, etc...This sounds a lot like an embodied mind to me. I really like how he discusses how to children, their first word is a whole sentence, and vocal and semantic aspects of speech move in reverse directions, showing that language is not just thought that is said out loud. I think also that the way he shows that egocentric speech leads into and changes into inner speech, which is not just thinking out loud, is fascinating. In Pinker's reading, I really liked his idea that language was a product of evolution, and he brings up the point that language is just a quirk, an evolutionary adaptation that humans (simply a type of primate) had developed to communicate, like bats use sonar. I thought that what he had to say about grammar was absolutely amazing, it was something I've never heard before, and I don't quite get how it can arise so...innately, drawing from the environment, but I'm excited to buy this book and find out more about what he has to say.

Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-11-02 07:59:40
Link to this Comment: 20846

Langauge and Meaning

I am fascinated by the exchange between spoken word and thought and I really liked the discussion of them. As someone for whom words are particularly important I found it interesting to read about how children develop their speech and thought.

Two long pieces
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-11-02 08:56:39
Link to this Comment: 20847

1. According to Vtgosky, "signification independent of naming, and meaning independent of reference, appear later and develop along the paths we have attempted to trace and describe". Probably, most people will agree that this is a good thing. But the curious question is:

Does it mean this level of sophiscation can account for why people are more skeptic as they get older? Because they can find meaning without adhering to attributes since naming and significance are separate for them. but what are adults who have stopped developing emotionally and stayed emotionally as a child? Do they insist more on definite meanings corresponds to definite attributes?

Pinker's idea in his book is basically the same as Vtgosky's. But the problem is how can "inner speech" or "word as microcosm of human consciousness" account for perception? How can you account for thinking in pictures? True you can say that perceptual knowledge is founded on information from sensory mechanisms and percepion involves hypothesis formation (whenever this building is present I'm at fifth street) and hypothesis formation requires language in which it is formed. But this is saying perception precedes "inner speech" since the sensory mechanism is external and requires interaction with the physical word and "inner speech" is sentences in head this does not say that pictures emerge in the head in the first place right? The bottom line: When we think in pictures is this a kind of inner language?

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-11-02 11:27:18
Link to this Comment: 20849

We all know that communication is the key to success in this world. While reading the first passage, i reflected back on what we talked about in class about how you can learn a new language when you think unconsciously better then when you think consciously. I love how the author begins by telling us that people beleive that you learn a language(communication) when you think consciously, but then he states that "instinct" thinking... " makes sense of the phenomena we explore." "Thinking of language as instinct inverts popular wisdom..." In class i remeber how we mentioned that when you are around a language, and your constantly hearing it, you actually learn the language. (but your learning it unconsciously)

The i dea that "the human organism learns through experience..." interest me because i believe it is true. This is like saying that you learn from your mistakes. Most of the times i learn from my mistakes, i only would beable to learn from those mistakes by experience it.

Name: manal
Date: 2006-11-02 11:29:34
Link to this Comment: 20850

the first reading was interesting. the way the writer presents the idea of the interrelation between words and thoughts was amazing, especially with the example used. i was interested alot by the discussion of the inner speach. we all have inner speach but we have never thought how this inner speech comes and what are the differences between our external speech and the inner one. is it the unconcious which makes up our inner speech?
another thing was interesting was the idea that the subject and the predicate can be the same grammatically and psychologically if the speaker and the listener are very close in their thoughts. yet if they are far the subject and the predicat grammatically stay the same but psychologically differ (the example from Anna Carnina was pretty awesome to explain how people might understand each other with very abbreviated words when their thoughts are similar)

evolution of language
Name: Sarah
Date: 2006-11-02 11:29:36
Link to this Comment: 20851

I liked all the readings this week, the first one was especially interesting. I agree that speech and thought need to be taken and analyzed together, instead of as independently changing concepts.

It also made me think about a passage I read recently for archaeology about the evolution of language. Basically, the author states that cuneiform, the first script known to mankind, evolved from a mneumonic device in the form of pictures, i.e. a way to remember things one already knows, to a legitimate script with words instead of representations.
Vygotsky's article made me wonder if English was still evolving, because he notes how language is "generalized", and because of that, people can never really be sure of communicating to another person exactly what they had in mind. For example, children can't understand concepts that they haven't experienced yet, or don't have in their memories, even though they know the words used to explain them.
The other person may have different definitions or associations with the words used, and that would change the meaning of the communication. Is there another level of communication that will come about in the future, in which we will be closer to really understanding each other? I guess that would be like telepathy. But all good storytellers really can achieve that level with their writing/storytelling.

unconscious/conscious interplay
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-11-07 11:12:12
Link to this Comment: 20891

Seems to me we made some intriguing progress last week, concluding (?) that thought comes before language, and perhaps even originates in the unconscious? And that even language can sometimes be an expression of the unconscious, without thought? Which in turn raises some interesting questions, such as what are language and consciousness ("stories"?) good for? Particularly if " people in close contact can often understand each other without conscious thought"? Maybe a part of the answer to that question relates to our earlier idea that since reason "is a product of our bodies" there is no "universal reason"?

And maybe that in turn has something to do with what science (and other forms of inquiry?) are all about? Consciousness/story telling helps us to make sense of our experiences/observations and, with language, to compare/share observations/stories to see how similar they are and what new things we might make because of our differences? Maybe this image will help, and this one, and this one?

Looking forward to hearing the upshot of your different observations/stories of the unconscious. And to reading your thoughts Thursday about the Sachs readings. And the final version of your papers in which you take observations and stories of the unconscious of your own and relate them to those of others.

Space and the Unconscious
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-11-07 21:31:57
Link to this Comment: 20898

The readings on The Last Hippie and A Surgeon's Life were completely fascinating. I sympathize greatly with Greg and Dr.Bennett. I really admire Dr. Bennett's ability to overcome his circumstances. It seems that space plays a central role in both patients. Music is usually associated with one’s spatio-reasoning skills and in Dr. Bennett’s case he enjoys roaming through free-flowing space. This raises an interesting question---is our unconscious affected by our notion of or conditions in space?

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-11-08 01:25:28
Link to this Comment: 20900

I thought that this week’s readings were very insightful and interesting. The Last Hippie was a very sad narration that reminded me of books you read about spiritual enlightenment. I couldn’t help drawing the parallel between Greg and fictional characters like Siddhartha who consciously tried to clear their mind, and achieve a silly, happy, dream like trance of life, with no temptations or libido. It strikes me as ironic that the things we seek religiously to “find inner peace’ are in actually, very similar to the destruction of the “self” portion of the brain, the frontal lobe. I don’t know anyone who would say that they do not want to find an inner peace with themselves, and be content with the world and how it is, but I also do not know anyone who would want to lose themselves in the process. I think this example really shows the duality of ideals, in that we want to be completely ourselves but we also want to be completely at peace, but when we think about it, we don’t want one at the expense of the other, and I think they only exist that way. The idea of movement and music is also an interesting concept, one that the Awakenings discussed; it’s a sad concept that only through motion and music can some people recover some semblance of an identity and coherence.

lost... but still....
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-11-08 01:57:29
Link to this Comment: 20902

Interesting readings getting us through the personal experiences of people who have faced problems with their conscious states. When i was through the reading, some points and questions came to my head:
-this reading assignment puts us on a level of high coherence between science and unconscious, it relates the physical damage of some areas of our minds with the loss of conscious. and this leads me to the question: is the conscious/unconscious a physical or spiritual issue?
-something interesting about Greg is that although of his almost total loss and confusion, he was so energetic and vivid in musical domains. was his state is just a loss of conscious and thus with the music his unconscious was given a greater chance to focus on what he was once interested in?
-Greg had sometimes strong memories of the past but not the very present. does this assure Ribo's theory about the origin of memories (as being physical groves in one's brain that are related to some perceptions and enhanced by repition)?
-Greg was able to memorize some songs the first time he heard them, but then after a while when asked about the same songs, he wouldn't be able to remember anything. After that when they are repeated many times, he could create a memory of them. the first stage of memorizing the songs very quickly could be just an unconscious state, then when he was consciously asked to repeat the songs, he wasn't able to do so because his physical neurological damage caused him a state of conscious loss. The repition of the songs might have introduced a habit-like-state of unconscious and did make him recall the song!!!
i don't know, these are just ideas that came to my head, but i am eager to hear the discussion of the class on Thursday.

lost... but still....
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-11-08 01:58:12
Link to this Comment: 20903

Interesting readings getting us through the personal experiences of people who have faced problems with their conscious states. When i was through the reading, some points and questions came to my head:
-this reading assignment puts us on a level of high coherence between science and unconscious, it relates the physical damage of some areas of our minds with the loss of conscious. and this leads me to the question: is the conscious/unconscious a physical or spiritual issue?
-something interesting about Greg is that although of his almost total loss and confusion, he was so energetic and vivid in musical domains. was his state is just a loss of conscious and thus with the music his unconscious was given a greater chance to focus on what he was once interested in?
-Greg had sometimes strong memories of the past but not the very present. does this assure Ribo's theory about the origin of memories (as being physical groves in one's brain that are related to some perceptions and enhanced by repition)?
-Greg was able to memorize some songs the first time he heard them, but then after a while when asked about the same songs, he wouldn't be able to remember anything. After that when they are repeated many times, he could create a memory of them. the first stage of memorizing the songs very quickly could be just an unconscious state, then when he was consciously asked to repeat the songs, he wasn't able to do so because his physical neurological damage caused him a state of conscious loss. The repition of the songs might have introduced a habit-like-state of unconscious and did make him recall the song!!!
i don't know, these are just ideas that came to my head, but i am eager to hear the discussion of the class on Thursday.

Oliver Sacks readings
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-11-08 10:53:37
Link to this Comment: 20907

I really enjoyed these readings. The Last Hippie showed the hopelessness when someone loses the ability to remember cognitivley. I think Greg's subconscious knew parts of the past, which is why he looked for things in the middle of the night without knowing what he was looking for. Greg's unconscious must have known that his father was dead. The reading about Bennet and tourette's was fasinating. At first if I were a patient I would feel more than a little scared to have Bennet oberate on me. If many people with Tourette's live allmost normal lives and are in all sorts of careers, then why haven't I ever met anyone with Tourette's? Is is possible that Bennets ability to calm down and not tic at times in uncommon for people with Tourettes?

Oliver Sachs
Date: 2006-11-08 20:48:04
Link to this Comment: 20927

Like Anna, I was really struck by the tragedy in Greg's story in "The Last Hippie." It's interesting to consider how in the case of Greg and Dr. Bennett, certain personality traits are controlled for in the brain. Lobotomies and heavy sedation "murder" patients by dimming their personalities, leaving them apathetic and calm. Greg's frontal lobe damage leaves him "disinhibited" and a "slave of his immediate whims and impulses"; Bennett's Tourette's Syndrome leaves his mind restless, detail-oriented, and questioning - characteristics that make him a good surgeon. I have to wonder as to what extent our personalities are hardwired into our brains. How much of my personality is determined by my brain? How much is determined by my experiences?

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-11-08 20:48:38
Link to this Comment: 20928

Sorry, the previous post is mine!

The Last Hippie
Name: maggie
Date: 2006-11-08 23:26:54
Link to this Comment: 20937

I found this weeks readings very interesting. It was especially intriguing to see how music/rhythm played a big part of controlling and helping the people in both stories. The Last Hippie was very sad because although Greg seemed to know things subconsciously he could never reconcile those ideas with his conscious and current thought. I also thought it was very interesting how tourettes can be controlled or minimized by a person to a point but at the same time the movements are uncontrollable.

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-11-08 23:35:22
Link to this Comment: 20938

I really enjoyed these readings. These readings answered the question that i have been trying to figure out. There is a big difference between our unconscious and conscious mind. How in the world did Greg remeber his father after he experienced what he did. How could he have feelings for him? This have to be is unconscious mind. But how?

How can greg "adapt and some how absorbe some of his surroundings"? Is this his conscious mind or unconscious? I think his unconscious mind.

"I know many people with Tourette's who cannot tolerate sitting in a resturant..." What is telling them to do this?

From the unconscious/story teller to culture
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-11-14 09:40:46
Link to this Comment: 20978

Saw an interesting movie on unconscious/conscious/story telling last week: Stranger Than Fiction. Put me in mind of an earlier movie, also about the interplay among stories and life: Adaptation. Also highly recommended, on the same theme, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 7:30, Goodheart).

That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,

So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

And that in turn raises our next (and final) topic for our course: culture. What is culture, how does one explore it/tell stories about it? What role does it play in the unconscious, the conscious, story telling? Some possible ways to think about it are here and here.

Looking forward to what other ways we can come up with. Your thoughts based on some professional explorers of culture (anthropologists), Geertz and Silko, for discussion Thursday?

culture readings
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-11-15 16:10:15
Link to this Comment: 21001

In both of the readings I was struck by how much more family/village based the societies were. With modern transportation and movement not being close to your family, not thinking like them, disagreeing with the them seems very plausable. I have many many cousins but I wouldn't always agree with them and vote for them just because they are my cousins. More so with my town I wouldn't support something or someone just because they are from the same place as me. Both the Pueblo and Bali cultures seemed very family/village orented. The Pueblo stories are told through families and of there own families. In the Balanies cock fights it's part of the rules to rot for the home team even if you don't think they will win. Loyalties are stronger there, it feels like here loyalty generally only extends to your immediate family.

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-11-15 18:06:12
Link to this Comment: 21003

I think the Pueblo idea of the never ending story is very interesting. Certainly most stories in life seem to have almost no beginning or end and I think they are probably more observant and aware because of their tendency to tell stories. I also found the importance of control very interesting in the Bali culture. They seem to have a very strict cultural structure which includes many rules, both apparent and unspoken but at the same time they have found a way to express themselves with "Deep Play."

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-11-15 19:09:06
Link to this Comment: 21004

Both of these stories seemed to stress a feeling of community and family. In the first one, I liked how they talked about how even bad stories are kept and remembered, not to be malicious, but because it was a way to give perspective to their own actions. The author says, "If othere have done it before, it cannot be so terrible." Their stories serve the same purpose as fairytales do then, to show people that evryone does bad things, to show that there is evil out there, and that it can be overcome. I think today in the USA especially we try to hide anything bad that has happened in the past, or we use it to be malicious, we never use it to normalize what we are doing, which I think might help our culture. In the second story I like that fact that once the outsiders ran away from the police with the locals that they were considered "in", it shows how community focused the community is. I also thought that their attempt to create as equal a fight, "deep play", they could come up with was an interetsing expression of their values. That money was the most loseable thing to them, as opposed to honor and masculinity, shows a real character trait. I also thought it was real interesting that the author compared a cockfight to a novel, saying that it does for them what a novel does for other people, and that it "displays social passions."

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-11-15 21:46:45
Link to this Comment: 21005

The Pueblo idea of telling the bad stories and the good stories really reminded me of my high school track and cross-country coach. He maintained that he always had the right to use you as an example. If you did something good, you were portrayed in a good light; if you screwed up, he used you as a bad example. In that way, we were able to learn from Tracy Early, the school record holder in the 200 and 400, that it's important to put in extra work. From the 1988 team, which has our school's only xc state title, we learned about commitment. (That team practiced at 6am in August, which had a record-breaking heat wave that summer.) We were also able to learn from the 1986 team, which was third in the state but ranked first throughout the year, to keep our attitudes in check. From the three Mueller sisters, we learned how negative energy spoils the whole team. The most insulting thing you could me told about your attitude was that you reminded a coach of Veronica Mueller! I think it's important to have an oral tradition that's fair, like the Pueblo tradition.

I noticed that both authors focused on one aspect of their culture - in the first, storytelling, and in the second, cock fighting - that really defines it. It's exactly how I tried to relate Southeast Michigan to the automobile. The two are so intricately bound in ways people don't easily recognize.

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-11-15 22:20:33
Link to this Comment: 21007

I found these stories interesting and easy to follow. I agree that stories never ends and stories always change. Pueblo's reading reminded me our class discussions on how everything is a story. As time passes by stories and new cultures began to form. Stories are important Because " Through storytelling, brings us together,despite great distances between cultures, despite great distance in time".

I found while reading "Deep Play" that the observations of different cultures can tell you a lot, including a story. I found it really funny that as Geertz and his wife observed a fight and the cops came they had to run and act as if they were not at the fight. I found it really odd that the people of Balinese did not react towards Geertz and his wife until after they escaped from the fight. I think the reason for this is becasue the people of Balinese did not think that they were not like them, and that they would have to experience what they go through in order to prove to them that they were like them. I love Greetz qoute "...societies, like lives, contain their own interpretations. One has only to learn how to gain access to them." I believe that what he is trying to say is that people can form their own cultures and character because everyone is different.

Date: 2006-11-16 09:20:37
Link to this Comment: 21008

I am particularly drawn to the first reading and the part about telling stories and it not bein purely for children. I believe that we are all defined by the stories we tell to and about ourselves, the stories our families tell, and we all have them whether or not we recognise them, and the stories our families will not tell.

The emphasis on family and that connection speaks to me on a very personal level, it is a different view of the world--one not often portrayed in pop-culture. Though I would argue that in certain lights the importance of family is massive within American culture and it is merely a matter of recognising out that is expressed.

Name: Ivana
Date: 2006-11-16 09:54:21
Link to this Comment: 21009

Both readings were about a tradition that , while not unheard of in American or European cultures, plays a special part in the specific communities. For the Pueblo Indians, storytelling is used to reflect and put into perspective current events and emotions, while cockfighting is a symbolic event depicting metaphors for unexpressed animalistic tendencies in individuals and tensions within the social structure. But traditions reveal communal attitudes (Clifford Geertz says that cockfighting is like an anthropological text), a sort of communal consciousness.

complete integration
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-11-16 10:58:28
Link to this Comment: 21011

while reading both readings,i felt that they are from the past. or they are just stories about some people here or there. but in fact, it is a true story of people living and existing. the culture in these places whether India or Bali have a specific meaning. people are more close to each other to an extent where the individual is integrated in his community and never defined by his own characteristics but by his own community. so the individual's understanding and conscious of things is that of his group. in the second reading there was a concentration on the animalistic concerns in the individual which asserts Freud conception of the unconscious.

i felt that although these readings are more about cultures and anthropology, but still they are in direct contact with the previous topics of conscious/unconscious (they arouse the idea of group conscious and Freud ideas about unconscious) and at the same time they were presented as "stories"!

Pueblo Reading
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-11-16 11:17:14
Link to this Comment: 21012

I found reading abut the Pueblo perspective very interesting. Like most, I thought the author's idea that a story is never ending was interesting. What I especially liked was when the author stated : "In fact, a great deal of the story is believed to be inside the listener; the storyteller's role is to draw the story out of the listeners." This a very unique and interesting perspective on storytelling; it brings storytelling to life. A good storyteller captivates his or her readers. On the other hand, the second reading was a bore. It offered a great and thorough examination of culture, but personally, I did not like the content.

Observations on Readings
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-11-18 19:15:21
Link to this Comment: 21019

Silko writes from an "insider's" perspective whereas Geertz writes from an "outsider's" perspective. Silko having a certain audience in mind writes in a very professional way as someone very knowledgeable in both Native American namely Pueblo culture and Anglo American Culture. Yet she can't help but to let her Pueblo style flow out.

I find Geertz's writing a bit more disturbing. He gave this instance about running away from the Javanese police who were ordered by the Dutch, the White Men to stop cock-fights which they consider to be base. This gives an impression that Geertz sympathize the Bali people which in turn might mean that he tries to assimilate into their culture. Yet he still writes from a White Man's perspective. Thus one can't help but question whether animality is a valid account of the Balinese or not. That is, are they really what Geertz sees them to be? He just make them sound so base. Or is this now my own bias?

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-11-21 17:06:12
Link to this Comment: 21157

This essay brought up some really interesting points that I have never thought of before. There are obviously two sides to every story, and that can apply to what we see as disabilities as well as more obvious things. I thought his discussion about the deaf community on Martha’s vineyard was refreshing optimistic, and opened up the possibility of “disabilities” not being disabilities. He said, “People in all cultures can use established cultural forms to disable each other.” That statement is sad, but true, people use the established order to make others appear disables for a variety of different “reasons.” When this happens, a society can consistently deliver a view of people as less than they are. While at times I thought he was being too fair and balanced, too eager to think that, nothing is a disability, he does bring himself down to reality. He states that in order for some to succeed, some need to fail, and although this is how our system works, hopefully we can learn from what we used to think (it’s a problem with THEM) to, “What is right with them that they can tell us so well about the world we have all inherited.”

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-11-21 21:00:08
Link to this Comment: 21158

I thought the way the reading looked at disabilities in a cultural way was interesting. It was encouraging to hear about the experience on Martha's Vineyard but it seems that would be unrealistic in todays world - our society is not willing to slow down or change in order to benefit one population unless that includes themselves. This can be beneficial, especially economically, but as the article says, it can be very detrimental. I liked the idea that the coherence of culture "is never simply the property of individual persons." Everyone contributes, both bad and good, everyone is responsible and everyone has the power to make changes.

Thoughts on Culture as Disability
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-11-22 01:49:48
Link to this Comment: 21160

Culuture as Disability is certainly a story and a striking and stimulating one. As a story it really appeals to me. I actually spent a fair amount of time thinking about problems in school my whole life. Homeschooling was the right choice for me after going to public school from grade school through middle school. I really didn't like the Deprivation and Difference explanation during my search and concluded that something is wrong with the instituition. Now after reading this I see that institution can be analyzed in a cultural context. This is truly remarkable.


Quote1: "People are only incidentally born or early enculturated into being different"

Just to make sure, Is this an externalist point of view?

Quote2: "By dictates of the culture, in American education, everyone must do better than everyone else"

Is this the belief hold by Bryn Mawr as a subset of the American Education as an Instituition?

Quote3: "The culture that promises equality of opportunity while institutionalizing opportunities for less than half of the people to be successful in schools is a culture that invites a category, ..."

What is the key word here, I think,is equality. Equality is a concept based in a philosophy that define category as constituting essenses. That everyone have a divinely endowed soul, rational capicity, etc and that such essence is derived from another external source. But what about another philosophy that doesn't define category as essences and that it lacks equality? These two philosophy tend to manifest in Western and Eastern Civilizations/Cultures? So is philosophy a product of culture or something on its own terms?

Quote4: "...the way they resis the constraints that they cannot ignore, the withering scorn of Balzac's slave boy, the ways they resist being made into less than they are. Anthropological work must begin with, but not stop with a celebration of their resistance"

Coupled with tQuote3, does it sounds like a libertarian, radical revolutionary, or to be bold, even a socialist propaganda (for the lack of a better word) to you? "Resistance", "equal", "opportunities", "less than half" all sounds like political, economic terms. Interestingly enough, aren't the authors commenting/critizing political and economic/social


backwards and forwards
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-11-24 09:25:52
Link to this Comment: 21167

Interesting thought from last Tuesday's class, that inquring into the unconscious and inquiring into culture ("telling stories" about each) have some interesting similarities. One is that we're so used to/embedded in each that its at first hard to figure out how to do it. Second is that a trick in both cases is to find a way to imagine things as other than one is used to their being. And third is that if one can do it, one can find in each both "good" things and "bad", and hence acquire some ability to change each? Along the latter two lines, looking forward to more thoughts about "Culture as Disability".

Culture As Disability
Date: 2006-11-24 18:15:48
Link to this Comment: 21171

I've read this before, in May. I randomly stumbled across it on Serendip.

I like this article because I think it applies really, really, really well to Deaf culture. (Capitalized "Deaf" means the culture, while lower case "deaf" is anyone who can't hear.)

I'm not exactly a Deaf person, because I've been mainstreamed all my life, but I can go back and forth between the Deaf and Hearing world easily. I've noticed that, at the Deaf summer camp that I went to every summer, everyone was so comfortable. Then when they have to go out into the hearing world and talk... most of these kids don't talk very often, so it's really an effort for them to talk. In the hearing world, the inability to talk is a disability. In the Deaf world, people don't use voice to communicate (although we do make funny noises sometimes), so it's not a big deal. Different tasks, different definitions of "disability".

Name: DJ Crosby
Date: 2006-11-25 13:47:53
Link to this Comment: 21172

Right, that was me who talked before.

disability reading
Name: Jen
Date: 2006-11-25 16:12:08
Link to this Comment: 21173

I found this reading to be very interesting. It never appealed to me that what society defines as 'disabled' or 'disability' might not even be one at all. I also kind of liked the basic theory that with the lack of comparison, there really was no argument on what may be better than the other. "No ability, no disability. No disability, no ability. No sightedness, no blindness." It was kind of refreshing and enlightening to go through this reading most particularly because it helped me to look at the concept of 'disability' in a completely new aspect.

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-11-26 19:51:18
Link to this Comment: 21178

I agree with Jen...I have never look at disability this way, as a culture but it all makes since now. I like when the author wrote "...but every culture, we must acknowledge, also gives, often daily and eventually always, a blind, a def ear, a learning problem, and a physical handicap. Having a disability is a part of ones culture. Without disabilities there wouldn't be any abilities in ones culture and vice versa. He writes "No ability, no disability. No disabilty, no ability.

I also liked when the author qouted from Langston Hughes "it is such a bore, being always poor." then he writes "painful too, but it is a fully cultured position, one among mutually well organized. What other way to react to towards Shirley Brice Heath...her stating that african american children were unfortuante to be different. That dissapointed me because for one I am African American. I have been through a lot in my life to but im in college right now setting a example for others of my kind. How unfortuante is that?????

This reading defiantly caught my attention...i see different point of views about culture and how it is a disability.

Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-11-27 07:53:25
Link to this Comment: 21185

What this reading really highlighted for me, added a new demension to in my mind is the American trend of exoticism. Disabilities are somethign different, strange, out of the ordinary, special, disturbing, fascinating, exotic--so says mainstream culture. I find this a particularly dangerous trend.

For example, take a look at books that have come out in teh last five years about Afghanistan; virtually all of them have pictures of women in veils on them. In fact, most books about the Middle East and eastern Central Asia have pictures of chadors on them. This is feeding into the America fascination with teh veil, but it is not educating, not giving insight, not showing anything about how the culture sees itself. All this does is encourage the exoticism of teh veil.

Or for another example: the rates of ADD and ADHD diagnosis have been rising. One of my favorite quotes is one from my dad (a psychologist) saying when the parents of a bouncing, hyper-active, wild, maniacle, pestersom child were asked what medication they were putting him on they responded, "We're from the generation where you medicate the parents, not the kids." But speaking seriously, there is a trend to admire, hype-up "disabilities" in America. In some other cultures no such "disabilities" exist.

I am disturbed by the fascination with "disabled" people because rather than encouraging these semi social-outsiders (as viewed by the culture) to integrate, it highlights their differences, reducing them to these "disabilities" rather than taking them tacitly in.

I cannot say where this exoticism comes from, nor can I say to what degree it does or does not exist in other cultures. Part of me thinks it is similar to fascination with other kinds of social deviants such as the Beat Poets, or Mormons, or Amish, or artists--people who do not live within the rules of mainstream America.

Disibility and Culture
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-11-27 16:59:00
Link to this Comment: 21191

The disibility reading was very informative and made me think of how we treat people around us. I am especially interested in disibiliies caused by culture like anarexea. If our curture didn't place so much value in being skinny people would be less likely to get those sorts of disorders. Also many on the things we define as disibilities aren't at all they are just differences. People with differences are often able to create and do more amazing things than those with out a "disability", like most great composers and some artest. Composers and artest seem to have a lot of "disabilities" and yet are some to the most talented, well known people. The article suggests that we should look at all disabilities just as differences. I disagree because some things really are inhibitors no matter what culture one is in.

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-11-27 22:10:17
Link to this Comment: 21194

I thought the timing of this essay went realy well with my anthropology course, where we've just begun to cover the rise of the state as a result of agriculture. The rise of the state might as well be called the rise of civilization. Civilization is a very interesting concept - it lends itself to the verb "to civilize," which has dangerous ethnocentric connotations. I think ethnocentrism is what the essay is trying to address - that it's dangerous to look at the world from the perspective of one's own culture. If we look at culture as though our culture is the center of the universe, it will be disabling. One aspect I notice about culture as a disability is the way we look at immigrants. Immigrants who aren't legal residents are "aliens." Many Native American's tribe names mean "the people" or "the original people" and the other local tribes are seen as intruders and outsiders.

On an completely different train of thought, the article made me think of amputees and their place in society.

culture as disability
Name: manal
Date: 2006-11-27 22:53:13
Link to this Comment: 21195

i liked this reading, because it seems that it added something to my understanding of the world around me. it has shown me another way in looking at things. i have never thought that culture might be the cause of one's disability. yet it seems true. i was looking at disability as a biological consequence but never as a social consequence. but now i can relate disability to culture in some personal experience with my nephew. he is always told by people around him that he is not smart and he is lazy, and now i think that he becomes really lazy, although i believe that he is very good but just need more time to do academics than others do. on the contrary, he shows a high level of smartness when he is playing or doing some tricks.

i liked the quote:" A fact is like a sack which won't stand up when it is empty. in order that it may stand up, one has to put into it the reason and sentiment which have caused it to exist." i feel that the world is never looking for the reason or the sentiment. in contrast, there are many taken into granted "facts".

Culture as a Disability
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-11-27 23:10:26
Link to this Comment: 21196

I enjoyed this reading because it introduced a lot of different and unique perspectives on culture and how disability within a cuture is defined. For instance, the example and lesson learned from the one-eyed man tumbling into "the Country of the Blind" was insightful. The one-eyed man viewed the blind condition as a disabling feature of culture and felt that because of this, his sight put him at an advantage over the blind. Little did he know that it was he who was "blind" in respect to his narrow-mindedness. Another great example of a supposedly disabling feature of culture was illiteracy. The illiterate exterminators did know their craft; they just did not understand the wording and phrasing on the standardized tests. Therefore, they were not able to translate their knowledge of their craft into correct answers on the tests. "Not only is our wisdom not total, there is yet much to be learned from others." Thus it is true, "the perfect unit for displaying such instinct and insight is what anthropologists call 'culture'." This selection eloquently encourages tolerance and open-minded towards different cultures.

Culture as a disability
Name: Nimrah
Date: 2006-11-27 23:14:51
Link to this Comment: 21197

I think that the reading was one of the best this year because it applies to the society we exist in today. I liked how the authors described how culture and society have been set up to measure success and failure, and how everything is defined by those two. There is way too much focus on reward and a pressure to measure up against strict and rigid standards.
I always thought that being in a culture you identify with is like being home and in a comforting environment. But this reading offered a different perspective and explained how culture can be harmful to those who are 'different'.
I like how there are examples in the reading to demonstrate points; the exterminator example especially helped show how the same results could be achieved with a different method.
Culture starts becoming a disability when it becomes a part of its inhabitants, rather than they becoming a part of it.

Name: ivana
Date: 2006-11-28 11:09:03
Link to this Comment: 21202

The authors of Culture as a Disability have a very interesting perspective. I can understand how certain sociopolitical or economic agendas in institutions such as schools, or other aspects of a "Culture", can exacerbate differences between people, highlighting the Abled and the Disabled. However, while reading the article, I had certain problems and/or questions: Life is sort of a pass/fail game; it is not always Culture that creates Abled/Disabled categories. Weaknesses are not always balanced out by extra Strengths. Is it worth it to forget certain institutional conventions in order to eliminate Disabilities in a culture? (ex: Should literacy be abandoned in order to eliminate illiteracy?) How can we change as a culture in order to not create disabilities in individuals?

and on ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-11-30 11:03:44
Link to this Comment: 21239

Interesting issue, "can we change as a culture in order not to create disabilities in individuals" (see Must cultures disable? and following). Is that the problem that Olamina sets herself to solve in Parable of the Sower? What kind of story is that novel? A fairy tale? Memoir? Science? Anthropology? Conscious or unconscious? Your thoughts about the book, along these or any other lines?

Name: Anna Lehr
Date: 2006-12-03 09:23:23
Link to this Comment: 21248

Olamina sets herself the task of saving the world, as much of it and what way she can. Earthseed is the story that she discovers in the world and it is her absolute belief in Earthseed and in the need for it that drives her. She simply will not give up, realistic, idealistic, and full of her vision, Olamina can draw other people to Earthseed because she is so capable of takign advantage of the situation. They are lost (mentally), broken, and desperate, but there is the smallest sliver of hope in each of the people she gathers. This hope, sad and down trodden as it is, is just enough for them to latch onto her vision.

So this story is a fairytale, but it is also an anthropology story, and also a memoir.

Olamina is hindered at times by her sharing, but I am not sure it is really a disability. I do not think the purpose of the book is to address the issue of how culture address differences and creates disabilities, but there are nonetheless hints of it in the book.

Parable of the Sower
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-12-03 11:44:13
Link to this Comment: 21249

Parable of the Sower is a book about Lauren starting a new story, but I don't agree with of like the new story she was trying to promote. I found the whole idea of earthseed kind of juvenille, if someone wants to be a leader and be followed they must prove themselves and have extrodinary powers of leadership and wisdom. I don't see these things in Lauren. I dislike the way she thinks and I don't think most people have that type of thought process. She seemed really fake to me and earthseed, just a journal. What reason do people have to follow earthseed, none. It makes no sense. Lauren says the future of earthseed is in the stars, but there is no possible way she or anyone else is going to get to space when they are struggleing to feed themselves. Lauren isn't changing the worlds story or the nations story all she is changing is her own.

Name: maggie
Date: 2006-12-04 20:11:34
Link to this Comment: 21254

I found the Parable a very interesting read - I think it includes many aspects of what we've been talking about this semester. Earthseed seems to have originated in Olamina's unconscious and then was worked over in her conscious until she could share it with others. The book is a memoir of Olamina's journey and it speaks to a certain degree of the disabilities faced by mixed couples, weaker people (women, mothers), sharers when taken as slaves. Parts of Earthseed seem, as Olamina says, to be common sense but other parts seem to run in circles without making an meaning and the final destiny is never truly divulged ... how would it really be accomplished and to what extent is she just trying to start her own utopian society?

Parable of the Sower
Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-12-04 20:43:21
Link to this Comment: 21255

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed reading this novel. I thought the ideas presented were all very interesting: the notion of God as change as well as the context for the book, a situation where global warming has apparently become so bad that the environment changed rapidly and water and resources are scarce. Very interesting.

There were clear parallels between Olamina and Galileo and Square - they were taught one thing but discovered a different story. However, instead of announcing it like Galileo and Square, Olamina develops her story and starts off sharing it cautiously with Zahra and Harry, and once she had support, began to share it with the others. I agree with a lot of Maggie's observations on the parallels between the course and Parable of the Sower; the novel combines many of the different topics we've explored as a class. We could play anthropologist and observe Olamina's culture. There are Maggie's observations on the overlapping between conscious/unconscious and the origins of Earthseed, and there is the fact that Lauren dared to tell a different story. Like Anna L said, the book is part fairy tale, part memoir (Lauren's), and part anthropological text.

Parable of the Sower
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2006-12-04 21:04:20
Link to this Comment: 21256

Parable of the Sower has been the most interesting book I've read this year. It is horribly amazing. The story itself was gripping, yet Lauren's story of Earthseed is not original, but adapted from her community which was violently uprooted from beneath her feet. Although I enjoyed the Earthseed passages at the beginning of every chapter so much that I thought about reading more by Octavia Butler, the idea of an Earthseed community is rather simple. As an idea, there's not much to it. Rather the difficulty, in Lauren's case, lies in surviving long enough to establish a community. What I admire about Lauren is her cunning wit,her determination to survive, her faith, and her ability as a leader, not so much her idea of Earthseed.

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-12-04 23:59:39
Link to this Comment: 21257

This book was very interesting, and I saw a lot of similarities to the ideas we have discussed in other readings. While the world was in tumult and going backwards, it really brought people’s prejudices and natural instincts for survival out. Although it seems like you shouldn’t be pleased that someone can kill someone, I was pleased that the main character was able to take control of the group, and was able to kill others that attacked her. She was strong and smart, more so than many of the men, and in this book, while other prejudices came out (against black people, Hispanic, mixed race couples, etc) there was not (or maybe you didn’t see) people being very prejudiced against women. Guns leveled the playing field for women I think, as did the fact that they had been educated as much as men had. So while the conditions were similar to those of a younger America, with slavery and riots, and a weak federal government, it shows that women could hold their own in this violent land because they had an equal background. The author brings up the idea of action, which reminds me of what I wrote for one of my papers. I talked about how action was needed to take conscious thought and move it to the unconscious. The author says, “Earthseed deals with ongoing reality, not with supernatural authority figures. Worship is no good without action. With action, it’s only useful if it steadies you, focuses your efforts eases your mind.” Her idea of a perfect religion/way of life, is one that is in agreement with how the conscious and unconscious mind works, through action, and action taking reality and incorporating it into oneself.

Name: Shanika
Date: 2006-12-05 00:25:15
Link to this Comment: 21258

How can you loose every single member of family and still have the motivation to live and form your own religion? Your own culture? How could you feel the pain of others and still be able to survive? This reading interested me a lot. She was motivated to form her own way of living…her own culture, some fiction world that would some day become nonfiction. Earthseed.
Leadership is important to survival.
Its kind of hard living in a community where violence triggers many people motives and not be a part of the violence. There aren’t many people or enough people like her around.
She is unique…

Believing that god is change and everything around her was change explains why her attitude was like it was. She always wanted to justify why the world was the way it was.
Will an Earthseed ever exist? Will a culture ever be formed like hers?

Foolish Thoughts
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-12-05 02:02:30
Link to this Comment: 21259

I'm experiencing "reader's block" (if such thing exists) right now.

I agree with Stacy.

Parable does not strike me as science fiction. On the ground that is lack the imaginative elements exemplified by typical science fiction. Although it have elements such as space exploration, still it does not pose any novel way for people to think about science. It doesn't add anything new to science. Stuff like dimensions, temporal warp, new machineries are more convincing as what a scientific novel should be. Rather Butler's novel is more politically focus. Forgive me for offending any of you but this is Hippie/Liberal Literature. I hear the chants of "Black Power, The Government Sucks! Feminists Rule!"

Several of us asked why we are assigned to this book and the reply was along the lines of "Octavia Butler is an interesting women. She is Black. She writes science fiction. She won a MacArthur Grant". I must be misinterpreting what you mean but it sounds like "Octavia Butler is an interesting science fiction writer because she is Black". Then isn't this disturbing then. Someone is unique not because how good she is but because she is of particular type.

Maggie wrote "The book is a memoir of Olamina's journey and it speaks to a certain degree of the disabilities faced by mixed couples, weaker people (women, mothers), sharers when taken as slaves".

Surely you don't mean you are a weaker kind or that your mom is weak. If you don't then an interesting thing arises. Although Feminists strive for Independence, Strength, and Self-Empowerment, it seems that underneath it all they must feel that they are inadequate one or another. Because if otherwise, then I don't need to shout to the street and prove to the world that as a women I'm strong. I don't need to be angry because I'm a women. I don't need to prove to anyone that because I'm black or white or whatever that I must succeed because my success should not be contingent upon these things. By showing that you don't care is really showing that you do care.

Yo Check This Out
Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-12-05 02:04:45
Link to this Comment: 21260

Can you believe it? There is actually a real-life religion derived from Earthseed? What's creepy about it is that there are actually followers of this religion?

Name: manal
Date: 2006-12-05 11:24:35
Link to this Comment: 21263

i liked the story "Parable of the sower". but i was lost sometimes, the events are to happen in the future, but still the events sometimes seem as if they were of the past. i liked her originality in trying to create a new "story", to change the culture she lived in, to create life to the people who became just followers to certain rules and certain style of living.

i liked her rebellious attitude towards her dull life in the neighborhood and how she wanted to extend people's dimensions to a new thing found beyond these walls of the disabling culture which they themselves have created. Parable reminded me of Flatland in some sense. and it could be also a memoir. so it comes up with almost everything we have been talking about all the semester.

Bryn Mawr?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-12-07 10:55:43
Link to this Comment: 21282

Before reading the assignments for this week, think a little bit about your own experience with Bryn Mawr so far .... what kind of culture is it? what's its "story"? In what ways is it, in your experience so far, abling and disabling? Unconsciously? Consciously? And then jot down here some thoughts about the ways that things in the readings confirm your sense of Bryn Mawr, or surprise you about it, or both.

Bryn Mawr Culture
Name: Stacy
Date: 2006-12-11 00:12:09
Link to this Comment: 21292

I found the reading about the college very interesting. M Carrie Thomas sounds like a pretty scary person. She toke the college away from what its founders first intended. I don't think she was exactly right in doing this and I don't think Bryn Mawr really benefitted from her dictator like leadership. Other colleges that didn't take such a progressive stance have done very well and many have surpassed Bryn Mawr in rankings. Our schools have huge endowements. Bryn Mawr students don't give back to the school like alumni do from other colleges. This suggests that either students have very fond feeling toward the college after graduating or that students are not getting highly compensated jobs or not wanting them. All of these reasons don't compliment Bryn Mawr as a college.
The culture of Bryn Mawr as it is today I can see has been very much shaped by its progressive history. Many of the distingtive parts or Bryn Mawr culture that have resulted from the past I don't appricate. The school hasn't changed over time as much as I thought it would. Bryn Mawr culture shouldn't only strive to be accepting of every one, it should try and make people feel that this is home and a place they feel comfortable in. The college needs to make students confident enough to try new things and experience all that they can in college. So far I am not feeling this. The culture at Bryn Mawr makes me wonder if I belong in it. And right know I don't thing I exactly do.

Name: Anna G
Date: 2006-12-11 18:27:26
Link to this Comment: 21298

The history of Bryn Mawr college that we read about in these articles was completely fascinating. I thought it was funny that men were trying to found a school for women, like they were children or dogs who could not possibly have an opinion on that matter. In setting up the school in the very beginning they talked about things that are still true today, about its closeness with Haverford and with the city of Philadelphia both being attractive features for prospective students. I liked that they realized they could “not let the lower school denigrate the higher,” and set high standards for entrance. I thought it was also funny that the men wanted to create cottages for women that would remind them of home and assuage their nervousness about foraying into the academic world, when the women themselves did not want (as Thomas showed) to be reminded of home or domestication but of what they were there for, academics. I thought that Thomas’ childhood dreams were something to be admired, and something that I could really relate with. Her statement, “Science and literature and philosophy are what they are and inalterable.” I like that she believed, as the article said in “no separate women’s culture.” She was willing to stand up and say that women could handle what men could, and did not need any special catering too. The institution that she created went on to offer a summer school to factory workers, and the examples of that were very moving. I believe in education for education’s sake, and the fact that Bryn Mawr was able to give factory workers this, is pretty incredible.

BMC Culture
Name: maggie
Date: 2006-12-12 00:31:13
Link to this Comment: 21299

I found these articles to be very informative about the college's history and really interesting. It was interesting to see the college from the perspective of its original founders and see what changed over time. I think Bryn Mawr's progressive beginnings do still show in its culture today but I see them in a favorable light. Like Anna, I think Thomas' dreams as a young girl were inspiring and I can remember planning out my future hopes/dreams in a similar manner. I thought it was very interesting that Thomas was trying to truly create an equal education with other universities instead of catering to the "delicacies and nervousness" of women and I think this has had an impact on Bryn Mawr's culture today.

Name: Jessica
Date: 2006-12-12 09:56:30
Link to this Comment: 21313

Before this reading, I hadn't thought about Bryn Mawr's history, which I was about to become a part of. I didn't put it into the context of reform initiatives and opportunities for women... I hadn't thought about it very much at all. I feel more connected with the college now that I have seem this glimpse of the past.
Like Anna and Maggie, I too thought that M. Cary Thomas's persistence was admirable. I like that she had her vision for educating a woman, and that she stuck to it. Anna makes a really interest point: what authority to these old men have in designing a women's college? Were they once women, too? No. Did they survey a bunch of educated women how they would like to see a women's college? No. So M. Cary Thomas, clearly brimming with opinions and ideas for reform after her own struggle to get her Ph. D., was it. I'm glad she stuck to her guns and created a college with a unique character and history.

Bryn Mawr Culture
Name: Manal
Date: 2006-12-12 10:29:23
Link to this Comment: 21314

i liked the bulletins about the summer school program the most. i liked how bryn mawr had this historical role in educating women who didn't have the equal chance to learn, yet they have the abilities and will to do.

i haven't thought of bryn mawr history. i was thinking of it as a culture now and i found it a small community. i found that people are stuck with the idea that they are women and they should prove that they are able to do what men once thought that they can't do. and this meets with the history of bryn mawr. so they put a lot of effort into it. this effort and hard work keep them busy all the time and make them lose the other side of the women. we should be strong and we should be independent, but we should also be tender and emotional. what i hate the most, is that i am turning to be the same as this culture!

Name: Ellis
Date: 2006-12-12 10:45:25
Link to this Comment: 21315

I agree with Stacy and Manal. Somehow a notion I've always had is Feminists back then were wealthy, educated, high class. Now Feminists are of various backgrounds. It's also interesting that Bryn Mawr took interest in the Blue Collar class since it's beginning so it focused on "diversity" since the start.

Forum Archived
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2007-01-25 21:46:32
Link to this Comment: 21412

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