Epistemology 2

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Epistemology 2

by --Phil Bartle 07:16, 4 November 2009 (UTC)

Class time = 1 Hour

Students will be able to distinguish between the four main ways of knowing and to be able to critically examine strengths and weaknesses of each of them

We have lots of good discussion on "How do we learn?" and its converse (but not its mirror image), "How do we teach?" Now we should ask, "How do we know?" If we learn something, how do we know if and when we know? If we teach something, how do we know if and when the taught know?

In classical Epistemology we have only four ways of knowing: (1) Observing (sensing, empiricism), (2) Logic (calculating, reason), (3) Belief (faith, worldview), and (4) Authority (Mommy said so). While we educators pay much lip service to our students discovering for themselves (by logic or observation), we rely considerably instead on Authority (because we, or the text book, said so).

There are issues, problems and criticism for each of the four ways. Observation: we have no way of being certain that what you sense is what I sense, even if we give it the same name, and no objects, including observers, can occupy the same space at the same time, so everyone has a unique observational experience. Reason: There is nothing intrinsic about two when we see two apples; the "twoness" is in our minds. Belief: If you do not believe in dwarves, that makes you a dwarf atheist. Authority: proselytisers for a particular belief cite some Authority, usually a book, omitting to mention that all books are written by human beings.

Now how does all this relate to open and free educational resources, which is what we are all about? Is learning different for the four ways? Should our teaching be different? I once taught at a seminary and noticed then that the teachers of religion ("our kind" of course) did not like to take a critical and epistemological look at beliefs, like the creed, or that God exists, because Authority and belief have neither logic nor witness to back them up. No wonder they talked about sheep as a role model.

We often forget that there is no finite amount of right knowledge, and what we know as a society constantly changes. There is no right answer. Administrators in schools and colleges, however, ask us for a course outline that portrays a finite quantity of information as the curriculum. There is no curriculum!

Click on Knowing

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