R E P L I E S...
Prof. Robert Wilson's emotive comment in the Higher (28th March 2013) shows that the Editor's letter in the previous issue has caused some dismay. (The "higher" mathematicians who knew that "infinite" means "not finite" began to swallow degrees of "notness"!) But he should apply his mind to the argument and find an answer ---if there is one--- rather than indulge in such unedifying ad hominems.
He probably thinks that Dedekind's so-called 'redefinition' of infinity let's him off the hook. But Dedekind's notion that a set is infinite when it has proper subsets similar to itself will not do as a definition of infinity because it u s e s the ordinary concept of infinity twice. To explain the meaning of similarity one needs 1-to-1 correspondence, which, in the non-finite* case, means being sure that the item-pairing can be s e e n to be continuable ad inf*...
Dedekind should have reflected that it is pretty difficult significantly to redefine huge things like Mont Blanc, The Earth or infinity. [For a fuller treatment of maths issues see: www.mathsrenew.moonfruit.com]
...TO B I G O T T E D B L O G G E R S
The angry blogs which resulted from the Editor's article in THE Higher. January 2011 included one by "Telescoper"
which Google have highlighted.
One has to ask why a person who purports to be rational should focus such a heap of abuse and scorn onto
something which was only 1% of the text and 0% of the argument. OK the comment on Dark Matter was not up to
date, though the statement made about it was correct.
The nuances of current speculation about dark matter were not relevant to the reasoning. One looks for serious
arguments, not abuse. No counter arguments appeared, which is not surprising because the article simply pointed
out the obvious truism that cosmology deals in extrapolations of empirical evidence billions of times further than
we would accept in ordinary life.
JOHN BALD It was widely reported at the time that Gove was much impressed by an American expert who claimed that drilling was the only way securely to instill content.
E D U C A T I O N E M P H A S E S
EDUCATION m e a n s the transmission of the core-essence of the classless enduring culture of a society to the
younger generation. This meaning has a long history.
We need not, however, be in thrall to words. The crucial question is: <<Do we w a n t schools to do education, or should they simply try to prepare young people to get jobs in the workforce?>>
If the answer is that we want schools to try to educate, a lot of work and thinking needs to be done, on:
(A) Determining what the enduring classless culture is
(B) Determining how it can be transmitted to the youth
At present the so-called 'Education System' is predominantly aligned towards preparing youth for the workforce. If we take into account the vital role of v a l u e s in the enduring culture, almost nothing is being done to initiate youth into these values. They are being left to pick up whatever values they come across.
Two powerful influences are holding this arrangement in place:
a) Many have lost confidence in the enduring culture's capacity to produce competent agents,
b) Many teachers p r e f e r to teach in a value-neutral way because they are embarrassed at not having a clear, teachable take on the enduring classless culture.
The line of current policy is plain: it will have the effect over time of dismantling the core-essential enduring classless culture of the society and will, in all probability if left in place, dismantle the fierce loyalties which have held it together as a 'society' in the past. It is doubtful whether the government realise how values-dessicated current schooling in the state sector is. However they appear to be d i m l y a w a r e that something is wrong, because they have set up their Free School policy, an expensive exercise, when money is very short.
The remit of the P E R Group and PROSPERO is that we should try to avoid this cultural dessication, by renewing education and thereby renewing the core-essential classless enduring culture. Both the Group and the Journal are predicated on cultivating the kind of p h i l o s o p h y which will be needed to enable these outcomes to occur. There is an article in PROSPERO 18-2 on the nature of philosophy. It distinguishes two kinds of philosophy, the Platonic and the Socratic. Currently the Platonic conception of philosophy is in the ascendant. We need to swing back to the Socratic conception.
KEY POINT 1 This is not an anti-immigrant remit. Anglo-Saxon society is a society composed of wave after wave of immigration. It is, though, designed to try to preserve the core-essential values of tolerance, free speech, freedom, democracy, empiricism, minimal government, scientific verve and literary imagination ---the very qualities which attracted 99% of the immigrants in the first place.
KEY POINT 2 Education is a mainstream activity of mankind and the principle of the Democratic Accountability of Education was established around 1980. This means that the democratic electorate is the only agent which can bring about fundamental change. Philosophy f o r Education must address itself either directly or indirectly to that part of the democratic electorate which is interested in education. A consequence of this is that a conversation-for-radical-change needs to be constructed which can be understood by everybody. It needs to be couched in ordinary, clear, understandable language.
This, incidentally, is the difference between philosophy f o r education and the first wave of philosophy o f education initiated by Richard Peters and Paul Hirst in the 1960s. Philosophy f o r education can reach first-order conclusions, via this principle.
KEY POINT 3 The enduring culture embodies what Churchill called 'magnanimity' and the imagination which energises it. This is the X-factor in tolerance, literary culture and scientific verve. The current system of schooling is a hard nosed managerialism, which emphasises facts and skills and virtually obliterates imagination. A renewed form of education must appeal to the
i m a g i n a t i o n of students, especially via their sense of identity and the appeal of narrative.
Imagination, though, needs to be e d u c a t e d. Without logic and discipline it can run into absurdity and fantasy, like Paul Klee's depiction of a bird hanging upside down from a cloud.
KEY POINT 4 We need a commission of well-known, credible, sensible, constructive philosophers to produce an authoratitive account of the core-essential enduring culture. It needs to make 100% sense to Heads and teachers, and to be fully in tune with the cognitive conditions of today. It needs to be clearly s h o w n to be the contemporary form of the enduring culture of the past. Given such a statement, it is probable that many teachers and educationalists would move towards the opinion that it should be the chief aim of schooling to initiate students into this. It would still be necessary to sell this idea to the public at large, but a major step towards renewing education would be taken.
Probably such a commission should do a lot of polling of opinion of respected names and issue a ---hopefully highly readable--- weighty tome of evidence.
Getting a clear, well-defined, meaningful account of the core-essence of the enduring culture into the public domain is the name of the game. Some might choose not to try to initiate students into it, but the likelihood is that almost every school would try to do something in this direction. The idea that you 'empower' young people by de-culturalising them is quite grotesque. Obviously the main sources of power in the adult world come through cultural alliances and links.
Initiating young people into the core-essence of the enduring classless culture builds a sense of identity. This is a priceless asset in today's multi- cultural mish-mash and post-modern pandemonium. Only those who know who they a r e can judge what is worth knowing and what is not. When one takes into account the high valuation placed on competence in the enduring culture, the idea that young people should be prematurely (=quite badly) 'trained' in value-neutral skills loses virtually all its lustre.
CRUNCH POINT: To initiate young people into the enduring classless culture we need first to teach them carefully to read the past and to inhabit it in imagination. They need to learn the meaning of archaic words and phrases. Most important, they need realistic imagination developed to a level of fluency. This is m u c h h a r d e r than simply trying to tell them modern know-how. But only if they learn this will they acquire a picture of the world which is rooted, authentic and stable.