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Friday, September 27 - 7:26pmSanction this postReply
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This was good, Tres. Thanks.

I like how there was a 30-pt jump in mean IQ scores over the last century, but it's sobering to hear that students no longer learn as much about national and international history. Flynn uses the term "ahistorical" to describe our contemporary youth living in the "bubble of the present." This fact, that kids are not taught history anymore (or are taught it less so than they were before), is chilling when you integrate it with Flynn's quote:
Sadly, you can have humane moral principles, you can classify, you can use logic on abstractions, and if you're ignorant of history and of other countries, you can't do politics.
Ed




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Saturday, September 28 - 1:24amSanction this postReply
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And with a nod to Luke Setzer: "Flynn's 2010 book The Torchlight List proposes the controversial idea that a person can learn more from reading great works of literature than they can from going to university." - Wikipedia.



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Saturday, September 28 - 5:47amSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Michael!

Yes, I often think my "real" education started after I completed college, started working full time, and got married. The reality is that learning is never complete until we die, at least for the truly living. I have learned a great deal even from books I consider "great" even though tradition has not labeled them so. I found them extremely helpful and wish someone had brought them to my attention in my youth except, of course, they were not even written and published until my adulthood.

I consider it telling that I was banned from College Confidential with all my posts deleted because I "promoted" some of this helpful material to aspiring college students to assist in their transition to living independently and productively.



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Sunday, September 29 - 12:23pmSanction this postReply
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Luke, I went back and read that. I remember when you posted it.  They obviously had their business model in place.  So there was that.  Also, your own perspective ran in direct opposition to their intentions and they wanted no discussions of basic issues.  You understand that at some level, those discussions are counterproductive - like Chiristians and atheists invading each others' discussion boards; we get that here, tool but we used to get more of it - and that is important because at another level, those basic discussions are the hallmark of intellectual honesty.   That intellectual honesty was lacking at College Confidential.

As for the purpose of university education, I never considered it job training even when I was enrolled in curricula marketed as such - transportation management, and then, civil engineering. For me, education is always about personal improvement. If it makes you more employable, that is all the better, of course.  And, indeed, I believe, as a basic of Objectivism that any employer would want the most intelligent and educated help they could hire because you never know what you will need. 

I used to participate in a blog from sociologists who were friendly to Austrian economics, called "Organizations and Markets." They were all up in arms along with most of American apparently that a college education in art history is a waste of money, etc., etc., etc.,  Well, first of all, outside of sociology, there is no demand for sociology. I mean, if you want to get a Ph.D. in electrical engineering like Objectivist entrepreneur T. J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, that's fine; but with an associate's you can be a technician in a factory.  Sociology does not work like that. 

But, what I learned in sociology certainly does help me, especially with sociology of the workplace, complex organizations, and technology in society.  As a technical writer, I must remain cognizant of my global audience.

And actually, on that blog, a sociologist of music, Jennifer Lena, replied that art history majors in particular do have careers.  Like engineering students who work on co-op semesters at major firms, art history majors with master's and doctorate degrees tend to have already worked in museums before going to work after graduation.

We like to think that we are smarter than our grandparents. We may well be.  You can find rants from political conservatives who seek to demean public education by pointing to 19th century tests that no one today could pass, like how many ells are in an acre....  But imagine yourself at a dinner table in 1913 telling people how many bits are in a byte...




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Wednesday, October 2 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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Some uncomfortable points must be made here.

The abstract education that Flynn touts came from progressives, whose agenda was defined by John Dewey. I am now reading a collection from Dewey Philosophy and Civilization. It is not Ayn Rand, but for its time, I can see now how it "stretched the minds" of teachers.

Flynn cites the work of Luria. Alexander Luria was a successful professor of psychology in Stalin's USSR:
In 1924, Luria met Lev Vygotsky, who would influence him greatly. Along with Alexei Nikolaevich Leont'ev, these three psychologists launched a project of developing a psychology of a radically new kind. This approach fused "cultural", "historical", and "instrumental" psychology and is most commonly referred to presently as cultural-historical psychology. It emphasizes the mediatory role of culture, particularly language, in the development of higher mental functions in ontogeny and phylogeny.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Luria

Third, while the penalty of being ahistorical and "living in the bubble of the present" must be acknowledged, the fact is that we are smarter today precisely because of the abstract learning in school that conservatives deride as "progressive" and "communist" and "post modern." "Two circles and a semicircle are like two 16s and an 8."

Mired in the world of 1900, political conservatives decry such learning as nonsense.




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Wednesday, October 2 - 7:21pmSanction this postReply
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Mike,

I'm willing to hear and say uncomfortable things ...

Side Note: One thing I love about you is that you challenge me. Think of 2 opposing comic book character archetypes who go on long monologues about how they are going to demolish the other guy, but never actually quite get around to duking it out for real: "I'm going to destroy you with my flaming sword of Galdelon!" "Hmph! I'll block your attack with my impenetrable shield of Matablazocon! You will only be leaving yourself vulnerable to my counter-attack!" ...

Double-side Note: I haven't got to the uncomfortable stuff yet ...
The abstract education that Flynn touts came from progressives, whose agenda was defined by John Dewey. I am now reading a collection from Dewey Philosophy and Civilization. It is not Ayn Rand, but for its time, I can see now how it "stretched the minds" of teachers.
Dewey was a Heraclito-Hegelian: Someone who believed that stuff always changes (rather than staying the same) and that we can band together like the Borg from Star Trek and boldly succeed or at least make some kind of progress by forging our way through a shape-shifting universe.

Fun Fact: Heraclitus' student Cratylus stood naked in a barrel in the middle of the market square and wagged his finger at people, refusing to speak to anyone because of the existentialist nihilo-fatalism associated with coming to terms with the Heraclitean flux: Even the meanings of words change over time -- so it is useless, or next-to-useless, to even speak aloud. Talk about some existentialist angst!

Back to the counter-point: Dewey wasn't big on abstractions (i.e., things which have a measure of permanence), he was big on concretes:
Only when the past event which is judged is a going concern having effects still directly observable are judgment and knowledge possible.
--The Middle Works, 1899-1924, 13, ed. Jo Ann Boydston, p. 42

In 1924, Luria met Lev Vygotsky, who would influence him greatly. Along with Alexei Nikolaevich Leont'ev, these three psychologists launched a project of developing a psychology of a radically new kind. This approach fused "cultural", "historical", and "instrumental" psychology and is most commonly referred to presently as cultural-historical psychology.
Sounds like mere/more Hegelian gibberish to me.

... the fact is that we are smarter today precisely because of the abstract learning in school that conservatives deride as "progressive" and "communist" and "post modern."
That's too strongly worded. For instance, conservatives don't deride math, and math is abstract. Progressives deride math. For example, I was helping my niece with math a few years ago, and she showed me the new, progressive way to get answers to math problems. It was really some New Age stuff, so I don't recall it exactly, but there was a matrix and you put certain numbers in the cells of the matrix and you do some wild and wacky hocus-pocus and ... Voila! ... you get the answer! It was pretty scary for me to see this. This fancy matrix trick actually worked.

It was a concrete-bound way to get to the answer without first understanding the problem. I also heard that the new, super-progressive, Dewey-on-steroids plan: Common Core is not even stressing the students' arrival at correct answers -- only the ability to show the work which led to whatever fanciful answer you concocted to otherwise-common, understandable, and answerable math problems (e.g., 2 + 2 = 5).

So, I disagree on at least 2 out of 3 counts (with a strong hint that maybe Luria was Hegelian and therefore of poor merit as an educator).

Ed




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Thursday, October 3 - 8:42amSanction this postReply
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The last time I wrote a superhero parody, it was to humiliate someone. I respect you, Ed. So, no blazing power bolts or green force fields.
ET: That's too strongly worded. For instance, conservatives don't deride math, and math is abstract.

Well, yes, they are in favor of memorizing the multiplication table. You are too young to know about the resistance to "New Math" of the late 1950s and early 1960s.  In the 7th grade, we learned sets and we did arithmetic in different bases.  I enjoyed it. And when we really did need to work in octal and hexadecimal I was grateful. 

One of many presentations of Tom Lehrer's "New Math."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIKGV2cTgqA
I am pretty sure that we had that discussion about your neice and her arithmetic a few years ago, and I found for you the very old arithmetic book that taught it.  Nothing about arithmetic is natural. Even base-10 is a recent invention; and I mean like 1600: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Stevin.  Until the middle 1800s and German Unification, the thaler (dollar) was divided into 12ths, into quarters and thirds - thus despite Hamilton and Jefferson, we have quarter dollars, not 20-cent pieces - though many nations did and do have such a truly decimal denomination.
 
My point is that the gridbox for multiplication that your niece learned was one of many such methods taught in years gone by.  If you asked Thomas Jefferson to multiply two large numbers, he might have done it the way your niece learned. And she will be taught the way we know. And she will use a calculator.
ET:  I also heard that the new, super-progressive, Dewey-on-steroids plan: Common Core is not even stressing the students' arrival at correct answers -- only the ability to show the work which led to whatever fanciful answer you concocted to otherwise-common, understandable, and answerable math problems (e.g., 2 + 2 = 5).
Not exactly.
  
First of all, you should actually know the Common Core Standards here, not just some second-hand complaint from a conservative blog.  I agree that this "Common Core" does show the bankruptcy of public education in that nothing is new or innovative. It is "fall back and regroup." 

Your example of 2+2=5 is silly.  By what method? Did you put up two fingers on each hand and count them off: 1, 3, 4, 5.  You skipped a number.  But if the problem is this: Ed can mow the lawn in 45 minutes. Mike can do it in 55. How long will it take them working together? And you have the right method, but make an arithmetic mistake along the way, you still get (some) credit.  That's all. 

Now, I grant, also, this theory drove Richard Feynman angry. To him, it did not matter what method you used, as long as you got the right answer.  Realize that as a genius, Feynman often invented new methods, even as a child.  At one point, in junior high or high school, he discovered some cool thing, but when he went to show his buddy, he had another problem because Feynman also invented his own symbols.  So, it took his friend a bit of work to convince Feynman that everyone already knew that... Feyman was all about getting the right answer by any method.  But to use whatever method or invent a new one, you have to be further down the road than most people in your thinking.

One time, I had a class in civil engineering and one of the girls's father was one of the professors.  Someone ribbed her about always being able to get help with her homework. She said she once actually asked for help, and he suggested that this force triange really could be solved more easily by completing the square. She never asked again...  See, as the professor, a guy with a Ph.D., and a lifetime of experience in undergraduate bridge truss problems, he knew all the tricks.  But you have to get there first.  That is why we learn methods. And we do not punish (completely) for an arithmetic error.

As for Dewey and Heraclitus, Ayn Rand's For the New Intellectual kept me from learning anything in humanities classes. I did not have to learn anything. Ayn Rand explained why it was all wrong.  I could ignore it. Finally, this last time around 2007-2010, I actually benefited from my college and university education. 

It is not up to me to justify Dewey to you. You can read him for yourself.  I understand the errors. I find more value in accepting the gains.  To me, Dewey is saying that Berkeley's idealism is wholly unsatisfactory and that theories must be tested against practical programs carried forward.  Moreover, if you read Understanding Objectivism by Peikoff and Bernstein, you will see that Peikoff offers his own warning against Monism: attempting to derive all of philosophy from A is A.  Dewey wrote:
“If a man cherishes novelty, risk, opportunity and a variegated esthetic reality, he will certainly reject any belief in Monism, when he clearly perceives the import of this system. But, if from the very start, he is attracted to esthetic harmony, classic proportions, fixity even to the extent of absolute security, and logical coherence, it is quite natural that he should put faith in Monism.” - The Development of American Pragmatism.
I am pretty sure that Alexander Luria would qualify as a "Hegelian" if you understand that "Marx turned Hegel on his head." Dialectic materialism was derived from Hegel's thought, but is contrary to it.  You can reject Luria as a communist and say that no Bolshevik could be right about sociology. But the Bolsheviks wanted to know how to change the environment in order to improve the human condition. Fail as they did in the larger sense, they did make gains at the detail level.  This was one of them. 

Another was the decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphs. Most scholars accepted the artwok on the pyramids as decorations only.  As Marxists, the Russian scholars assumed that any two societies at a given economic level of development, facing similar probllems will develop similar solutions: thus, the pictures were glyphs, like Egyptian writing.  As this was the 1950s, in America, the suggestion was condemned as communist. (See Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson cited in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_script I have the book. It's a good read.)

If you condemn and dismiss eveyrone except Ayn Rand, you are going to be left with a very small box of intellectual tools.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 10/03, 9:04am)




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Thursday, October 3 - 12:03pmSanction this postReply
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Mike:

re: But imagine yourself at a dinner table in 1913 telling people how many bits are in a byte...

It would for sure depend on the dinner table. Einstein was doing fine in 1913, and as for the history of binary number systems, that goes way back, hundreds of years before 1913.

But I think you might mean, imagine them explaining how all that ends up as 'Facebook' today.

I think the modern world is full of folks who could confidently tell you how many bits are in a byte who don't have the first f'n clue about why. Does tha make us smarter, or more instructed?

What complex modernity has done has driven a massive wedge between drivers and riders of technologies-- a wedge far greater than existed in 1913.

I'm not sure that the drivers in 1913 were any less smart than the drivers in 2013... and I am especially not convinced that the riders in 2013 are smarter than the riders in 1913. More isolated from the underlying technologies, definitely.

A favorite example; we probably have about the same % of 'tinkerers' who care to dig into the underlying technologies of 3D video gaming as would have existed in 1913 at their level of technology. What we have in 2013 is a vast army of 'riders' who love to immerse themselves in the outward artifacts of gaming. The button pressers. Volkswagon ads acknowledged this modern fact with their 'life has drivers and passengers' ad campaign. Folks who haven't the first clue what is going on in all that SIMD 3D pipelining goodness ye pounding awa with their thumbs, masters of the virtual universe...from 50,000 feet away.. Said another way-- there is probably the same % of the population familiar with linear algebra today as in 1913. And in context, what the Hell is that?

2013 is loaded with passive passengers. 1913 was far more immediate, with far less of a gulf beween the drivers and the passengers.

Has that made 'us' smarter as a 'society' or nation?

Not close to seeing the actual evidence of that. In fact, what seems far more prevalaent today is a kind of mass delusional thinking. Tribe has clearly lost 'its' mind.

regards,
Fred







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Thursday, October 3 - 3:07pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, I don't know, Fred. To me, the world is not so bleak. The reason that users and creators were closer in 1913 is that the technology was simpler. I accept that my X-ray technician actually sat through a class in physics, but I would not ask her to explain quantum electrodynamics to me.  We just have more to know.

I just sold another article about John Leonard Riddell.  He lived 1807-1865:
He catalogued plants. He served as chief melter and refiner at the New Orleans Mint from 1838 to 1849.  He was a medical doctor, completing two different degrees, one of which he renounced.  He advocated for the germ theory of disease at time when the miasma theory was more widely accepted.  ...
 While teaching at the Louisiana Medical College (now Tulane University), he invented the binocular microscope.  He carried out geographical and botanical surveys of Texas. John Leonard Riddell was also the first working scientist to publish a science fiction story, publishing in 1847 Orrin Lindsay’s Plan of Aerial Navigation, with a Narrative of His Explorations in the Higher Regions of the Atmosphere, and His Wonderful Voyage Round the Moon!
Consider Leonardo da Vinci: but who today could design tanks, aircraft, and guns, decorate a church, dissect people to draw an anatomical textbook, and give the world two icons: the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa?  Not Richard Feynman, not Andy Warhol, not Mick Jagger.  The world of 2013 is 500 years exponentially more complicated than the world of 1500, as is the world of 2013 versus 1913.


Why are there eight bits in a byte? I mean, myself, I look to the 1-inch teletype tape that could take 5 punches and 2^5 = 32, which gives you all of the upper case letters, the space, and some characters.  With the register shift, you get even more...  Does it really matter?
Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. -- Harry Lime

But that sentiment is anti-life, unless you are willing to grant that we must have terrible violence in order to have wonderful achievements.  Is it necessary that in order to have proportionally more Nobel Laureates, America must have more homicides? 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 10/03, 3:09pm)




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Friday, October 4 - 7:43amSanction this postReply
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Mike:

> Why are there eight bits in a byte? I mean, myself, I look to the 1-inch teletype tape that could take 5 punches and 2^5 = 32, which gives you all of the upper case letters, the space, and some characters. With the register shift, you get even more... Does it really matter?

Certainly not, if we confuse byte with char. In terms of bits per char representation, this is still the wild,wild west, and long has been.

You clearly know the history, or can easily look it up. As well, the significance of binary representation. That alone weeds out more than half the tribe immediately on the 8 bits/byte , 4 bits/nibble, convention.

There were, for example, 9 bit worded machines around, and three octal digits (3 bits + 3 bits + 3 bits) per byte was a competing model for two hex digits (4 bits + 4 bits) per byte. DEC's PDP series spanned that battle-- and that was a single manufacturer. In one sense it was all arbirary, but in another, it was not; the evolution of the industry kind of sampled programmers mass ability to abstract; hex representation was widely graspable -- 0123456789ABCDEF as short hand for 4 bit patterns each, and so, 2x4 bit hex nibbles to form an 8 bit byte has arbirarily evolved. remebering HEX digits is a more efficient abstraction than remebering octal digits..and so, '8' won.

Intel's 4004 was 4 bit... what could be implemented with the transister count of the time. And that, more than anything else, probably set the stage for why there are 8 bits in a byte today. It set the base for wordedness, even as competitors were fielding odd bitted variants: 4,8,16,32,64.

So todays nibble, byte, short word, word, dword..usually qualified by explicit bitedness because there is no standard beyond byte for wordedness. You wont really find it in he "C" standard, that it an implementation detail for whoever writes a compiler for a particular cpu.

The related concept 'wordlength' within the confined universe of building these boxes 50 yrs ago certainly didn't matter-- it was a contained universe. (There were odd bitted machines even into the 70s and 80s and even niche processers that persist today.) The establishment of arbitrary conventions wasn't necessary until these boxes started to exchange data/code between themselves.

So within the confined universe of building a box, for sure it didn't matter. But when bolting them together, it matters all the time, even today, even with some standards. Not just bitedness, but endian, and little/big endian still persists as another 'it doesn't matter' issue -- and there are others as well, all the way up and down the exchange stack, until there is an exchange.

regards,
Fred



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Friday, October 4 - 10:18amSanction this postReply
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Fred, that we could have this conversation at all validates Flynn's claim. It is not just the bantering of concrete facts, like which capital cities have greater or lesser populations. You tossed out allusions to endian, nybbles, double words, and transistor logic. Those are all abstractions about counting in different number bases. You cited Einstein. I remind you that math was his weak subject. Sent back to 1913, you would have to tutor the smartest guy in the world in order for him to understand you.

That ties back to Ed's complaints first about New Math and also about Common Core. Common Core is a "drop back and punt" strategy of cultural conservatism as a response to a perceived problem that may not exist. At the same time so-called "New Math" opens the doors to new modes of thought, new ways to perceive the world, and new tools for integrating the abstractions.

We are clearly smarter than our grandparents. Did you catch the reaction from the audience when Flynn mentioned Afghanistan? In 1913, jingoism was accepted as a valid world view. Today, we know better.

We can argue anthropogenic climate change. I mean that: it can be argued. A hundred years ago, they were still arguing uniform versus catastrophic processes. Continental drift was not accepted - or even proposed yet. They believed Percival Lowell's claims about Mars.

Yes, we have silliness today and billions of ignorant people. But they do not take IQ tests. The WEIRD people do: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rational, and Democratic. Yes, such people do have incorrect ideas: but they are incorrect at a much higher level of abstraction. It is not infallibility. But it is an advance - the space stations, the planetary probes, genetic engineering, the United Nations, our lifespans, all of it and more, point to real progress.





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Saturday, October 5 - 8:58amSanction this postReply
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Mike,
The last time I wrote a superhero parody, it was to humiliate someone. I respect you, Ed. So, no blazing power bolts or green force fields.
Well, fine, but give me one last word on the matter: I wouldn't want to shout this to you across a crowded room, but you are the Heraclitus to my Parmenides.
If you asked Thomas Jefferson to multiply two large numbers, he might have done it the way your niece learned.
Well, in that case, I guess it is okay. You see, I condemn and dismiss everyone except for 2 people: Thomas Jefferson and Ayn Rand. If they did or said it -- it is okay (and not if not).
Ed can mow the lawn in 45 minutes. Mike can do it in 55. How long will it take them working together?
That's easy. It will take them 100 minutes if they work together on it. In this scenario, it is better if they refuse to work with one another, because adding their efforts together takes longer.
To me, Dewey is saying that Berkeley's idealism is wholly unsatisfactory and that theories must be tested against practical programs carried forward.
...
“If a man cherishes novelty, risk, opportunity and a variegated esthetic reality, he will certainly reject any belief in Monism, when he clearly perceives the import of this system. But, if from the very start, he is attracted to esthetic harmony, classic proportions, fixity even to the extent of absolute security, and logical coherence, it is quite natural that he should put faith in Monism.” - The Development of American Pragmatism.



Okay, but that is the set-up of a false dichotomy. There are about 4 ways to view the world: realism, idealism, pragmatism, existentialism (RIPE) and you can't take 2 wrong ways to view the world and say that one is "wronger" than the other, therefore the other is right. It's a fallacy. That's like saying that "5" is a right answer to "2 + 2" because it is more right than "6" is. The right answer is a metaphysical realism/pluralism, not a metaphysical pragmatism/pluralism. Just because metaphysical idealism/monism is more wrong than pragmatism/pluralism, does not make pragmatism correct.

It is not up to me to justify Dewey to you. You can read him for yourself.  I understand the errors. I find more value in accepting the gains.
Well, I can tolerate that (I can tolerate a lot) -- even if I consider it personally unacceptable. Let's agree to disagree on this point.

Dialectic materialism was derived from Hegel's thought, but is contrary to it.
But I would retort that you cannot even have or get to a contradiction to Hegel's thought -- because it was already self-contradictory. Hegel basically said that you can't call a rose a rose, because it is always and only ever viewed from the metaphysically-limited perspective of an observer. Not Being an actual rose, but merely the appearance of a rose to a particular observer, it is actually Nothing in the process of Becoming. As you take it in your hand and twirl it and bring it up to your nose and smell it, it is Becoming a rose. But here is the rub, if another observer (one with different intentions than you) grabs the rose from you and attacks you with the thorns, then it goes back to being Nothing Becoming something else: a weapon.

On this view, there is a Primacy of Consciousness that participates in the creation/reformulation of Existence (the spatio-temporal expression of Identity).

But that's preposterous!

Fail as they did in the larger sense, they did make gains at the detail level.
That's like taking great notes about the layout of deck chairs on the Titanic. I think it was Peikoff, writing about pragmatists, when he said that the whole building could be coming down and these idiot pragmatists would be tending to shifted ornaments on the wall (leveling out the hung paintings or whatever) or buffing the shine on the brass railing of the staircase. Now, Peikoff wasn't so rude as to go ahead and call them idiots, he merely showed how terribly they err.
Another was the decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphs. Most scholars accepted the artwok on the pyramids as decorations only.  As Marxists, the Russian scholars assumed that any two societies at a given economic level of development, facing similar probllems will develop similar solutions: thus, the pictures were glyphs, like Egyptian writing.  As this was the 1950s, in America, the suggestion was condemned as communist.
Oops!

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 10/05, 9:10am)




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