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Comment author: DCrowe 14 August 2011 11:37:10AM 0 points [-]

I agree that emphasis on critical thinking and analytical skills should be an essential element of any programme but from my admittedly limited experience the IB approach does not go as far in this direction as one might desire. Caveats; 1) the IB ToK element is better than the nothing most curricula I am familiar with have and shows the good intentions of those setting up the course, so this is not a 'it's no good' but a 'could do better' comment and 2) not having gone to a school which taught IB, my experience has been limited to the handful of students I have discussed this programme with or offered ad hoc tutoring to in connection to the ToK element.

From what I can see, though the actual process of what is taught in classrooms and how it is taught may differ, in terms of what students seem to be producing at the end of the course the ToK element amounts to little more than Epistemology 101 where rather than being, as you put it, about 'how to think, not what to think' it is instead about 'what to think', just at a meta- level; 'what to think about thinking'. If you wish to stimulate critical thinking I'm inclined to think intensive classroom based discussion of comparative analysis of arguments and source handling is superior to teaching the difference between the a priori and the a posteriori, or raising the possibility of absolute scepticism. I say this with no prejudice against epistemology, as a philosophy postgraduate student some of my best friends are epistemologists, but if the question is 'what would be the best way to structure a curriculum so as to raise a generation of genuinely critical thinkers' I don't believe the answer is teaching them about Plato's myth of the cave or the disputes between empiricism and rationalism. Perhaps such basic distinctions require some coverage, if only to avoid obvious howlers such as failing to recognise the use/mention distinction or the like, but for real critical thought it would seem better if the curriculum was structured so as to emphasise critical thought in all subjects in the form of subject-specific problem based critical analysis.

Comment author: DCrowe 29 July 2011 10:15:47PM 0 points [-]

For my money, the best challenge to Dennett's position on how to understand the role of introspective accounts in psychology is Alvin Goldman's 'Science, Publicity and Consciousness' and the most stimulating work being done from a position relatively consonant with Dennett's is that being produced by Eric Schwitzgebel. If you're interested in introspection you should check out his new book 'Perplexities of Consciousness' but at the very least you should have a look at some of the papers he has on his website on the subject, especially 'Introspection, what?' which has what I believe to be the only published 'boxological diagram joke'. Dennett has responded to a number of criticisms in an article entitled 'Heterophenomenology Reconsidered' though you may need a journal subscription to access it, I don't remember if he has made it available on his site.

As regards the qualia point, obviously (?) there have been papers and papers and papers offering definition after definition of qualia, however one taxonomy which I've found useful with regards to clarifying the discussion of the connection between qualia and attitudes towards consciousness is Hugh Frankish's 'Quining Diet Qualia' which distinguishes 'Classic' 'Diet' and 'Zero' qualia (after types of Coke) with 'Zero' being the kind associated with Dennett (as well as the type Frankish is inclined to defend) and Diet being associated with materialists who nonetheless have a robust account of qualitative consciousness and the introspectibility of the same (such as Michael Tye, Ned Block and Peter Carruthers) - this would be the sort of 'materialist qualia' implicated in the notion of qualia inversion or qualitative absence (zombies), both of which Dennett claims are intuitively tempting but incoherent notions. Frankish' taxonomy is useful for linking the issue of qualia back to introspection and clarifying in your own mind how what might seem like separate strands of Dennett's thought tie together and contrast with other leading contemporary philosophers of mind.

Comment author: DCrowe 29 July 2011 09:50:12PM 5 points [-]

One obvious reason why this might be the case is that the various implicit norms surrounding political discourse actively encourage tribalism and cognitive dissonance ("Hey! He's a flipflopper!") more so than in other areas of discourse where some of these pressures are lacking or in some cases (such as academia, to some extent) deliberate effort has been expended to create counter-veiling norms to these trends. As long as political discourse involves politicians and politicians owe their careers to the exercises of obfuscation, pandering and appealing to vested interests it is doubtful this trend can be corrected. As a general rule you should examine your own attitudes and if you find your view entail that those of an opposing political conviction to yourself must be actively scheming to cause damage to the country (as opposed to simply being mistaken or biased) you have probably made a mistake somewhere.

In response to Einstein's Arrogance
Comment author: DCrowe 29 July 2011 09:44:14PM 3 points [-]

I guess a defense of old Albert would go something like this; the route he took to establish his theory didn't rely upon empirical evidence of the sort Eddington was trying to discover but rather was an elegant way to explain certain unusual properties of light and energy which, once he had formulated his theory, it seemed obvious to him could not be explained any other way. The kind of empirical validation which Eddington was carrying out was a laudable and necessary step in the process of theory confirmation/falstification but nevertheless it is entirely reasonable for Einstein to believe that no such confirmation was necessary as, relative to the theoretical status quo prior to the theory of relativity, the theory of relativity had vastly greater explanatory power and so any theory which might supplant it would have to incorporate elements of the theory, or postulates very similar to the theory, to explain the same things. Einstein had a sense of humour and was, I take it, simply relaying the idea that he thought it much more likely that any negative result from Eddington's expedition would turn out to be due to poor expedition data rather than a problem with the theory; I don't think he was every claiming (non-sensical) 100% certainty. The man may have been a genius, but he wasn't an idiot.

Comment author: DCrowe 29 July 2011 09:25:29PM 4 points [-]

A couple of points here. First, as other people seem to have indicated, there does seem to be a problem with saying 'the robot has human level intelligence/self-reflective insight' and simultaneously that it carries out its programming with regards to firing lasers at percepts which appear blue unreflectively, in so far as it would seem that the former would entail that the latter would /not/ be done unreflectively. What you have here are two seperate and largely unintegrated cognitive systems one of which ascribes functional-intentional properties to things, including the robot, and has human level intelligence on the one hand and the robot on the other.

The second point is that there may be a confusion based upon what your functional ascriptions to the robot are tracking. I want to say that objects have functions only relative to a system in which they play a role, which means that for example the robot might have 'the function' of eliminating blue objects within the wider system which is the Department of Homeland Security, however there is no discoverable fact about the robot which describes it's 'function simpliciter'. You can observe what appears to be goal directed behaviour, of course, but your ascriptions of goals to the robot are only good in so far as they serve to predict future behaviour of the robot (this is a standard descriptivist/projectivist approach to mental content ascription, of the sort Dennett describes in 'The Intentional Stance'). So when you insert the investing in front of the robots camera it ceases to exercise the same goal directed behaviour or (what amounts to the same, expressed differently) your previous goal ascriptions to the object cease to be able to make reliable predictions of the robots future behaviour and need to be corrected. ((I'm going to ignore the issue of the ontological status of these ascriptions. If this is an interest you happen to have Dennett discusses his views on the subject in an essay entitled 'Real Patterns' and there is further commentary in a couple of the articles in Ross and Brook's 'Dennett's Philosophy)).

I realise you are consciously using a naive version of behaviourism as the backdrop of your discussion, so it's possible that I'm just jumping ahead to 'where you're going with this' but it does seem that with subsequent post-behaviourist approaches to mental content ascription the puzzle you seem to be describing of how to correctly describe the robot dissolves. ((N.B. - You might want to Millar's Understanding People which surveys a broad range of the various approaches to mental state ascription)).