Category Archives: Philosophy

Such Great Heights

31 degree heat, and suncream and sweat sting your eye blind. A fairly inopportune moment to become more disorientated.

I’m, say, 7500ft up in the Tyrolean Alps, my heel is at 90 degrees to a 300ft drop. I’m squatted, moving backwards, hand over hand, foot by foot; my neck twists back to check that the corner I’m edging towards is closer.
My palms, sweat-greased and copper-stained, grip a horizontal 50metre long cable hammered into the wall of Ellmauer Halt, the highest peak in the Wilder Kaisser range.

I’ve no karabiner or other equipment, I’m nauseous, and giving myself a profanity-loaded pep talk constantly and I’m heading down, alone, because I already lost my head to vertigo 300ft from the summit. My brother and nephew are up near the top, some place where you scale huge slabs of limestone rock to ascend to 2344m, which we’d decided, impulsively, to climb when at the col below.

To compound the drastic situation I’m in, as I wriggle backwards across a cliff face along this dangerously narrow fissure, others – coming up – wait at the far side for me. They’re a patient, calm Austrian team, bedecked in the full catalogue and – when I reach the relative safety of their slightly wider ledge – they chide my lack of a helmet.
“You may be hit by a rolling stone.”
I’m too breathless to laugh at the idea of getting jumped by Charlie Watts. I move on down, exhausted and shaking.

Besides Alpine anxiety at dizzying heights, in this last week my mind has mainly been trained on two things:
1. Notions of thresholds, momentum and purposeful motivation
2. Intrinsic pleasures.

I draw on these in this post about my experiences on this trip.

image

You’re training, physically, for Kilimanjaro in December. It’s alarming, then, to discover that your mental capacity needs more training. I grew up climbing mountains and have been up them all over the world. Whence this new vertigo, then? Suddenly spontaneous, unexpected and shatteringly terrifying.

It happened three times inside a four-day hike. The first you overcame with calm deep breaths and approaching the 90 degree ladder disappearing into the clouds with some kind of steeled determination before the panic could really stick. The second was just sheer panic for about thirty minutes, up and down Ellmauer.

You endured it. The hyperventilating. The choked sobs. Your brain floating and careering in a dizzying spin, vision unable to fix on detail, thumping headaches, nerves crumbling. A perpetually nauseating compulsion to look down. Horrific.

Amidst this turmoil, like a nut, your mind flips to educational theory, to research, to students’ experiences. Some reflexive engineering.

Meyer and Land’s proposal is of problematic knowledge and overcoming liminal thresholds to emerge anew. There’s little grounding of this empirically; it appears phenomenological, but it resonates.

At the bottom of Ellmauer Halt was a plateau of boulders, basic obstacles to get to the ascent. The plateau is used as a metaphor for progress flatlining.

You see symbols in everything. Navigation, contours, landscape. Inner psychology mirrored to the map, or the lack of one.

Since attitude is socially effected by the affective, how can you manipulate student mindset to encourage determination? I’m not sure you can. In your third bout of vertigo you uncovered a new low: a horrible rage at other people, a blame game, that others had misled you about the height, the danger, the landscape. You projected your lack of confidence onto others. If there had been a team, some support, some encouragement, this may not have happened.

You must learn to scan the horizon, to anticipate challenges, to draw strategies from what you already know. But vertigo is irrational, so logic like this goes absent.

You thought about how you may need to get some counselling to handle if this happens in Tanzania, but you don’t want to ‘learn to cope’ with vertigo. You don’t want it at all. The worry is that you have created new physiological memories from failing to achieve the summit, and of the anxious experience of vertigo. Will you look for the symptoms next time you climb? Will you imagine them, confuse adrenaline with panic? How do you approach a problem with different methods? It requires much confidence. How do I convince next years resit students to try a new approach, to keep an open mind, to avoid repeating mistakes?

Meyer and Land was like alchemy when I first read it. They describe overcoming thresholds as epistemologically transformative, as ontological integration, that it is irreversible. Learning theory framed like music.

My notion is that momentum (purposeful actions) occurs when motivation is intrinsically situated through visible objectives. The culture is vital to this: an accessible community, a range of means to communicate, a continual network in which to distribute these expressions, perpetual challenges and opportunities to create momentum. Without these elements, fatigue sets in. Fatigue is engagement atrophied.

While in Austria, you overcame thresholds. So why the repetitive vertigo? Because you had no choice but to carry on? The third vertigo was sustained, going unexpectedly higher and higher when you expected to descend. The way took in a prolonged ridge, dramatic drops, sudden ledges. No goals or end in sight. Without targets, progress can’t be tracked. You’d reached the saturation point of panic.

The abyss stared back at you.

And then I suddenly became weary of vertigo. I’d simply had enough of feeling anxious. It was as if I’d made a choice. I sat down among some trees and reflected. I listened to the perfect stillness you receive at altitude. A silence in which my fears had screamed. The silence is a void. There’s nothing there. We feel compelled to fill it with noise, because the emptiness is profound and terrifying. I started noticing details again: a leaf quivering of its own accord studied closer revealed an ant, struggling to cope with the load, but persisting, getting it to the nest, past a train of marching brothers all moving intently. I noticed my breathing had regulated, my heart had slowed. The sun’s warmth poured into me.

Ascension used to be a high. Now it’s a bind. What’s the pleasure in this? Gruelling heat, lightning and downpours, heart smashing at my rib cage.
What is it for?
What is the intrinsic value of enduring this?

Acceptance.

People talk about overcoming fears, but I feel I’ve embodied them, and ultimately accepted them, because when there’s only one direction to go – onward, upward – you just have to keep going.

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Filed under Educational theory, Philosophy, place, Uncategorized, Vertigo

‘Can I feed my child mud?’ – a parody on inquiry

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” – Thomas Pynchon.

Like most educators, deputy headmaster Jose Picardo must have an innate curiosity about knowledge. He just posted a poll to Twitter asking ‘Is it necessary to acquire knowledge and learn facts in schools?’

No, wait, in fact he preceded the question with ‘Now that we have Google, is it necessary to acquire knowledge and learn facts in schools?’

I suspect something in the difference there, as the onus is obviously on the first clause. Interesting that he posts the question to a knowledge construction tool, Twitter, which should result in debate rather than singular answers, but paradoxically single answers are all that’s proffered by the poll.

Note that the question is posed to teachers. At first I assumed this to be a little insulting to their intelligence, but Jose seems nothing if not crafty in his guile. His question strikes at the core of epistemology in today’s technologically enabled world of communication and information. Yet I think the question has more meaning posed to students than teachers and sometimes we should try to see through their lifeworld whenever we want to assume their perspective. It’s certainly a question students are more likely to ask, so why is he asking it to us?

The question, of course, has precedence in Nicholas Carr’s famously myopic essay ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ I don’t want to conflate the questions, because they have nothing in common (of course they don’t) so I’ll focus this blog on Jose’s and try to answer it by myself without looking up the answer:

‘Now that we have Google, is it necessary to acquire knowledge and learn facts in schools?’

Firstly, clearly there are different types of knowledge, so the question is predicated on what types of knowledge we’re after from Google. The indicator is in ‘facts’, so let’s put it to practice. I adapt this to my subject, English, a discipline which is not well furnished with facts. However, a recurrently problematic issue for students to understand is the meaning of a metaphor. So a student goes to Google. ‘What is a metaphor?’

Google gives an immediate word group – noun.

Right, okwhat’s a noun? Hmm: “a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things [common noun], or to name a particular one of these [proper noun]. Ahh, wait…what’s a pronoun, common noun..and a proper noun?!…[further searches] oh..ok got it. I think. I think therefore I googled. So, is Google a verb or noun?

Google gives a definition: “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable”. Cool, got it. Definitions, word groups..all good. Situated cognition in effect.

So, er, what’s a noun again?

It was…a figure of pronoun or object not appropriate to …erm…speech…wait…who said that? Not Google. Then no one can see if I understood, or learn it or compounded my assimilation of ‘noun’ by testing me. Not Google anyway. OK, just check again. Simple. Why do I need to assimilate knowledge? Only teachers need to understand concepts so thoroughly that they can pass them on to others – and that’s what Google’s for.

Hmm, well, hardly. A metaphor is an abstract, so not exactly ‘facts’ involved here. Better if I were a Science teacher. But I’m not, because I couldn’t remember all that stuff about plants and water and light.

Wait.

‘Now that we have Google, is it necessary to acquire knowledge and learn facts in schools?’

Ah, this is easy. The answer to Jose’s question is ‘yes.’ Right? He asks if it’s necessary.

Yes, it’s necessary because we might not always have Google or Wifi – like if we were in the Sahara Desert, or Devon.

No, no, that’s too easy. He’s a deputy head of an actual proper school, so there must be another angle. Perhaps he’s asking me to question the purpose of education – is it too recall facts? Is it in the pleasure of endeavour? Is it the social and participatory element? The cognitive persistence and mastering the malleability of plasticity?

Nah, also too easy. The answer must be ‘no’ then, surely. After all, if we can get transmitted knowledge from Google, we can FLIP our time together and do really cool crazy stuff in lessons to help us get jobs, like build energy efficent rockets and interview Martians on Periscope.

Hmm, but not everyone knows how to use Google. Not everyone has a desktop computer at home or even a latop. So maybe the purpose of School is to learn how to use Google?

Nah, cos in 10 years Google will be a shoe manufacturer or do robot repairs, as all knowledge will be stored on little headphones sold by McDonalds.

OK!

Right. Let’s try asking Google a different one, then: a more scientific question apropos of proper learning:

‘Can I feed my child mud?

I know, I know – ‘tabloid stupidity’. If I ask a stupid question I’ll get a stupid answer and receive the wisdom thereof. But it’s SCIENCE, isn’t it?

Oh brother, 12, 500, 000 entries. Isn’t Google supposed to be an expert? Like …a teacher. Why 12,500, o00? Just tell me the answer. Too much information.

Wait, ‘National Geographic’. Hmm, so maybe mud is good for you? Nutrients and all. Probably better than Greggs. ‘Poor Haitians resort to eating mud.’ Woooah, wait, that’s in Haiti, where there was an earthquake, so…[deducing] in the aftermath of an earthquake it’s ok to eat mud. Or…wait… ”mud has long been prized as an antacid…” Acid, sounds bad – so, what’s an anti…what’s it?

Google.

Antacid: adjective

Now what the hell’s an adjec-what…oh…Google: antacid:

(chiefly of a medicine) preventing or correcting acidity, especially in the stomach.

“I prescribed a kaolin antacid mixture”

And a Noun.

Huh?

 Ah, noun! An…er…noun..a name or something. Here:

noun: antacid; plural noun: antacid.

Plural noun? What the actual?

OK, Google. Should just be renamed Info. ‘I’m just infoing some Google’ because I cannot make head nor tail or all these words. What does it all mean? Why can’t Google just tell me?

1.an antacid medicine.

..so… antacid is medicine? So Mud is good. And if I can find out what antacid medicine is for, then all the better. So Google is good, because it makes me ask more questions. Like school. And inquiry is good, because it’s making me think critically? Smarts.

Or maybe I should ask Twitter, you know…get people’s opinions? Get a debate going? Of course that would depend on those people. I don’t know them any better than I know Google.

I know – the Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions Theory. Present knowledge as a statement of truth:

Eating Mud is Good for you. Agree/Disagree.

Sit back, wait for responses, let others construct the answer for you (Heh, just like I did in science at school).

But what if there’s no one to ask, or no one responds on Twitter (as usual)? What’s the point in asking? What’s the value of knowledge anyway? All knowledge has a shorter and short half-life so how do we know that Google is even up to speed with what it don’t even know it don’t know?

Let’s try another knowledge question – based on process and product, some facts and skills. ‘A search engine for my search engine. Withdraw, I’ll help you to a search engine. Lolz.’

Ok: how do I change the cambelt on a Ford Focus (Zetec – 1.6.)?

Google: Cambelt – replace every 5 years or every 100 000 miles. Woah, this is easy: YouTube video or – OR – go to Halfords for a FREE cambelt check. Human Interest! For free! In a Tory country!!

[Enters Halfords]

“Hi. I’ve just come in here for my FREE Cambelt check.”

Staff member: “Car model and year?”

“Um, Ford Focus (Zetec – 1.6.). Two thousand um…emfmm emmc it smc and. Dnnns.”

Staff member: moves to computer and checks on Google (like they do in the doctor’s surgery). “Yeah, you need to get it done every 5 years or 100,000 miles.”

“Erm, ok. Is that my free check up?”

Staff member: “Confirmed. It’s free. It’s £ 300 to look under the bonnet to see if your cambelt needs replacing.”

“THREE HUNDRED POUNDS? Wait, Google said it was free.”

Staff member: “Free to check, sir. To check on Google. Don’t believe everything you read.”

Later. Home.

[Returns to YouTube video ]. “OPEN THE BONNET – TAKE THE FAN BELTS OFF- LOOSEN THE NUTS – PUSH THE ALTERNATOR DOWN – TAKE ALL THE BOLTS OFF THE TURNING COVER…”

“Huh? Alter what now? Ohh, should have taken a motor maintenance course, chagrin, regret, self-loathing, etc.”

 OK, this video seems like haaaard work. It’s almost like with work there’s some kind of biting point – a sort of engagement – that’s needed to do anything. If I can’t be bothered, I don’t go anywhere, but if I manage to dig in and persist over that first threshold, there is a beautiful meadow – call it Googleland – where everything is known, like in the Gabriel Garcia Marquez book One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Except, everything is not known. Acquiring (and constructing) knowledge requires effort, inquiry, personal pursuit, socialisation, discussion, assessment, and the negotiation and rejection of received wisdom – and,  moreover (moreover, mind), it often benefits from the tools at our disposal. So,

One last Google check:

‘Now that we have Google, is it necessary to acquire knowledge and learn facts in schools?’

Mumbles: Bloody Google… useless when you have a real question to ask…just a springboard for…wait, oh

 

Ahhh, I see. The answer is suddenly clear. If only Jose had mentioned Wikipedia.

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Conversation is not Dead – using threads for discourse

This may go against the grain of those versed in dialogues and rhetoric based on classical systems, but debating – as far as I can see it – is dependent on the ability of people to frame contributions synchronously. A huge affordance of Technologies for Learning is the asynchonous: being able to self-edit and convey exactly what we want to communicate carefully. This is helpful, since it saves time and tangents in discourse, where others deviate by leaping on mistakes made by some in articulating points succinctly.

Discussion threads, such as wall posts, around VLEs or MOOCS or on Twitter, tend to be asynchonous, people can return to them and they are continuous. This helps let people in who cannot think on their feet and who may be shy to contribute in oral discussions. Threads can have impact on inclusive practice via mobile dialogue sustained over time in continuous dialogues through social media. A theoretical formula for online discussion threads aimed towards learning goals follows that arises originally from Habermas Theory of Commuicative Actions (1981), which categorised communciation types in how we negotiate the social world.

Warren and Wakefield‘s Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions builds on Habermas’ original premises:

  • Normative actions – best understood as ‘norms’ or regulated behaviours, conduct, or what a teacher outlines for correct procedure and expectation, i.e. ‘no swearing in the thread, keep contributions focused and/or responsive to others comments, challenge but justify providing further information where possible, etc.’. A contract of obligation and agreement is established; though fairly standard, if negotiated with students, this can have empowering and equalising functions.
  • Strategic actions – directions of what to do phrased as imperatives (i.e. ‘submit proposal by Friday’) from teacher to student group. According to Warren and Wakefield, they are framed with two resulting options: Accept/Reject. These actions reinforce the authority of the instructor in a sense, since if the imperative is accepted, then the student recognises it as ‘useful’ to their objects. In my analysis of social networks for learning, these are the primary responsibilities of a teacher, but more advanced students can support the context, activity and peers by issuing clarification, reminder notifications, or tips to others on how best to be organised or complete work.
  • Constative actions – this is where dialogue forms into discussion threads, with members posting ‘claims to truth’ which can lead to rejection and counter-claims, aimed at realising the negotiation and constructive critique of theoretical understanding between agents in challenging validity and providing evidence or further discourse. An instructor should have a discrete presence, acting as mediator as required and helping to summarise or seek clarification; this is probably served best where an instructor begins by posing truth claims, i.e. ‘Romeo and Juliet are responsible for all the subsequent violence in the play’.
  • Dramaturgical communicative actions – individualised expressions of what Habermas labelled Lifeworld: the internal realities of member agents. In Warren and Stein’s (2008) view, these may take shape as creative materials arising reflectively from the dialogue, framed around subjective experience but integrating and applying what has been discussed into multimodal literacies (posters, poems, art works). We may possibly see these as User Generated Content in other formats and prgrammes, or as assessable objects arising from Activity.

Much of this is based on classroom practice and the actions appear limited. I would add to this by recommending a Problem-based real world communicative actions approach, particularly in FE, vocational or HE, so scenarios become the context for discussion, i.e. for teacher training ‘the use of social media enables greater differentiation with summative assessment of programmes of study’ as a truth claim, but accompanied by a list of profiles of learners with tangible difficulties, such as students with dyslexia, second-language learners, students wishing to personalise assignments, those who have difficulty with attendance, etc.

Further, inclusivity to this could be enhanced through applying the Thinking Circles restorative practices, particularly in early stages with the promotion of all members to make a formal greeting, response , contribution or by acknowledging the presence of all members, in line with the first stage of Gilly Salmon‘s model of e-learning, so that discussions don’t become galleries of disrespect, like the House of Commons (based very much on the Oxbridge models of ‘He who scoffs loudest to the shrillest jeers’). This can enable curation of discussions by members themselves, rather than the teacher, and encourage the confidence of lurkers or ‘legitimate peripheral participants‘ who, in an oral classroom discursive context, may become frozen as spectators to others dominance.

Wakefield and Warren – Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions: Social Media as Educational Tool, from Using Social Media Effectively in the Classroom, 2013, by Kay Kyeong-ju Seo (Routledge).

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Communities of Practice, Learning technologies, Mobile Learning, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Dumb Angel

I’m writing about questions here.

I’ve been thinking about The Shallows and Nicholas Carr’s assertion that the internet stunts out intelligence. We are all getting dumber and dummer and we is dummin down…but I don’t really believe that. Maybe in the culture, but not in educational approach.

Surely the internet enhances inquiry? I mean, despite research being processed through sub-standard search engines, which tend to standardise responses – I believe kids are developing a sincere curiosity about the world which is being fed and filled by their devices.

The internet is an extension of the human brain, as McLuhan might have said (with it’s networks and routes, memes and memory, associations and links – and overloads). The internet answers everything you need to know (sometimes predicting the questions you wish to ask long before you get to typing a key word). Everything is known.

So, a kind of game I used in a language lesson this week. Given the question device words, what does Google predictably (and by trend) throw at you – and let’s try to reach some answers here please!

Firstly ‘WHO’. This extracted the following curiosity:

WHO KILLED FRANK FOSTER? Any thoughts anyone? Further searching informed me that Frank Foster is either a Tasmanian or Australian politician, or a Coronation Street soap opera character. I’m going with the first. So please tell me. I have to know now or bad things might happen. Make up your own answer to this if you don’t know. It’s all a bit of fun.

Secondly, ‘what’….the possibilities are endless in leading with this word. But I go here with what Google gave me first and foremost: WHAT DOES YOLO MEAN? This is definitely a really, really important question. One that would have many leading academics scratching their heads and pontificating. Just think: the most powerful search engine known to man, capable of answering or searching anything, that works on previous leads and predicted sentences. You enter the word ‘what’, anticipate the scope and breadth and depths of what could be summoned by previous users. And this is what appeared.

It’s not one that’s kept me awake at night before, as I only learnt that this word existed a few minutes ago, but now it might. So let me know, or I won’t sleep.

Thirdly, Which. This was problematic, because there’s a magazine that’s colonised this word, so it offers rhetorical enigmas like ‘which mobile, ‘which car’ and ‘which blackberry‘ (definitely the ones that grow on the South Downs in late summer, for me). So I prompted with another word and have come up with WHICH WAY DOES THE EARTH SPIN? a perfectly wondrous query, and one I’m sure I should know the answer to.  Maybe I do. It seems it’s normal to know something vital like this. Answers on a postcard below.

Now to when, which resulted in a bit of  blank from Google, but ‘when will’ gave me four strong choices. I’ve lumped for ‘WHEN WILL THE WORLD END?‘ No reason why, I just prefer it to the rest of the options. And I need to get some washing done before the big day. And I’m a cantankerous man.

Where, oh where…you presented me with the worst possible predicted questions. I had to probe a bit to get away from some simple-minded questions. I’ve gone with ‘WHERE IS THE LOVE‘, which is certainly not answered with the words Justin Timberlake, as I believe this question is more of a philosophical search (than an answer on the worst songs ever recorded). I might also have asked ‘where did the titanic sink‘, but quite frankly I couldn’t give a toss.

How results in a variety of possibilities. It could be: ‘did I meet your mother’; ‘deep is your love’; ‘is acid rain formed’, and – curiously – ‘how is Robin Gibb’. I’ve manipulated the search a bit here and am posing this, because it’s got a real ring of perplexity about it: HOW CAN SHE SLAP? How indeed. I think we all want to know.

Finally, the ultimate question of all – the one that we all ask each and everyday:

I’m gonna have to make a list here because so many tantalising quandaries were raised that have got me well and truly stumped.

WHY ARE MANHOLE COVERS ROUND?

WHY DO WE YAWN?

WHY ARE THE KARDASHIANS FAMOUS?

and WHY IS IT (oh, so many great configurations arose…tough choice) CALLED SCOTLAND YARD.

I know that the internet/Google knows everything and I could easily find the answers in 0.14 seconds generating 143,000 results but I just want to muse on this, so indulge me – and pray tell, otherwise I may well be a dumb angel forever.

Also, I’m really interested to know if there are really any questions (of perhaps a more tangible than ethical or philosophical basis) that t’interweb really cannot answer. Like ‘why are you so unpopular with the chicago police department’ (this also exists through Google, and is a question I often ask myself).

Other choices I liked from Google included ‘what happens when you die’, ‘when is saturday night live on’, ‘where did a t-rex live? when is my MOT due? and – of course – ‘why are all caravans white?’

“questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself” (lovely quote from the Prisoner – but one I don’t agree with).

OK, time to do something more productive.

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Idiot, slow down….

http://www.slowmovement.com

Englihtened to this by David Gauntlett, and a girl I met on an airplane who took nearly two hours to eat her meagre in-flight meal. The philosophy of thinking about the moment of now. Implications for an information intensive age where everything is faster, quicker…here’s how the Slow Movement outlines ways to take it easy…follow the link (in your own time)

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انه مكتوب – Innaho Maktoob: It is written

In writing this blog, I have learnt something about self. The maxim ‘I is another’ refers to a sense of identity that is multi-faceted. Rimbaud wrote this in a letter to his mentor to declare, quite pompusly and vain-gloriously, his literary credentials as a poet. But, moreover, he made this statement to exert another identity: his sense that the written word of his visions came from elsewhere, something mystical guided his hand, so to speak.

Now I’m curious about this blogging phenomenon. The symbiotic relationship that necessarily must exist between writer and reader/commentator. The reader must comment to validate the writer’s sense that he is working profoundly, that he exists and is not merely staring into a reflection of the abyss. Readers verify, creatively so in the shape of blogs. I’ve always been obsessed with words, so I find this platform an interesting one. I try to keep my sentences short. I try, and fail, to use humour to engage. I post pictures, polls, links, videos – and these seem to generate equally abysmal responses. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I don’t mind feeling that I write with no authority – with, thus, no legitimacy for originality, and hence, presumably, for no audience.

No, I really don’t mind feeling as if I am writing for no one, and occupying a void of empty space – for, you see, I presently live in Oberalm, a tiny village in Austria, so I’m comfortable with such feelings of nothingness.

Perhaps if I wish for readership I should just try a different approach and post a photograph of a lovely looking celebrity. Hmmm.

The reason I write this about readership and validity is that recently I was considering Jean-Paul Sartre, as you do. His work repeatedly explored a theme that resonates here, since I’ve read about others who share this feeling of despondency when they write and receive no feedback.

Sartre explains by anecdote from childhood how he became aware of his existential self. In Being and Nothingness, his great essay, JP recounts how he was peering through a keyhole as a child, watching someone secretively. The subject of this voyeurism became objectified, detached from himself. Suddenly, he heard a creeking floorboard behind him, and in an instant he realised himself as the object of another’s gaze. In a momentary flash of incredibly advanced insight for a small boy (that certainly underscored his credentials as a leading thinker later in life), young Jean-Paul wiped the sugar-glazed onion from his lips and formulated the philosophy that would bind him to history forever: ‘essence precedes existence.’

Quickly, Sartre darted down the stairs, quite forgetting both the nudey maid he’d been spying on and the lurking parent who had caught him in the act of perving. Fevered with epiphany, he went directly to the sitting chambre, switched on the beige Dell computer in the corner of the room, waited an hour while it booted up, connected the dial-up Lan line to the internet socket (while first checking that no one was using the telephone), dialed through to his ISP – FOL (filosophers on line) account, listened for the sounds of internet connectivity, opened the web domain portal, waited 10 minutes, re-connected and re-loaded, repeated the action again, slightly red-in-the-face, amassed enough megabyte exchanges, closed down all the pop-up windows, waited for the download process of Bytes, tapped in the url and logged on to his WordPress blogsite.

Once there, the 8 year old Jean-Paul Sartre wrote his famous dictum based on the experience of the keyhole, ergo: man is like a little boy peering through a keyhole, oblivious and happy, but once he hears the creek of a floorboard he enters a state of self-consciousness that extracts him forever from the state of pre-reflective consciousness. In short, the eyes of the other on him objectify him, and give him definition and awareness of his self.

I think I’ve managed to explain the idea succinctly there and get the jist of what JP meant to say. There’s probably more written on the subject but you’d have to look it up. I recommend this website I’ve recently discovered (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) 

Now: the point. Sartre, in his state of realisation/awareness and self-consciousness is like the blogger, who awaits a response to validate what he writes and why he does it. The symbiotic relationship with ourself is not complete without others to define who we are. Or as I would like to coin it: ‘Blogs is other people’.

So there you have it: I’ve managed to get a quote form the Qu’ran in the title, and references to Rimabud, Nietzsche and Sartre all in one post. And if that doesn’t attract some readers, here’s a picture of a modern intellectual, the “thinking man’s crumpet” (TV Quick, November 1998) Carol Vorderman.

Image

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