Knowing – some thoughts of philosophical relevance?

Just found an essay I printed out some time ago… perhaps relevant to my thinking about the parallels between martial arts education, ECE, and education for the twenty-first century…

“ABSTRACT John Macmurray was one of the few philosophers to go against the positivist-reductionist trend of the 1930-1960 period. This paper follows up one of his many threads of enquiry. He questioned the popular Cartesian ‘visual’ method of knowing and focused on simpler senses, such as touch. This enabled him to stress how skills and feelings, as well as reason, characterise personal action. Michael Polanyi, who also worked against the current, articulated a view of how scientific discoveries are actually made and built on his own personal knowledge of skill-acquisition and research. Susanne Langer, in a profound, parallel enquiry, was more concerned with the arts (music especially) and was deeply interested in the occasional sudden dawning of meaning (e.g. Helen Keller’s experience). She clarified the dynamic connotations of ‘symbol’ in what I term ‘the Winnicott approach’ to all those meaning-making things, including words, toys and the probes with which we create and recreate a living culture. Winnicott was able to see, more clearly than Macmurray, the need for conceptual ‘space’, not only between evolving animal and human systems, but also for what he termed ‘potential space’ in the zone of play which mothers create around their infants – areas of limited freedom in which all culturally transmitted skills have their root. These concepts have an important bearing on newly emerging ways for thinking about education, culture and technology.”

The rhythm of human life swings to and fro between the withdrawal from action into reflection …and the return from reflection into action. …The reality of religion consists in their living union (Macmurray, 1936, pp.110-111).”

“This is an essay which touches on several thinkers who, like John Macmurray, broke away from the prevailing mechanistic, reductionist paradigm of the 1950s and 1960s. …We will focus first on one of the key ideas which Macmurray isolated: that our sense of touch can tell us more about how we know than can our very sophisticated senses of sight and hearing.”

“After Macmurray, our first witness will be Michael Polanyi. He opened up the meaning of ‘personal’; first of all in terms of the phenomenology of skilled action and scientific research. He spoke much of the ‘tacit knowledge’ that accumulates, much of it unawares, as we try to learn to swim or cycle or – more specialist examples – as we study the shadowy arts of reading X-ray pictures or arriving at judicial decisions. Polanyi’s greatest achievement was to create an original, overarching view of how science is actually done: essentially, in an atmosphere of skilled exploration, undertaken, not with predominant assumptions of critical scepticism but with belief – with trust that Truth and order are many-levelled and discoverable. Susanne Langer, roughly a contemporary, explored the links between logic, language and feeling. She also momentously …clarified the meaning of symbol – as a special sign with transforming power.”

Ref: Robin A Hodgkin (1997) ‘Making space for meaning’ Oxford Review of Education 23(3) September, p.385+ (15p) [my version, np]


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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