How to teach children to think for themselves?

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chownah
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by chownah » Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:56 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:13 pm
chownah wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:05 pm
I think it is a bit odd to say that you are going to teach someone how to think. It is sort of like teaching a vegetable seed to sprout.
chownah
I think (!) it depends on what is meant by "thinking". In the absence of any such tuition, either overt or covert, there will certainly be mentation, but it will not be that person thinking for themselves. It will be mere mental activity driven by contact with thoughts and sense-impressions, and most of it will be unintelligible to others. To be taught to think for oneself is to learn how to escape from that process, while remaining intelligible to oneself and others.
I think I disagree with you on this. All thinking is "mere mental activity driven by contact with thoughts and sense-impressions,"(don't know why "mere" is used here)....what else could it be? I think that encouraging children (for example) to think a certain way may elicit the natural use of certain types of thought processes....but I think that just like a seed will sprout when put in fertile ground and watered, thinking will sprout when provided fertile experiences and encouragement.
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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 1:10 pm

chownah wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:56 pm

All thinking is "mere mental activity driven by contact with thoughts and sense-impressions,"(don't know why "mere" is used here)....what else could it be?
Purposive activity which benefits the thinker. You'll certainly think a lot if your clothes catch fire in an accident. Most of it will be mere mentation, which adds nothing to your welfare. If you've been lucky enough to have been trained as a fire-fighter and understand the principles of combustion, however, then your thought will be of a different nature.
I think that encouraging children (for example) to think a certain way may elicit the natural use of certain types of thought processes....but I think that just like a seed will sprout when put in fertile ground and watered, thinking will sprout when provided fertile experiences and encouragement.
Sure. It's a reasonable enough analogy, but the distinction between farming and pedagogy is there for a reason.

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Bundokji
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Bundokji » Sat Dec 16, 2017 1:16 pm

I think children should be taught that knowledge is a process, not facts that are frozen in space and time. Once this is understood, the process of justification takes place. You enable them to become more skillful in justifying their beliefs. When a certain belief can no longer be justified, it should be discarded and replaced by a more justified one.

I would also say that justification should not be clearly defined, but should be properly used. A skillful swimmer does not need to have a clear definition of what swimming is.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

binocular
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:54 pm

I think the concept "to think for oneself" is a loaded one, ideologically biased and used to fulfill some kind of socio-psychological need (I'm not yet sure which one).

Image

People say they "think for themselves" when they want to appear special, as opposed to "being like everyone else."
And people tell others to "think for themselves" when they want to eschew whatever responsibility they feel they have toward them.

One can think for oneself in the same way one can breathe for oneself: under the condition that a solid, separate, self-sufficient self is assumed.
To truly breathe for oneself would mean to make one's own oxygen (from nothing, ex nihilo) and have full, conscious control over one's lungs and the whole breathing apparatus ...
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:57 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:13 pm
I think (!) it depends on what is meant by "thinking". In the absence of any such tuition, either overt or covert, there will certainly be mentation, but it will not be that person thinking for themselves. It will be mere mental activity driven by contact with thoughts and sense-impressions, and most of it will be unintelligible to others. To be taught to think for oneself is to learn how to escape from that process, while remaining intelligible to oneself and others.
Why this emphasis on others??

And which others?

Most of Buddhist thinking is unintelligible to most people (who don't have an education in Buddhism). Does that make Buddhist thinking mere mentation?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:10 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:57 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:13 pm
I think (!) it depends on what is meant by "thinking". In the absence of any such tuition, either overt or covert, there will certainly be mentation, but it will not be that person thinking for themselves. It will be mere mental activity driven by contact with thoughts and sense-impressions, and most of it will be unintelligible to others. To be taught to think for oneself is to learn how to escape from that process, while remaining intelligible to oneself and others.
Why this emphasis on others??

And which others?

Most of Buddhist thinking is unintelligible to most people (who don't have an education in Buddhism). Does that make Buddhist thinking mere mentation?
If one's thinking is not intelligible to others, then it is not intelligible per se. Meaning and intelligibility are inter-subjective, in that if we had an idea that nobody else could understand, then it would be meaningless because we would lack any independent criteria by which it could be meaningful. This does not imply that everyone should be able to understand it, which means that Buddhist thinking is not unintelligible.

binocular
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:13 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:49 am
binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:29 am
How is "to teach someone to think for themselves" not a contradiction in terms?
Because the verbs "to think" and "to teach" are conceptually separate.
You're leaving out the qualifier "for themselves". "For themselves" and "to teach" are conceptually in conflict. If someone is or needs to be taught, then they are not doing something "for themselves".
True, but once the teaching is done, there need be no such reliance. In that particular respect, it happens to be like teaching swimming or driving. Once the teacher has produced a competent swimmer or driver, there need be no reliance upon the teacher any more.
But it's competence in accordance with someone else's ideas of competence, not one's own. So there's no "for oneself" there.
Rules and principles of thinking do not belong to anyone, any more than the laws of physics which allow one to swim or drive belong to anyone. We can of course attribute their discovery or popularisation to particular individuals, but that's not ownership.
That is the same line of thinking that some preachers use to advocate for their particular religion, trying to present it as objectively true and beyond any subjectivity. "Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and this is not just me telling you this, it's the truth!"
A person who has been taught how to think may be indebted to their teacher, but is no longer controlled by them.
They are controlled by their teacher, by proxy, in that now they think the way their teacher taught them to think. Controling someone is complete when external influence isn't necessary anymore and the person thinks, feels, speaks, and behaves as if controlled even if external control isn't present anymore.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:17 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:54 pm
One can think for oneself in the same way one can breathe for oneself: under the condition that a solid, separate, self-sufficient self is assumed.
To truly breathe for oneself would mean to make one's own oxygen (from nothing, ex nihilo) and have full, conscious control over one's lungs and the whole breathing apparatus ...
Correct in principle, except that the self required by the assumption does not need to be solid, separate, or self-sufficient. We can breathe for ourselves (and, in the examples given earlier, we can also swim or drive for ourselves) and we can also think for ourselves. None of these require the type of self you state, unless one assumes that the term "for ourselves" means "for our solid, separate, and self-sufficient selves".

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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:44 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:13 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:49 am
binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:29 am
How is "to teach someone to think for themselves" not a contradiction in terms?
Because the verbs "to think" and "to teach" are conceptually separate.
You're leaving out the qualifier "for themselves". "For themselves" and "to teach" are conceptually in conflict. If someone is or needs to be taught, then they are not doing something "for themselves".
True, but once they are taught, then they are doing it. There is no conflict between doing something for oneself and having been taught it.
But it's competence in accordance with someone else's ideas of competence, not one's own. So there's no "for oneself" there.
There is never a competence which is independent of someone else's idea; that's a version of Wittgenstein's "private language" argument. To suggest otherwise is just to argue about the meaning of terms. A swimming teacher whose pupils all drowned could claim that they had taught their pupils to swim for themselves, but they would merely be misusing words for the purpose of contrariness.
That is the same line of thinking that some preachers use to advocate for their particular religion, trying to present it as objectively true and beyond any subjectivity. "Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and this is not just me telling you this, it's the truth!"
If they said this, they would soon fall foul of any test for intelligibility, whereas someone thinking for themselves would not. Two religious acolytes accepting the above could not tell us any fact in common derived from that statement alone; whereas two students who had been taught the principles of symbolic logic could derive the same fact from common axioms.
They are controlled by their teacher, by proxy, in that now they think the way their teacher taught them to think.
There are two things wrong with this. The first is that doing something in a particular way is not the same as being controlled. The second is that having been taught to do something, they can develop their activity beyond the capacities of their teacher. (Once we teach someone to do the breast-stroke, they might be able to improve on it for themselves; once we teach addition, our student may be able to independently gain insight into multiplication...) To suggest that "doing something for oneself" involves a qualitative separation of that activity and relative autonomy from everything that went before is to smuggle some metaphysical assumption into the argument which is not usually warranted in ordinary usage. A bit like saying that "nothing exists", because the concept of existence requires the autonomy and aseity of every existent.

binocular
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:47 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:17 pm
Correct in principle, except that the self required by the assumption does not need to be solid, separate, or self-sufficient. We can breathe for ourselves (and, in the examples given earlier, we can also swim or drive for ourselves) and we can also think for ourselves. None of these require the type of self you state, unless one assumes that the term "for ourselves" means "for our solid, separate, and self-sufficient selves".
In that case, the "self" in that "thinking for oneself" is an abstract, vague entity that gets its appearance of essence and relevance from being glossed over it.

(When people use the term "self", what do they really mean by it?)

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:10 pm
If one's thinking is not intelligible to others, then it is not intelligible per se. Meaning and intelligibility are inter-subjective, in that if we had an idea that nobody else could understand, then it would be meaningless because we would lack any independent criteria by which it could be meaningful. This does not imply that everyone should be able to understand it, which means that Buddhist thinking is not unintelligible.
This seems to hold only if we posit that among humans, there are cognitive solidarity, mutual acceptance, cognitive egalitarianism ("If person A can understand it, then any other person, on principle, can understand it as well"), and that these exist without any individual person having to earn them.

If, on the other hand, we posit that the fundamental relationship between humans is indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability, then this has consequences for how interpersonal concepts (such as "to teach" or "to teach someone to think for themselves") will be understood and what implications will be drawn.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:24 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:44 pm
binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:13 pm
They are controlled by their teacher, by proxy, in that now they think the way their teacher taught them to think.
There are two things wrong with this. The first is that doing something in a particular way is not the same as being controlled.

The second is that having been taught to do something, they can develop their activity beyond the capacities of their teacher. (Once we teach someone to do the breast-stroke, they might be able to improve on it for themselves; once we teach addition, our student may be able to independently gain insight into multiplication...) To suggest that "doing something for oneself" involves a qualitative separation of that activity and relative autonomy from everything that went before is to smuggle some metaphysical assumption into the argument which is not usually warranted in ordinary usage. A bit like saying that "nothing exists", because the concept of existence requires the autonomy and aseity of every existent.
Exactly, as I noted above.

But what you call "ordinary usage" isn't ordinary usage anymore, when the defining relationship between people is indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability. With those on the rise, individualism is on the rise as well. I think individualism is actually a way to cope with the indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability: when people don't trust eachother, they have to rely on themselves more and more. But this reliance on oneself, when taken to its logical conclusions, leads to the absurdity of solipsism.


Can a teacher teach a student to think for herself, when the teacher is indifferent to the student, hostile to her, sees her as a competitor, or as expendable?
The student recognizes these attitudes in the teacher. Given this, how is the student supposed to learn an intricate and intimate skill such as critical thinking?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:30 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:47 pm
In that case, the "self" in that "thinking for oneself" is an abstract, vague entity that gets its appearance of essence and relevance from being glossed over it.

(When people use the term "self", what do they really mean by it?)
That doesn't follow, I'm afraid. It doesn't follow that a self which is not "solid, separate, and self-sufficient" is necessarily vague. The meaning of the term depends upon context, of course, but it can mean a number of highly determinate things. It may not have "essence" (you would have to say what that means - does anything have an "essence"?) but it can be highly relevant. "Thinking for oneself" is one of the cases where it acquires relevance.
This seems to hold only if we posit that among humans, there are cognitive solidarity, mutual acceptance, cognitive egalitarianism ("If person A can understand it, then any other person, on principle, can understand it as well"), and that these exist without any individual person having to earn them.
Again, it doesn't follow, I'm afraid. There is no necessity that a thing understood by one person could be understood by any other person. There are things I'll never be able to understand, but that does not in itself mean that they are in principle unintelligible.
If, on the other hand, we posit that the fundamental relationship between humans is indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability, then this has consequences for how interpersonal concepts (such as "to teach" or "to teach someone to think for themselves") will be understood and what implications will be drawn.
Of course, but that's to say no more than if we diddle with axioms, we can derive different things from them. But even then, the idea that intelligibility requires intersubjectivity is independent of conceptions of sociability that one might want to introduce into the mix.

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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:40 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:24 pm

Exactly, as I noted above.

But what you call "ordinary usage" isn't ordinary usage anymore, when the defining relationship between people is indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability. With those on the rise, individualism is on the rise as well. I think individualism is actually a way to cope with the indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability: when people don't trust eachother, they have to rely on themselves more and more. But this reliance on oneself, when taken to its logical conclusions, leads to the absurdity of solipsism.


Can a teacher teach a student to think for herself, when the teacher is indifferent to the student, hostile to her, sees her as a competitor, or as expendable?
The student recognizes these attitudes in the teacher. Given this, how is the student supposed to learn an intricate and intimate skill such as critical thinking?
If you noted it above, I missed it. You seem to be requiring aseity as a precondition for "thinking for oneself", whereas I don't.

"Ordinary usage" in terms of thinking for oneself is unaffected by the psychology you introduce here. If the student learns to think for him/herself, then the predispositions of the teacher are irrelevant. Of course, the teacher may have specified characteristics such that they cannot teach the student to think for themselves. A poor grasp of language, or even an off-putting demeanour would fit the bill. All one can say is that if students are to be taught to think for themselves, then such teachers are best avoided. Not that the existence of such teachers makes teaching impossible. There are bad carpenters around, yet excellent tables still get made.

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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:51 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:40 pm
"Ordinary usage" in terms of thinking for oneself is unaffected by the psychology you introduce here.
I fail to see how such is the case.

If one internalized what the teacher teaches, how can one separate this from the teacher's attitude toward the student?

While I agree that such separation is possible in some areas, such as math or swimming (ie. areas where one can actually test things for oneself), it's not clear how it is possible in such areas as philosophy, ethics/morality, religion/spirituality (ie. areas where such testing is not possible, and where faith or taking someone's words for gold is the highest or the only epistemic standard).
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Sam Vara
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Re: How to teach children to think for themselves?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:17 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:51 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 16, 2017 6:40 pm
"Ordinary usage" in terms of thinking for oneself is unaffected by the psychology you introduce here.
I fail to see how such is the case.

If one internalized what the teacher teaches, how can one separate this from the teacher's attitude toward the student?

While I agree that such separation is possible in some areas, such as math or swimming (ie. areas where one can actually test things for oneself), it's not clear how it is possible in such areas as philosophy, ethics/morality, religion/spirituality (ie. areas where such testing is not possible, and where faith or taking someone's words for gold is the highest or the only epistemic standard).
Easily. With regard to philosophy and ethics, I studied under an extremely strict, cold, humourless professor; but her attitude did not affect my understanding of the subject. She could have been so cold as to demotivate me, but this wasn't the case. Even if it were the case, then all this shows is that some temperaments are unsuited to teaching.

With regard to religion and spirituality, then often we are motivated by the teacher's personality as a whole. I can't recall them at the moment, but there are suttas where one is advised to spend a lot of time with the teacher, and watch how they act under a range of different circumstances. That's how we know a sappurisa.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

If a person treats me with the qualities you specified - " indifference, hostility, competition, or expendability." - then I won't be taking them for my spiritual advisor, thanks. I might be able to learn swimming, driving, or even philosophy from them, but if they don't embody the type of ethics I admire, then I will treat them like the swimming teacher with the drowned pupils or the driving instructor who causes crashes. But that doesn't mean that positive people who could help me don't exist. It just means that such people are not sappurisa.

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