Consciousness and Education

(Working out some thoughts I’ve been having

Education needs to be the optimal cultivation of consciousness.

The exploration of the ends of education cannot be divorced from a Philosophy of Mind.

Consciousness’ central task is to simplify the world into what is relevant and what is irrelevant.

This is done through a) the acquisition of concepts (for concepts categorize the world and identifies the relevant in a mass of information) b) the ability to acquire, amend, and exapt one’s concepts.

These two together is what we call wisdom, or the Good Life.

The pre-requisite of a) is the development of language, including different symbolic systems. These are the syntax from which different concepts can be built and understood. This needs to then be coupled with the learning of conceptual frames that accompany these languages, what we call to learn to think like a X. This is done through a Whole-Part-Whole (hermeneutic circle) process, where the gestalt is given to the student, then details from which the gestalt is filled and revised, and more details. An education with only details without the gestalt is rote learning, and has no bearing on the cultivation of consciousness, and an education with only the gestalt descends into Pop. Psychology, producing only dilettantes. To be educated is to acquire as many of these important conceptual frames (all the major academic subjects, plus the arts and sports) as possible with sufficient depth, subsumed under a meta-conceptual frame, which is what we normally think of as Philosophy (at its most ambitious). Only with these levels of integration, from the meta-conceptual frame, to individual conceptual frames, to concepts within each frame, can we say that one has been educated.

But the above is not enough without b), the ability to acquire, amend, and exapt one’s concepts. This is what we call learning how to learn, or, in Kantian jargon, the cultivation of the faculty of judgement (both in its determinative and reflective manifestations). There are habits of mind that one can acquire by engaging in different conceptual frames that will be conducive to this, such as question-analysis, question-formulation, asking of Why/How questions, finding the Whole-Part-Whole relationship etc., but the only way to learn how to learn is to start to learn with freedom whilst receiving guidance, i.e. not be fed concepts and information, but constantly be encouraged actively to acquire them and make new connections.

A and B are not linear, in a relationship of A–>B. Instead, there are in, again, a reciprocal relationship (A<–>B), with the intentional and active acquisition of concepts building one’s ability to acquire concepts, and vice versa. This process is what education needs to imbue to each student, and through doing so enable them to learn independently, and become a teacher in their own right.

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