Recollection and Guessing

October 21, 2008

Plato, in his Meno and Phaedo, presents an interesting idea about learning. He says that our soul (which was created before we were born, and is in fact immortal – I’m using the singular because it seems to me that Plato’s view implies everyone shares the same soul) already knew everything, but forgot it when we were born, and so when we learn something we are actually “recollecting” it, rather than discovering it.

This seems somewhat arbitrary, but he does have a reason for it – it solves the paradox of learning. Basically, if we already know about X, we can’t learn about X, and if we don’t already know about X, how can we begin to learn about it, since we don’t know what it is? This wouldn’t be a problem if everything we know came from someone telling it to us, but clearly we discover things on our own, so… anyway, the idea of recollection solves this.

But I wonder if this idea of recollection is actually valid. After all, we don’t learn about something on our own by suddenly saying, “oh, I just remembered X is the case”. Instead, we will say, “I wonder if X is the case?”. Then we will investigate the matter, and either say “X is indeed the case”, or “X is not the case”. In other words, we learn by guessing and then investigating our guesses and determining whether they’re true. In Plato’s terminology, we move from ignorance, to opinion, then either to knowledge, or back to opinion (if our guess was false)…

Really, this seems like a somewhat obvious objection. Why doesn’t Plato consider this?

Anyway, I don’t have a guess, just thought I’d throw this out there. This also does a decent job of explaining why I write “speculation” posts – I’m guessing, and I don’t yet know whether I’m right or not. That’s how we come to knowledge.

News from a Distant Shore

October 14, 2008

Just got back from Greece (on Sunday night, actually, so it’s been a day and a half). A few random comments:

  • Our travels in Greece took us to Olympia, where the original Olympics were held; to Delphi, the residence of the Oracle; to a Greek Orthodox monastery; to Athens, where we stayed for three days; to Napflion, a modern city near ancient Mycenae; and to Epidarus, where there is an amazingly well preserved ancient theatre. While in Italy driving back to Rome, we stopped at Montecassino, the original Benedictine monastery (rebuild after being bombed in WWII). It was all pretty amazing, but my favorite parts were probably Delphi, Epidarus, and Montecassino, with Montecassino ranked highest, for reasons personal and difficult to explain so I won’t go into them.
  • It’s strange how important a part of my life music has become. I didn’t have any access to my music library while in Greece, which meant ten days spent without music (except the music other people listen to). It was rather irritating at times. I kept wanting to listen to the song “And Then There Was Silence”, by Blind Guardian, about the Trojan War (so it seemed appropriate in Greece), but I couldn’t. Yargh. I’ve probably listened to it at least three times since getting back (and it’s a 14-minute-long song).
  • The landscape in Greece is amazing, particularly the variety in elevation. There are mountains basically right next to the ocean, with enormous valleys between the mountains. The view from up in the ancient theater at Delphi, for example, is simply amazing. I suspect the inspiring landscape had something to do with the more epic nature of ancient Greece. They were much more interested in beauty than practicality; take their literature, for example, which all deals with great heroes and such; they don’t do mundane drama, and their comedies are not nearly as good as their tragedies. Compare this to Italy, which, while on occasion beautiful, is not as universally inspiring as Greece. Notice that the Romans were more practical than creative. It would be interesting to look for correlations between the physical landscape of a writer’s country and that writer’s subject matter… I might write a longer post on this later.
  • Even though the natural beauty of Greece is amazing, and the ancient ruins are cool too, the country doesn’t have much going for it nowadays. Architecture-wise, there are very few buildings from 200 BC to 1900 AD. They haven’t produced much culturally for the last 2000 years either. Basically, Greece has the ancient Greeks, but not much else. So on the whole I prefer Italy, where you have the ancient Romans, but also Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and modern stuff.

Rushed (October)

October 3, 2008

I’m making this post just forty minutes before I leave for Greece for ten days (during which time I will not be posting because I don’t have internet access). So I’m kind of rushed, even though I’m not actually going to run out of time or anything.

Actually, this month is probably going to be rather rushed the entire time, besides. Greece will be a constant shuttling between different ancient sites, then we have exams, then just a few weeks later we leave on 10-day (which is actually nine days) and that will be drive-by tour of four, maybe five different cities. Fun. Then October’s over.

Anyway, what Wesnothian character is this like?… It seems kind of like Konrad from Heir to the Throne, the original Wesnoth campaign. He travels basically in a giant circle over the entire damn continent, giving you a tour of the entire country, while gathering up an army to defeat the evil queen. I’m doing something similar; I’m traveling over the entire continent, and while I’m not trying to defeat an evil queen, I do have objectives.

Anyway, here’s Konrad. He’s gone through more portrait versions than anyone else, probably, except maybe Li’sar; this is his most recent one.

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