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Thoughts on beginning Epistemology

Old and Bold

Image and Edit courtesy of Flickr user @talonsblog

No small part of the #Philosophy12 course design has been based in the framework of social constructivism:

according to which all “knowledge is a compilation of human-made constructions”,[16] “not the neutral discovery of an objective truth”.[17] Whereas objectivism is concerned with the “object of our knowledge”, constructivism emphasises “how we construct knowledge”.[18] Constructivism proposes new definitions for knowledge and truth that form a new paradigm, based on inter-subjectivity instead of the classical objectivity, and on viability instead of truth. Piagetian constructivism, however, believes in objectivity—constructs can be validated through experimentation.

Many of the different ideas contained in the above definition (from Wikipedia) arose during last week’s Metaphysics Pecha Kucha presentations, and I have been thinking about how to extend our class’ pursuit of individual and collected knowledge with the beginning of our Epistemology unit, some of which I hope to introduce here, even if these ideas aren’t quite yet fully formed.

I have been reflecting on the purpose of the philosophical lecture, as well; the series of Pecha Kucha presentations delivered last week, each outlining and contextualizing a proposition of a notable metaphysician, were a literally awesome exploration and synthesis of a broad scope of human thinking about the nature of reality.  In my own preparations for the Epistemology unit, I’ve continued to indulge in materials from iTunesU, and Oxford University‘s Philosophy for Beginners, as well as Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (nicely accompanied by Project Gutenburg‘s access to the free volume of the text), and have been immensely grateful to these wildly knowledgable and articulate professors (and their institutions) for being willing to share their wisdom of the different contexts surrounding the development of human knowledge with us and others free of charge. (While some others may disagree, I think that this free and open sharing of ideas is necessary for our continued learning and progress as a society and civilization, and has been since time immemorial.)

Without these keepers of such knowledge, and contexts, being ‘brought up to speed‘ on the progress of philosophical thought would no doubt be a much more painful and arduous process, and I hope for-credit and open online participants familiarize themselves with some of the outstanding materials available to them online and locally (please feel free to use the comments of this post, the #philosophy12 hashtag, or a new posting on the blog to share something you come across that we could benefit from).

True to our constructivist’s roots, the class will be engaging with the idea of human knowledge by developing a statement and articulation of each learner’s own emerging individual philosophy, and then working collaboratively to synthesize and present a class lecture (one lecture undertaken by the class as a whole) outlining our collective reasoning, that will be recorded and streamed live online, and shared in the pantheon of voices between our own humble classroom and the halls of Oxford, the University of Glasgow, or even the new year’s Coursera offering.

The face-to-face class will be meeting Monday, November 5th, to discuss the criteria and layout of the unit of study, and streaming the conversation on #ds106radio so that open online participants can listen and take part in the conversation.

More Free Online Courses:

  • General Philosophy
    A series of lectures delivered by Peter Millican to first-year philosophy students at the University of Oxford. The lectures comprise the 8-week General Philosophy course and were delivered in late 2009.

  • Nietzsche on Mind and Nature
    Keynote speeches and special session given at the international conference ‘Nietzsche on Mind and Nature’, held at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, 11-13 September 2009, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.

  • Kant’s Epistemology (audio only)
    Dr. Susan Stuart taught this course at the University of Glasgow in 2008, covering Kant’s three critiques published between 1781 and 1790.

  • Coursera’s Introduction to Philosophy
    This course will introduce you to some of the most important areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each week a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise.

I can also heartily recommend the Open Culture blog‘s collection of 55 Free Philosophy Courses



About bryanjack

HS Gifted program teacher interested in the world out there, the world in here, and blending the two at every opportunity.


3 thoughts on “Thoughts on beginning Epistemology

  1. Well-written and a nice read.
    For beginners, I put together this short film about epistemology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI9-YgSzsEQ

    Posted by Kent | February 26, 2013, 6:00 am


  1. Pingback: My Epistemology – Mr. J Edition « Philosophy 12 - November 6, 2012

  2. Pingback: Personal Epistemology – Mr. J Edition | Adventures in a Gifted Classroom - November 7, 2012

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