Is this art?

On Wednesday one of Edmonton’s popular newspapers asked the question: “Is this Art?” in Reference to particular construction that has appeared near the Whitemud and Fox Drive. Considering our discussion Wednesday afternoon about the nature of art (revolving around the Hallucinogenic Toreador – see the video below) I thought the question was worth asking with reference to out local art. So what do you think? Is this art? Is this something that governments should be finding? Is there something you’ve seen recently which has caused you to question ‘art’? I’m curious to see your opinions.

Language and its importance

Consider the following two questions.  Think about the language (or languages) that you know.

  • To what extent does language determine how we know things?
  • In what ways do you think the language we know influences how we perceive things?

The importance of languange is something that can be easily overlooked (witness the fact that we have spent a long time talking about a lot of things but never the role of language in their transmission).

Consider this article.  Do you agree with what it is suggesting?  What does the thesis of this article mean for the basis of knowing?

Watch this video, I have discussed the Académie Française before, considering the importance of language in what we know it could prove an important discussion point for a blog (remember that you have to do at least one on language as ‘way of knowing.’


Theory of Knowledge presents language as one of the key ways of learning. This look at the importance of language in our learning tries to put it all into perspective. Essentially language allows humans to be ‘social learners’. It is also, interestingly, visual theft, which is a very different way to look this important trait. Dr. Mark Pagel presents an interesting TED talk about the evolution of our one of our most defining traits. Perhaps – ‘We talk, therefore we are.’

His look into the the future of language and the dilemma of our plethora of languages provides a very powerful question about our future. Do you agree is our future really that of standardization? As an interesting aside that was sparked by his picture of the man with the blackboard, and if this has not happened already, it will be very soon, there are now more people studying English in China than live in North America (there were 300 million in 2007 although the quality may be in some dispute).

Hedgehogs and Foxes

We often base our knowledge and beliefs on the wisdom and knowledge of others. In our modern world there has been a proliferation  experts talking to us via TV and other mediums. Here’s something to think about the next time you are listening to someone talk on TV. Are expert opinions all they’re cracked up to be? Is there a danger in listening more to the foxes than the hedgehogs?

Can we control language?

'thank you note for every language' photo (c) 2010, woodleywonderworks - license:
Tonight this article caught my attention. As you can read the French have a very distinct approach to controlling the way the French language works. Do you think this is a good idea? Should we be doing the same thing in English? Is this kind of control good or bad languages in general? You’re welcome to explore the Académie Française’s actual website, although, be warned it is all in French! The offending page is located here.

In general how important is language to our pursuit of knowledge, and what happens to that knowledge as the language changes?

Allegory of the Cave

I would like you to read the following story. It can be a little hard to understand so don’t sweat the small stuff (don’t try and understand every word or phrase!), but work your way through it, and take your time to consider what each sentence is telling you about the people in the story.  If you find it easier to print and follow along then do so.  Think about what ways of knowing (sense perception, reason, language, faith) play an important role in the story. When you are done look at this video which shows the same story and consider answering these questions for your blog:

  • What does this story say about what we know today?
  • What does it say about what we may may or may not know in the future?
  • To what extent does this story comment on sense perception, reason, language and faith as a way of knowing?
  • Was this story surprising in any way?

Is this the future?

I happened across this on one of my Twitter postings today and it made me think about one of our major themes in Theory of Knowledge. If the systems that we use to gather information, whether social or intellectual continue to act in the way described in the video, what does that mean for us as the knower? Will we ever know what is really the truth? Is it true what Mark Zuckerburg says, that we really are more interested in the dead squirrel on our lawn than the people who may be perishing by the millions due to a famine on a different continent?

You may want to comment on this in your blog. Check your Facebook feed, is there something that is suddenly missing? It might be interesting to compare screen shots of your own Google searches.

While I used the code form YouTube to embed this video, you may want to head over to Ted Talks and read some of the conversation that Eli Pariser had with other viewers. It can add some interesting insight into your answers.

**Please remember to obscure any personal names if they should come up.**

Derek’s gift

Some of the main themes of this course is dealing with the way people learn and think.  During the summer I came across this fascinating story on CBS’ 60 Minutes about Derek, a man with an extraordinary gift, but also some extraordinary challenges.  I encourage you to watch it and to reflect on how we treat individuals like Derek in our communities.

Think about the basics that we discussed in the first class. How does this reflect the way we ‘know’ things. How does Derek use the four ways of knowing (reason, language, perception, emotion) to ‘know’ things?

As this is a blog you are also encouraged to write your impressions below, the more you respond, the more this helps to shape your learning.