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What’s Essential in the Education Debate Part 3: Refutation

December 12, 2013

Previously I looked at the importance of a commitment to truth and a rejection of unreasonable methods of disagreement in the education debate. In this blogpost I will look at how claims and ideas can be reasonably rejected.

Here I start asking the most serious questions about what we can know in education, as wanting to know if one is wrong is at the heart of caring about truth. It is also here that we can see that claims that we can know nothing are most obviously false, because while we can rarely be certain we are right we can often recognise when people are wrong. What types of thought can be employed here varies depending on what is to be refuted, but I would suggest the following are key (and in, my highly subjective, experience are needed in roughly this order of priority):

Philosophy/logic. The most common wrong claims in education are those we know to be wrong because they are simply incoherent or contradictory. If somebody says they are not arguing against the teaching of phonics and then describe phonics as “barking at print” then we know that something they have said is untrue or badly expressed. The reason I bring philosophy into this rather than leaving this at “logic” is because very often we have to pick apart what is meant by certain words, phrases and ideas in order to identify what is incoherent or inconsistent about them. So for instance, the idea that lessons don’t need to be fun and that learning should be based on play are contradictory only when we look at what is meant by “play”. Because analysing meaning is so key we should be very wary of those who dismiss an argument as “semantic”. Very often it is only by looking at precisely what is meant that we can identify that ideas are incoherent or have been expressed by somebody who did not know what they were saying. Even the more historical form of philosophy, where we look at the history of ideas and what has been argued about them in the past, can help identify logical and conceptual problems with claims. That logic is such a key method of disproving claims in education both illustrates a lack of rigour in the discipline, but also gives us reason to be weary of those who demand evidence in every argument. Some claims are so inherently flawed they would be wrong in all possible worlds, and we don’t need to even look at the world to show them to be wrong. This is not, however, the end of the contribution philosophy might make to discussing education; there is also the matter of ethics. A large number of claims in education are, when explored thoroughly, actually claims about values. While I don’t believe moral philosophy can resolve all moral disagreements, it can certainly cast a light on incomplete or implausible moral theories of which there is no shortage in debates about education.

History. Remarkably, or perhaps not remarkably given the state of education as an academic discipline, a lot of claims in education are actually supported with little more than narrative accounts, such as claims that an idea is new (and should be tried because of it); claims that contemporary developments are unprecedented and require a new educational philosophy, or simply stories of what has allegedly failed in the past. While there is a limit to the confidence with which we can assert anything about the past based on the methods of the historian, much education debate is presented as completely ahistorical to the point where it can be rejected on the basis of a little historical context. A quick look at this blogpost by Daisy Christodoulou  and the many examples I have provided in the comments would indicate how often educational progressives simply ignore the history of their own educational philosophy in favour of an alternative account of history in which they are the underdogs challenging the establishment with new ideas.

Cognitive Psychology.  It may reflect on the state of the education debate rather than my priorities that we have got this far down the list before considering the contribution that can be made by science to education. It is only after we have analysed ideas and stated them as clearly as possible that we reach the point where they may be judged in light of empirical evidence. So many ideas in education hinge on theories about how the mind works and, therefore, the knowledge we have from psychology about how the mind works can often give us grounds to reject claims, particularly those which describe objectively observable properties of the mind. There are many empirical demonstrations which show that thinking is facilitated by knowledge. There are countless studies of the circumstance under which we remember effectively that contradict some of the deeply held convictions of many in education (for instance, claims that we can expect remember best when enjoying ourselves, or when finding things out for ourselves). There are many other results regarding our motivation and our capacity to absorb information. While there are no doubt plenty of limitations to experimental psychology and the theories inspired by it, there are plenty of ideas in education that can be safely rejected as incompatible with reliable and replicated experimental evidence or, at the very least, cast into some doubt by the lack of supporting evidence. However, we should be careful as not everything that passes for “psychology” has a sound empirical basis or, in some cases, remotely resembles a science.

Empirical studies of teaching methodsUnfortunately, we are far from having an agreed methodology for trials of educational techniques and methods. Sorting through studies to find what is reliable information gathered in a sensible way seems close to impossible. What, however, we do have is some limited grounds to make comparisons between methods. I would suggest that we can use empirical studies in the following ways.

  1. In the case of phonics, the empirical evidence, including much that was gathered by those who sought to disprove the effectiveness of phonics, is so overwhelming as to ensure we can dismiss phonics denialism.
  2. In those cases where the studies of interventions agrees with what we would expect from cognitive psychology we can, at the very least, shift the burden of evidence back to those who argue otherwise. So, for instance, we should demand that anybody promoting discovery learning or problem-solving learning provide firm evidence that it works. In such cases we have no good reason to think it would work or that it has worked.
  3. Many claims in education are themselves about what the empirical evidence shows and, therefore, can be directly refuted by the empirical evidence. This is particularly likely to be the case where claims involve “magic bullets”, methods which are meant to have been shown to be incredibly effective. The more overblown the claims, the more likely it is that they can be refuted by the empirical evidence, or even just a lack of evidence.

Common sense/tradition. I consider these two together, as one is simply what people would think in the absence of a particular theory and the other is what was thought before a particular theory was adopted. Knowledge of what has been done traditionally, or what ordinary people would expect to be done, is not worthless. It is, of course, easy to come up with counter-examples to the value of common sense/tradition, such as the unreliability of the common sense, traditional belief that the sun goes round the earth, but that would simply show that in certain questions (like those involving physics) scientific evidence is more likely to be accurate than common sense/tradition. However, that people and institutions have tacit knowledge built up from and filtered by experience  cannot be denied and existing institutions and practices may have survived because they are effective, even if we don’t have direct evidence that they are effective. For this reason, I think that when making decisions about practice in general, then in the absence of evidence or a sound argument either way, we should default to common sense and tradition rather than novelty or imaginative theories. Change for the sake of it, without any commitment to evaluation, is a mistake. Too often in education it is assumed that new ideas are better than old and the leadership is the ability to make arbitrary changes. We should pay attention, but not slavish devotion, to what is obvious and what has usually been done. Not because this will always be right, but because the counter-intuitive and the innovative should be supported by a sound argument.

I am not going to justify the following point in detail, but as things currently stand I am not aware of any sound argument or evidence for or against any educational practice emanating from neuroscience, sociology, psychometry, geography, comparative politics, critical theory or genetics. There is no a priori reason why studies of data from some (but not all) of those fields shouldn’t produce useful results, I just haven’t seen any that didn’t raise more questions about cause and effect than they answered. As for educational economics, I think it probably has contributed useful research but it has been more relevant to policy makers than educators.

22 comments

  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  2. What about wider cultural influences? Let’s take Cuba and literacy. What about those factors – if they are factors at all? Are they valid – do they work? if they do – how do they work? Whether they lead to a happier and freer society in the long run over many decades? All these are interesting too perhaps?


    • Yes, but I am really looking at what might be useful information to act on rather than what might be interesting to study. Is there anything we know about cultural factors that can be acted on?


  3. >>A large number of claims in education are, when explored thoroughly, actually claims about values.

    Absolutely, and the degree to which they are accepted or not can usually be predicted by looking at who congruent they are with the prevalent fashion at the time.

    I think education is, if anything *too* in the thrall of science. Unfortunately it is the wrong science – statistics rather than psychology.


  4. For once I agree with everything in the post!

    Just a few comments:

    Often the problem is not that philosophical, historical or scientific evidence is dismissed, but that it hasn’t been taken into account at all.

    What one means by a term is crucial to the way one uses it in an argument, so ‘semantics’ is very important. Someone with a good working knowledge of the principles of philosophy would know that.

    Also we’ve learned a lot about the effectiveness or otherwise of different approaches to education over time, but how many people have a sound working knowledge of the history of education in the UK? The people shaping educational policy don’t tend to.

    In addition, there are different types of knowledge, so it’s more than likely that different approaches might be optimal in acquiring them. You can learn a lot about history or science through ‘talk and chalk’, but you can’t learn to make a ceramic bowl or use a soldering iron that way. There’s a tendency in educational circles to assume that one approach to learning can be applied to all types of knowledge, rather than to delve into what cognitive psychology might actually have to say about it.

    That last point is especially relevant to ‘discovery learning’ and ‘problem-solving’. Human beings are discoverers and problem-solvers extraordinaire. What we learn by problem-solving for ourselves is often very memorable because it involves episodic memory, a type of memory that’s reinforced by information from many sensory sources – we not only recall what we did, but what we saw, what we could hear, smell etc. Remembering is often reinforced by multisensory input. It doesn’t follow that people learn everything, or always learn best, through problem-solving or through making all learning multisensory.

    In essence, in order to be successful, teaching and learning need to be evidence-based and appropriate to the type of knowledge involved.


    • “problem-solving’. Human beings are discoverers and problem-solvers extraordinaire. What we learn by problem-solving for ourselves is often very memorable because it involves episodic memory, a type of memory that’s reinforced by information from many sensory sources – we not only recall what we did, but what we saw, what we could hear, smell etc. Remembering is often reinforced by multisensory input.”

      Actually it isn’t very memorable at all. That was my point, i.e. that we don’t learn better through discovering things for ourselves. In particular, additional input causes cognitive overload, not better recall and causes us to recall things less effectively than if we had just been told.

      With regard to “types of knowledge”, I don’t think you have identified different types of knowledge in your examples, just the difference between knowledge and skill (and the difference between academic disciplines and crafts).


      • I have been reading around multi-sensory input and how the brain processes such information recently.By avoiding working memory via multi-sensory input it may be possible to improve memory without the issue of increased cognitive load.If you have any reading on the subject that might illuminate would appreciate a link.


        • You want me to refer you back to what we know about discovery learning or problem-solving? Or are you expecting me to engage with speculation about a mechanism by which these ineffective methods might be effective, if they were effective?


    • “You can learn a lot about history or science through ‘talk and chalk’, but you can’t learn to make a ceramic bowl or use a soldering iron that way.”

      That’s certainly true, but it’s not exactly a problem in England, is it?

      IME, the problem is that the Progressives are keen that maths, history and science are taught by making ceramic bowls…


  5. Excellent summary. To misquote Eric Morcambe…”you have identified all of the right issues, but not necessarily in the right order”. You quite rightly address this in the introduction to the post.

    I think the comments are also spot on. I feel that “learning” theory as a subset of Psychology has a lot to offer as a start to understanding how “teaching” might aid learning.

    As you suggest (I think) , the rest of it is a bit of a hotch potch.

    I think the issue of definitions is key as is the issue of statistics rather than Psychology as identified by ijstock.

    Learning and therefore teaching are issues of the “individual” not “the sample”. Much of “education” (as I think you also suggest) is more an issue of samples.

    Enjoyed reading this one and will enjoy thinking about it during the day and will certainly return to read the comments.

    Thanks


  6. “Actually it [multisensory input] isn’t very memorable at all. That was my point, i.e. that we don’t learn better through discovering things for ourselves. In particular, additional input causes cognitive overload, not better recall and causes us to recall things less effectively than if we had just been told.”

    You’re confusing cognitive complexity with multisensory input. Typically the human brain takes in and processes in parallel all the salient (and some non-salient) sensory information that it’s exposed to at any point in time. An experience that engages several sensory modes is likely to be remembered better than one which engages only one, because there are several routes that activate the relevant information.

    So someone might learn a lot about the Normandy landings by being ‘told’, but will probably have better recall of that information if they watch a film about them, and might well improve their recall further by visiting Omaha beach. Multisensory input of related information isn’t the same as adding unrelated multisensory bells and whistles to unisensory material to make it more ‘interesting’.

    With regard to “types of knowledge” I think the distinction you’re making between knowledge and skill, or between academic disciplines and crafts, is a valid one but it’s not always helpful.
    I know how to dissect a frog, for example, to display its principle organs. Dissecting a real animal is a very different experience from being told about it. But is that dissection knowledge or skill? Or both? And does the distinction matter? I could be an excellent cook and be very knowledgeable about food science. What’s the difference between my ‘craft’ and my ‘academic discipline’?

    The point I’m making is that knowledge is multi-faceted and that the optimum way of acquiring a particular item of knowledge will depend on what that knowledge is. Rote learning is great for making chunks of text or the periodic table readily available, problem-solving is essential in mathematics or engineering, but the education system’s attempts to learn everything by rote, or everything via problem-solving have, unsurprisingly, both ended badly.


    • You have misquoted me here. The “it” in question was problem-solving learning. Beyond that, I think you are glossing over the issue of distraction when you talk about what is easiest to remember.

      With regard to the other point, just about nobody seriously advocates rote. My point about skill is simply that there are some activities which are not about what you know, but how much you practice. Picking such examples tells us very little about the importance of knowledge and skills in academic disciplines, not least because a lot of the skills (i.e. things which need to be practised) in academic disciplines are actually examples of fluent recall of knowledge.


  7. “You have misquoted me here. The “it” in question was problem-solving learning.”

    I misunderstood, rather than misquoted. It wasn’t clear which construct you were using ‘it’ to refer to.

    “ Beyond that, I think you are glossing over the issue of distraction when you talk about what is easiest to remember.”

    I’m not glossing over it at all. Multi-sensory input directly related to the same core information has a high level of redundancy – ie it can be activated via several routes in the brain. Cognitive overload/distraction occurs when too much core information is presented simultaneously – ie information about too many different things.

    “With regard to the other point, just about nobody seriously advocates rote.”

    They do, actually. People are always banging on about learning tables and spellings and poems.

    “My point about skill is simply that there are some activities which are not about what you know, but how much you practice.”

    All skills are about how much you practice – whether you’re talking about riding a bike or writing an essay.

    “Picking such examples tells us very little about the importance of knowledge and skills in academic disciplines, not least because a lot of the skills (i.e. things which need to be practised) in academic disciplines are actually examples of fluent recall of knowledge.”

    No. So-called ‘academic disciplines’ (and I’m not clear why you don’t think frog dissection and food science count as such) involve both skills *and* knowledge. One could define a skill as a way of using knowledge. “Fluent recall of knowledge”is only one of the many skills involved in what I think you mean by ‘academic disciplines’.


    • I misunderstood, rather than misquoted. It wasn’t clear which construct you were using ‘it’ to refer to.

      Really? I think there may have been a bit of wishful thinking here, that I had engaged with the red herring about multi-sensory learning.

      I’m not glossing over it at all. Multi-sensory input directly related to the same core information has a high level of redundancy – ie it can be activated via several routes in the brain. Cognitive overload/distraction occurs when too much core information is presented simultaneously – ie information about too many different things.

      My point there was that your examples don’t really seem to fall clearly into the former category rather than the latter. In fact I’m not sure if anything in this discussion actually does.

      They do, actually. People are always banging on about learning tables and spellings and poems.

      Which is not the same as rote. Rote implies learning without understanding.

      All skills are about how much you practice – whether you’re talking about riding a bike or writing an essay.

      Agreed. But some skills involve practising the recall of knowledge more than others.

      No. So-called ‘academic disciplines’ (and I’m not clear why you don’t think frog dissection and food science count as such) involve both skills *and* knowledge. One could define a skill as a way of using knowledge. “Fluent recall of knowledge”is only one of the many skills involved in what I think you mean by ‘academic disciplines’.

      I don’t think skilled frog dissection is necessarily a major part of what we mean by learning the academic discipline of science. I wonder if you can come up with any sensible examples of academic skills which we don’t now know to be largely about recall. Most forms of thinking are known to be dependent on memory.


  8. What are your definitions of ‘skill’ and ‘knowledge’?

    How do you define ‘academic discipline’ – as compared to disciplines that aren’t ‘academic’?

    Asking because your dismissal of frog dissection suggests your definitions are different to mine, and I’m not clear what yours are.


    • Skill: Ability gained through practice.
      Knowledge: Justified true belief.
      Academic Discipline: One where mastery is characterised by further study.


  9. Thanks.

    My definitions would be:

    Skill: ability to use knowledge
    Knowledge: body of information
    Academic Discipline: a knowledge domain advanced primarily in universities.

    Comments on your definitions:

    By ‘practice’ do you mean ‘doing’ or ‘rehearsal’? Asking because ‘skill’ is commonly used in the sense of a particular procedure as in ‘this skill entails…’, and in the sense of mastery of a particular procedure, as in ‘a skilled debater’.

    I think I understand what you mean by ‘justified true belief’, but that does beg the question of what ‘true’ means e.g. the probabilistic nature of scientific knowledge.

    My difficulty with your definition of ‘academic discipline’ is that cabinet-making and growing sweet peas can be mastered through further study, but neither are academic disciplines. Would you limit what’s taught in schools to what’s researched in universities? If so, why?

    I realise this all sounds a bit pedantic, but if people are using different definitions, it makes fruitful discussion difficult.


    • My definitions would be:
      Skill: ability to use knowledge

      That doesn’t seem a very accurate description of a lot of skills. There may be some knowledge involved, but the skill of riding a bicycle, or playing football, does not really seem to be about applying knowledge.

      Also, we might be able to apply some knowledge trivially and without it indicating any skill. If I login to my computer using my password I am applying my knowledge of what the password is, but it hardly seems to be a skill.

      Knowledge: body of information

      I think “information” is close to being a synonym for “knowledge” anyway, so I’m not sure what this definition tells us.

      Academic Discipline: a knowledge domain advanced primarily in universities.

      I’d be wary of any definition dependent on institutions rather than what is done at those insititutions. Before there were universities, were there academic disciplines? And what does “primarily” mean here? Where it is studied the most? Where those most expert in it study it?

      Comments on your definitions:

      By ‘practice’ do you mean ‘doing’ or ‘rehearsal’?

      Neither. Any “doing” that improves the ability to do would probably count. So you could develop skill by rehearsing, but also by doing something for its own sake.

      I think I understand what you mean by ‘justified true belief’, but that does beg the question of what ‘true’ means e.g. the probabilistic nature of scientific knowledge.

      If one doesn’t know what “true” means then all discussion is pointless. I think “truth” is too basic to allow for anyone to claim they don’t understand it. Nobody challenges the notion of “truth” except to shut down rational debate.

      My difficulty with your definition of ‘academic discipline’ is that cabinet-making and growing sweet peas can be mastered through further study, but neither are academic disciplines.

      I suggest you reread my definition. Neither example fits. Mastery of cabinet making is characterised by making cabinets, not the study of cabinet making. Mastery of growing sweet peas is characterised by growing sweet peas, not studying the growing of sweet peas.

      I realise this all sounds a bit pedantic, but if people are using different definitions, it makes fruitful discussion difficult.

      I’m quite happy to discuss meanings. The only one here which risks becoming pedantic is the definition of knowledge. I think we must have some shared conception of “knowing” to even have a discussion and attempts to define it risk becoming discussions of how we identify it or gain it rather than what it is. This is particularly the case if we end up talking as if “truth” was something which needed to be defined. We can discuss endlessly how we access the truth, but it seems to me that we must already have the concept of what it is in order to make any statement at all.


  10. Why I mentioned dissection.

    You said “I don’t think skilled frog dissection is necessarily a major part of what we mean by learning the academic discipline of science.”

    The knowledge domain we call biology rests on what we know about comparative anatomy and physiology. The knowledge we have about biology exists because people have dissected organisms and compared their structure and function. Without dissection, our biological knowledge and medical knowledge would be almost non-existent. Carrying out dissection gives insights into how that knowledge was acquired and, importantly, how reliable it is, since individual organisms within the same species can vary. In addition, GPs, nurses, surgeons, neurologists, histologists and pathologists all use dissection techniques as part and parcel of their work.

    In other words, although I agree that frog dissection per se, or even dissection in general, doesn’t constitute a major part of the body of knowledge we call science, our knowledge of biology is inextricably linked with that skill – and that skill is inextricably linked with our knowledge. You’re not going to do a good dissection or carry out a good surgical procedure without it. And without it, you’re not going to have a good understanding of how our knowledge about biology was acquired.


  11. I’m not saying your definitions are wrong and mine are right, but it was obvious that our definitions were different and I wanted to clarify what they were.

    Skill: Some skills don’t require much knowledge. Obviously, it doesn’t take a great deal of knowledge to kick a ball about, knock together a simple cupboard or stick a seed in the ground and hope it grows, but mastery of football, cabinet making or sweet pea growing requires a fair amount of knowledge – usually acquired from people who already have access to it, rather than by trial-and-error doing.

    Information: I was using the information science definition – in terms of events that affect states, so collections of bits of information form knowledge. I think we probably mean the same thing, just that I wouldn’t define knowledge in terms of truth.

    Academic: the word refers to institutions in which knowledge is disseminated. By definition an academic discipline can’t exist apart from what is done in academic institutions. These have varied over the centuries, but have generally been universities or the equivalent.

    Practice: Since by ‘practice’ you mean neither ‘doing’ nor ‘rehearsal’, what do you mean? I’m not aware of an alternative meaning.

    Truth: The problem with truth is that even if you believe it is out there (which I think both of us do), the way human perception works means we can’t reliably access it. We can be pretty sure of some things, but we’re very unsure about others. Because of the problem of human perception, the scientific method itself is based on the *probability* of something being true, not on whether it’s true or not.


    • I’m not saying your definitions are wrong and mine are right, but it was obvious that our definitions were different and I wanted to clarify what they were.

      I think it is important to appreciate that some definitions obscure the argument, and some clarify it.

      Skill: Some skills don’t require much knowledge. Obviously, it doesn’t take a great deal of knowledge to kick a ball about, knock together a simple cupboard or stick a seed in the ground and hope it grows, but mastery of football, cabinet making or sweet pea growing requires a fair amount of knowledge – usually acquired from people who already have access to it, rather than by trial-and-error doing.

      I can’t tell here whether you are accepting my point or not, i.e. that some skills are not really characterised by the application of knowledge. There’s a big difference between knowledge playing some role in skills (almost any skill requires you know what you are doing) and skills being defined by the application of knowledge.

      Information: I was using the information science definition – in terms of events that affect states, so collections of bits of information form knowledge. I think we probably mean the same thing, just that I wouldn’t define knowledge in terms of truth.

      Perhaps information science has changed since I last read about it, but I thought almost anything could be “information” in the information science sense.

      Anyway, I can’t see how you can define “knowledge” without reference to truth. If you make up statements yourself, with no reason to think they are true, and memorise them, you are not learning knowledge.

      Academic: the word refers to institutions in which knowledge is disseminated. By definition an academic discipline can’t exist apart from what is done in academic institutions. These have varied over the centuries, but have generally been universities or the equivalent.

      You can’t define “academic” by reference to “academic institutions”, as that’s obviously circular. We’d need some concept of what makes an institution “academic”.

      Practice: Since by ‘practice’ you mean neither ‘doing’ nor ‘rehearsal’, what do you mean? I’m not aware of an alternative meaning.

      I’ve already answered this.

      Truth: The problem with truth is that even if you believe it is out there (which I think both of us do), the way human perception works means we can’t reliably access it. We can be pretty sure of some things, but we’re very unsure about others. Because of the problem of human perception, the scientific method itself is based on the *probability* of something being true, not on whether it’s true or not.

      This is not a problem with truth, this is a problem with knowing the truth. Let’s not confuse ontology with epistemology.

      And, by the way, there isn’t one “scientific method”; science has not really been characterised by probabilities, and statements involving probabilities are still either true or false.


      • Thanks for the response.

        1. Definitions: “I think it is important to appreciate that some definitions obscure the argument, and some clarify it.”

        Agreed.

        2. Skill: “I can’t tell here whether you are accepting my point or not, i.e. that some skills are not really characterised by the application of knowledge. There’s a big difference between knowledge playing some role in skills (almost any skill requires you know what you are doing) and skills being defined by the application of knowledge.”

        Your point seems to be that skills are characterised as involving very little knowledge, if any. I see the relationship between skills and knowledge as being on sliding scales ranging (in theory at least) from 99% skill: 1% knowledge to 1% skill: 99% knowledge.
        3. Information: “Perhaps information science has changed since I last read about it, but I thought almost anything could be “information” in the information science sense.”

        It has both a precise definition and looser usage.

        4. Knowledge: “Anyway, I can’t see how you can define “knowledge” without reference to truth. If you make up statements yourself, with no reason to think they are true, and memorise them, you are not learning knowledge.”

        Agreed. But if we don’t *know* what the truth is, your definition – justified true belief – might be theoretically correct, but doesn’t help on a day-to-day basis.

        5. Academic: “You can’t define “academic” by reference to “academic institutions”, as that’s obviously circular. We’d need some concept of what makes an institution “academic”.”

        Well, there is a traditional definition – that academies are institutions where knowledge is disseminated. So I’d say the definition of ‘academic discipline’ is indeed circular – an academic discipline is a knowledge domain researched and taught in academic institutions.

        It’s important not to conflate all the stuff that makes up real reality (the truth that’s out there, if you like) with our knowledge of that reality. Before academies (and even for a long time afterwards) there were no academic disciplines because we didn’t have enough knowledge to need to divide it up into subject areas. People interested in knowing about real reality were generally called philosophers – because it was an accurate description of them – they loved knowledge.

        6. Practice: Since by ‘practice’ you mean neither ‘doing’ nor ‘rehearsal’, what do you mean? I’m not aware of an alternative meaning.
        “I’ve already answered this.”

        I can’t see where. You’ve used it in both senses, but tell me that you don’t mean either. Do you mean ‘both’ rather than ‘neither’?

        7. Truth: “This is not a problem with truth, this is a problem with knowing the truth. Let’s not confuse ontology with epistemology.”

        Let’s not. But what’s taught in schools isn’t the truth, it’s our knowledge of the truth – we can’t teach anything closer.

        8. Scientific method: “And, by the way, there isn’t one “scientific method”; science has not really been characterised by probabilities, and statements involving probabilities are still either true or false.”

        By ‘the’ scientific method I mean the entire toolbox. That is, after all, the most common usage of the term. And if you think that science has not really been characterised by probabilities, you clearly don’t understand how science works.

        Of course statements involving probabilities are either true or false, but we were talking about the truth the statements referred to, not the statements themselves.



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