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October 8th, 2006

Sagan's Philosophy and Education

Sarah made some interesting observations this weekend about me talking philosophy ...  Philosophy is not an end for me, rather, it is a means.  When I talk about philosophy, it is a means for me to see behind the words; or the way someone thinks and the conclusions that should follow from their mode of thought.  I suppose it is arrogant of me to believe that "seeing" someone's arguments allows me to predict their thinking, but here is one interesting example I just bumped into.

While reading about the philosophies of education I bumped into the philosophy behind Carl Sagan's bestseller The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, a non-fiction assigned by my astronomy professor.  Evidently Sagan advocates rational empiricism through this book.  Perhaps this was obvious to other people who've read The Demon-Haunted World but I am a dense reader.  Only when reading a quote from Herbert Feigl just now, himself a rational empiricist, did I wonder whether Sagan lifted Feigl's words for his 1996 book's subtitle!  Feigl said, forty years prior to Sagan publishing:
The modern scientific attitude has much of the Promethean ardo: the torch of enlightenment is to illuminate the dark corners of our minds; and it is to liberate us from the bondage of rigid customs of thought and action. ("Aim of Education for Our Age of Science: Reflections of a Logical Empiricist" 1955)
I italicize words to emphasize the similarity between Feigl's words and Sagan's subtitle, and these are uncanny similarities.  One could dismiss Sagan's words as sheer coincidence but as an aspiring teacher I cannot dismiss the fact that Feigl was writing his words with the 'aim of education' in his thinking, as the title of Feigl's essay admits.  Assuming Sagan was a rational empiricist, I will also assume my astronomy professor is advocating the same philosophy as Sagan when he references Sagan's book in class.  My professor is obviously a teacher; now I arrive at the educational relevance of a teacher advocating rational empiricism.  Tadlock's eye for educational policy should widen and Zeddy's hand in epistemology should tighten because I see the philosophy behind my professor's words and predict -- not merely how he thinks or what astronomy means, rather -- how I, as his student, will think about astronomy and what astronomy means.   ... i.e. think "truth" and other deep words.

My prediction and the affects of my professor's philosophy on me, however, warrant an anlaysis that I cannot fathom ... without a a few shots of espresso.   'till I can chew on Bloom's 6, munch on taxonomy 4 ;)