Monday, February 22, 2010

TOK again - Knowledge and Emotion

This is a big issue for me. Why feminist? The possibility/ impossibility of congruence in Knowledge and Emotion - a corollary being whether all that left brian right brain stuff is pure shit/ not quite the right way to think about it - a corollary of which is that some people who live intellectually have no or repress their emotions/ people who live emotionally have no intelligence in their everyday life? Come on. That has stereotyped gender roles written all over it. (Note to self: Search engine entire blog for words like "stereotype," "archetype," and "roles." Sigh.)

I was going to include more than just copy and pastes of past work in this post, but then I thought, hey! It'll be easier for the reader to post it in small doses. So for now I'm posting some TOK stuff that is pretty dern linked on the subject, and a more recent, fresh, and fleshed out installation is to come... soon. This is my attempt to keep things - sort of - bite sized.

This is another sort of timeline idea. The constant break in the concepts of emotion and intelligence drives me up the WALL. Has for years.

Question #41 (Due by Wed, April 23) Cold and Austere

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, not only possesses Truth, but also Beauty--cold and austere, like that of a sculpture."

-Bertrand Russell

Open response...

This modification of Math’s beauty is funny. On the one hand, it seems to be implying that math is not REALLY beautiful, or at least not in a warm (one is tempted to say, positive) way, beautiful – but frozen, detached, unfeeling, an objective beauty, in an exaggerated sense, such a modification almost negates the beauty aspect. On the other hand, what is wrong with a sculpture? Just because the popular theme of flesh and blood in not integrated does not mean that there weren’t just as many subjective, calculations based on taste as to whether to curve the chin or nose here or there, many hours of effort in dedication to an aesthetic. Of course the word austere is hostile, there’s that to consider – the idea of an unmoving, rigid – the commonality with a sculpture being, that though an individual created the aesthetic of the sculpture/ math, it cannot be altered to suit each individual’s taste, at least, not so easily, not in the most literal sense. But in general I do not find the math’s aesthetic hard or humorless – but it does take a while to fully appreciate its rhyme and meter. As I mentioned in class, A Mathematician’s Apology goes into this question of Mathematical beauty, and even goes so far as to state that some aspects and formula are more beautiful than others, in their phrasing and efficiency and taste, in mathematical terms, just as much as in language. I don’t agree that math is more “obvious” or complex than language, it is (and I think everyone knows this much already), simply another language, another system, just as susceptible to flaws, constructed so as to help us describe and understand our surroundings and goings on.


Emotion can assist reason. I do think empathy is quite fitting for the jury room. In 12 Angry Men, the subject was constantly brought up that a life was at stake. This may be interpreted as sensationalizing the issue, injecting sentimental hogwash if you will, as I believe the excitable juror with the runaway son put it (loose paraphrasing): “is this going to be the call for the underprivileged brother?” However I think it is fitting and one might even say reasonable to utilize emotion in this case – for, does reason necessarily call for the importance of the poor, underprivileged, uneducated kid, who has an unlikely chance of contributing overmuch to society (not TOO much information in divulged concerning the kid’s past except his knife-fighting skills, so perhaps I am exaggerating a little at the risk of sounding like the racist juror). Does reason lay significance in the individual even?

However emotion must be controlled. A pacifist might be tempted to vote not guilty no matter what, to avoid further death, but that would not be following the integrity of the law (I could go on a rant about Socrates’ fatal loyal decision to remain imprisoned according to the city’s laws, even though he knew his innocence… but I will resist). Empathy, NOT blind mercy lacking supportive reasoning, is what can and must be allowed in the jury room, to prevent its decisions from losing the public confidence and appearing other than reasonable. Yes, I said it. Reason without emotion both appears and is unreasonable

“Human Science” is an oxymoron because such a title affects a distinction between natural science and human science – in a sense, it sets the rules and laws of man apart from distinguished science, while at the same time it sets itself on the same level of integrity, validity, mechanics, over-extended existence – call it what you want. Look at it this way: the natural sciences, inherently, have existed as long as nature, as long as time, whereas the human sciences have only existed as long as humans. The word science brings to mind ageless solid rocks of – I won’t use the oh so controversial and terror-stricken term we were so well aquainted with in the ninth grade, and which I don’t necessarily agree with in its fa├žade and apparent promises – eternal truth – but “science” does bring to mind infinite time, space, an over-extended understanding. Is the human subject broad enough to become a science of his own? Now, perhaps someone will propose to me, at this point, the universe within an atom theory. Universe upon universe in every pore of every pore in every human of every human. Every thing has infinite depths to be scientifically studied. But are the human science so scientific? That’s a whole other question. Science and logic aren’t synonymous – its just like the age old nursery-rhyme of seventh-grade geometry – a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. Logic is scientific, but science is not logic. Science and scientific principles and axioms or whatever (use whatever fancy words you like) even can be applied to humanity, but humanity is not a science. Our minds are really wired to such a rudimentary square-rectangle understanding, but underneathe it all is an overwhelming arrogance. That is where the oxymoronic essence lies. Verbose enough for you? For all my condescension and rough handling of such a sensitive issue, I would never call myself by such an arrogant title: Human Scientist. Hello. My name is Mz. [Jo Bingo], Human Scientist. Why, Hello. Is there a human scientist in the house? Hey, don’t mess with me, I’m a human scientist. Hello. Yes, I’m a human scientist, here’s my card.

Could you look at someone who said that with a straight face? Or even if you could, when you got home, took off your jacket and glasses and shoes and socks, and was settled to answer your TOK question, let’s be honest, wouldn’t you smirk a bit at the guy who announces at his highschool reunion to his old mentor and his old flame and his old best bud and his old man: Hello. I am a human scientist.

Reason without emotion both appears and is unreasonable.





Wasn’t there a controversy over Helen’s constant use of color terminology – didn’t people claim that this proved that she was often using words she didn’t know the “bona fide” meaning of? I think Helen refuted these claims by describing exactly what colors meant to her – that her own personal definitions were just as useful, or “true,” but though I seem to recall reading of a Helen Keller/color debate, I can’t seem to find it online or in the biography I own.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Playing Chess

[Jo Bingo]

Theory of Knowledge Essay

Word Count: 1298

10) “There can be no knowledge without emotion… until we have felt the force of the knowledge, it is not ours” (adapted from Arnold Bennett). Discuss this vision of the relationship between knowledge and emotion.

Knowledge and emotion are one and inseparable; this is because of our limitations, both personally and those shared by all mankind. If humans were unlimited, all knowledge could be spread out in our mind’s blue print devoid of ambiguities, objective clarity would permeate the schoolroom. However because man is in fact quite limited both mentally and otherwise, he cannot prove that any piece of experience or evidence, any information gained, is without subjectivity, due to these very limitations that check him. Therefore it is unwise to ignore the emotional portion of our knowledge, and even less advisable to discard its credibility completely. Emotion may be merely the crutch that allows the lame man to walk, yet without it he could not explore the world. I will study the controversy over the legitimacy of emotion in knowledge in an expansive development – from its role in the brain, in the individual, and in entire worldviews.

A simple description of the neurology of the brain’s memory retention process will indicate that emotion is already subconsciously implemented every day. There are two stages: first, a “fact,” whether true or false, believed or not believed, is temporarily stored in the short-term hippocampus. Then, every time it is purposely recalled, or repeated by outside sources, the brain re-records and reprocesses the information. Eventually the information is deigned repetitive, long-term, and thus important enough to be moved to the cerebral cortex for long-term memory. There the memory is separated from its original context, in source amnesia: this is when you remember something, but don’t remember when or where you read, saw, or heard it. That, coupled with the fact that people also tend to remember news that already fits with their worldview, is where emotion most permanently has a hold on our synthesis on reality. Campaign propagandists utilize this by repeating falsehoods often enough that even if it is initially believed to be untrue, once source amnesia sets in and especially if it does not contradict the strong opinions of the listener, it is finally accepted as a fact. Polls and studies have shown that once such a “fact” is set in the cortex, it is often “remembered”, assumed, to have come from a more authoritative source than it actually had originated from. As professional strategists know, it only takes time, via repetition. In fact, in political runs a person attempting to refute such a falsehood or exaggeration is in fact only emphasizing and assisting in this process if it includes the repetition of the “fact.” Thus humans have severe limitations in observing objective reality and instead of denying the part emotion inevitably plays, should embrace it, learn its dangers and virtues, discover how to use it.

An extreme case of a debate among the learned concerning the validity of emotion in one individual’s approach towards acquiring knowledge of the world around her is perfectly embodied in Helen Keller, my favorite historical figure, the famous deaf and blind woman who made history as the first most successful case of moderate independence of mind in the full use of language and communication through the teaching of Annie Sullivan. Anybody who reads her autobiographical works will find sentences full of imagination and grandiose vocabulary. However, many also noticed her extensive usage of terms unfamiliar to her direct experience, such as sound and color. Particularly a blind critic and author of the contemporary book The Blind in School and Society asserted that her everyday expressions containing such terminologies proved that she perhaps little understood the full meaning of many other words as well, that she simply used the words because she had heard them so used, for verbalism’s sake, that her education under Annie Sullivan was artificial if containing such a high emotional intake with so little actual understanding. Helen Keller’s very intellect was put to question (it would not be the last time). Helen refuted such declarations by explaining the element of truth and expression her understanding of colors and sounds brought to her mind, no less legitimate because more emotional than strictly knowledge-based, besides: she could not pretend that the earth did not contain sounds and colors simply because she could not hear or see them. She wrote, “Critics… assume that blindness and deafness sever us completely from the things which the seeing and hearing enjoy, and hence they assert we have no moral right to talk about beauty, the skies, the mountains, the songs of birds, and colors… Suppose I omitted all words of seeing, hearing, color, light, landscape… I should suffer a great diminution of the wonder and delight in attaining knowledge; also – more dreadful loss – my emotions would be blunted, so that I could not be touched by things unseen.” Though her case is acute, the same applies to each person with their own idiosyncratic inborn disadvantages; neglecting them is not only ignoring a part of yourself, but ignoring a part of the world that is less under your scrutiny because of it, and through such ignorance, can actually not only be hurting your knowledge, but your emotional capacity as well.

Helen Keller once put to words the delicate balance between knowledge and emotion which exists within the entire world in viewing and assessing the very progress of the space-time continuum, history: “…the bulk of the world’s knowledge is an imaginary construction. History is but a mode of imagining, of making us see civilizations that no longer appear upon the earth…”. Thus the never-ending debate concerning the authenticity of learning history through historical novels (the most emotional of historical write-ups) comes immediately to mind. Can a novel, a dramatization, teach as relevantly as a solid history class can teach? Is it true that a historical novel is to history as Watership Down is to the living habits of rabbits? Let it be suggested that a historical novel, written prudently with the sound backing of research, can, though its orchestration of the emotional, assist memory of historical facts and events, arouse interest in a particular field, flesh out the “alive” aspect of history, the actual people, their actual lives, and the actual extent to which they were effected by historical events, an angle textbooks can’t quite represent to the fullest, and serves as a reminder that people are never as fully aware of the goings on of their own times as the textbooks are. For example, my favorite historical novel, The Good Earth, demonstrates in the simplistic language, thoughts, actions, and intrigues of the poor insignificant farmer Wang Lung the extreme ignorance of the majority in China of the political upheavals that were beginning to occur when the last emperor reigned. From demographic to demographic in the same year and approximate area a narrative description can be as dissimilar as a planet is to another planet. As long as the degree of human error and estimation is recognized, than historical novels can make history and life relevant. Without emotion, how can the importance of any one individual in history by asserted?

Without emotion, knowledge is not applicable to the knower; this is because it cannot be avoided, and should thus be utilized to work with, instead of against, the process of learning. Our brains subconsciously use it to memorize, believe, and respond to surrounding stimuli; individuals with limitations, such as Helen Keller, should not shun a world not entirely accessible to them, but rather study it in whatever method available, even if only the crude lens of emotion is available; and no one should forget that even the most respected ways of knowing have high subjective levels, and entire worldviews in various history textbooks are “only” simple estimations of truth, and may boil down to simple people in historical novels trying to move through life with the least nicks and scratches.


International Herald Tribune: “Your Brain Lies to You” by Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, Sunday, June 29, 2008

Helen Keller: A Life by Dorothy Herrmann, pp. 245-247

And I shall close with my favorite Toulouse-Lautrec, of course, a compelling painting which I find insanely relevant. I AM that woman, if it's coffee she's drinking. It is a portrait of his mother that he did BEFORE he had any formal training.

All right, so... signing off, hoping this last writer's block can be SQUISHED,

Jo Bingo

P.S. Yeah, didn't you notice? I haven't posted in about five days or something. Though I will tell you in confidence that I have SEVEN nearly complete drafts (not including this one) sitting waiting to be unveiled. So, still thinking. Hope you are too.

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