Thinking and Language as social and connected events

babyThinking is a social event: No thinking without words, no words without language, no language without humans around us. This is a very short answer to my reading of Putnam. He uses the Brains in a Vat story to defend his statements about meaning outside the head. Putnam and others try to find the connection of words and meaning of the words. Is meaning in your head or outside?
The short answer of Putnam, Meaning is experimental and outside), it is not in your head.
I want to argue that meaning has a strong social aspect. Listen to and watch young children, they learn by asking “Why??” they want to see and hear and use things to learn. Children want to see what is inside things to get to know them.
Think of the way little children learn words and meaning. They experience the world and try to add words to their experiences. They do need time and practical experiences for learning to use the right words.
Their thinking grows with the acquisition of language and experience in a social context.

Brain in a vat

Brain in a vat is a story in Philosophy county. Philosophers use the story to discuss some points.
It is about brains, living in a vat. Born in the vat. The brains are fed by a machine. The feeding with information is done by the machine. The brains have no ears, eyes. And the writing of the things the brains want to say is done by the machine. (Hilary Putnam tells the story better than I do).
The philosophical questions are about the information the machine is feeding. Is it just empty words the machines do feed into the brains in the vat? If words do not have any connection (referent) to the “world” around us do they mean anything? Is the talk of the brains in the vat just word play without any meaning at all? Putnam thinks it is just words.
Maybe this “information feeding” is a useful theme for teachers too.

Words without connection to life and experience are just empty and without meaning.

The idea of affordances comes from psychologist James J. Gibson. In his 1979 book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, he says that what we perceive, in everyday life, is not pure objects of the sort a disinterested observer would perceive, but affordances: what the environment “offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill.

Another question to teachers. Do students perceive our words as affordances or as play of words.

Think of the way little children learn words and meaning. They experience the world and try to add words to their experiences. They do need time and practical experiences for learning to use the right words.


The #blimage challenge

The #blimage challenge was started as a bit of fun between @AmyBurvall and @timbuckteeth . They started it on July 18th and it has been growing steadily ever since with many of their friends and colleagues participating. The challenge is this: Send a personal message with an image to a friends and colleagues and ask them to write a learning related blog post about it. The image needs not to be connected to education at all. On Pinterest ( is a collection of images used in #blimage blogs. A search in Pinterest will give you more images on the subject. Simon Ensor made a flipboard about #blimage: a
You are sent an image which you then have to write about, metaphorically or literally. The subject is educationan in a wide range of points of view. At the end of your blog post you do challenge some of your friends with another image of your own choice. Of course you publish your blog on social media, twitter, using the #blimage hashtag to let us know you did join and write.
The name and hashtag for this challenge is #blimage which a portmanteau and is short for blog + image.
In France @sensor63 joined the challenge. And now the thing is getting global on social media like twitter.

Why do people join the blimage challenge? Some say it is the fun of being connected to friends. Some tell it is very inspirational to write about education with the image as a source for lateral thinking. It is creative and makes one think in new directions. The édu flâneuse ( calls it blogspirational.

@AmyBurvall writes: “The appeal of #blimage is part “creativity in constraint” and part “game”,(not to mention the fact that everyone needs a dose of healthy metaphorical thinking …”.

Steve Wheeler: ” Some educators are now blogging for the first time. Others have returned to sharing their ideas after a time away from blogging. Still others (like me) have discovered new and fascinating education blogs for the first time.”
And reading the blogs of colleagues is a great way to learn more about education. Writing about your teaching and reading the texts of others will help you to teach. A Dutch teacher did receive  comments on her blog about some special agricultural words she used in the blog. She is a farmer and a teacher.  Now they are corresponding about words and meaning.  The challenge puts an image into a blog with a focus on an educational context and frame of reference. It builds connections and meaning among those who see, share, relate experiences and tell stories around a particular image. It openly integrates the key attributes of great physical places – sociability, use & activity, access & linkages, and comfort & image – into digital spaces. ( of H.J.DeWaard)

With help of the #blimage hashtag you could connect to likeminded colleagues in your language or all around the world.

The hashtag #blimage in the tittle of the blogpost is used to aggregate a list of blogs. .

In the Netherlands the #blimageNL hashtag is used when the blogpost is in Dutch. And in Italy it is #blimageIT, #blimageES is used in Spain. And there will be more forks of blimage in your part of the world.

My #blimage challenge: Write an educational blogpost. Use one or more of the images of this blogpost as inspiration. Add #blimage to the tittle of the post. Let the world know when your blogpost is ready by use of twitter or other social media. And pass the challenge to somebody else.

How about starting a challenge like this #blimage in your classes about your subject? Think of all the fun and the writing experience for your students.

Jaap Bosman

Now Reading Laurence Thomas

Self-Deception as the Handmaiden of Evil. There is no human capacity that contributes more to evil in this world than the capacity for self-deception, which is the wherewithal to hold as true that which one knows as (s=t?) some very significant level simply cannot be true.

LT is critical on Kant, about Kants “You shall never tell a lie” Kant was wrong, sometimes telling the truth is even a crime.
When in WOII German soldiers asked my grandmother if my future father was in the house she lied. If she had not lied, my father and other people would been killed for sure. And my grandmother would have been also in part guilty on their deaths (Kant would say she was not).



All unwanted actions is harassment?

According to wikipedia:

Harassment (/həˈræsmənt/ or /ˈhærəsmənt/) covers a wide range of behaviours of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically repetitive.

Black swans, gnomes and Charles Peirce. #blimage #blimageNL


This blogpost is an answer to a #blimage by Frans Droog
In his blogpost Frans mixes his text with facts about black swans. My thinking this morning was about a fact that succeeded in smuggling itself into my memory:
The crape myrtle or Lagerstroemia is the state flower of New Hampshire.
I don’t want to know that, but now I know. And writing this blog post does not help to forget it. (This text is all about learning)

Deze blogpost is het antwoord op de #blimage uitdaging door Frans Droog.In zijn blog wisselt hij zijn tekst af met feitjes over zwarte zwanen. Vanmorgen berapte ik een klein feitje erop dat het zich in mijn geheugen had ingeprent: The crape myrtle or Lagerstroemia is the state flower of New Hampshire.

For me a black swan is a metaphor about knowledge and truth. (Popper and others do use the metaphor to explain the difficulties around inductive reasoning.
I shot the picture in a mini-zoo in Leeuwarden, just because the epistemologic connection.
It is in connecting facts and experiences and opinions we make knowledge. Did you notice these swans are not black at all? A brownish grey and light strokes.

Een zwarte zwaan is een metafoor over waarheid en kennis. (Popper en anderen gebruiken deze metafoor om de problemen van het induktieve redeneren uit te leggen) Op het plaatje dat ik in de kinderboerderij van Leeuwarden heb geschoten zie je dat zwarte zwanen helemaal niet zwart zijn.

I am reading Charles Peirce  “Idiot America“. Peirce does what any teacher should do. He is weeding myths, stupidity, false beliefs,crap and ignorance. “Gnomes are a friendly people, but do you really believe gnomes do exist?” “You found this in the newspapers, on the web, but do you think it is true?”.

Ik ben een boek van Charles Peirce “ aan het lezen. Meer daarover: Idiot America“.Peirce doet wat de voornaamste taak van elke leraar is. Hij bestrijdt onzin, bijgeloof, mythen, en stompzinnigheden. “Kaboutertjes zijn lieve schatjes, maar geloof je echt dat ze bestaan?”. “Geloof je alles uit de krant, van internet, van de TV?

The pictures Frans connects to in the #blimage is about gnomes wandering freely, and swans in a fenced area. To me it is a metaphor: Fairy tales and myths and idiot stories and crap freely wandering around and the little reservation for the problem of finding truth is closed.

De twee afbeeldingen van de uitdaging van Frans vertonen loslopende kaboutertjes en zwarte zwanen achter een hek. Dat is een metafoor over de overal vrij verkrijgbare onzin, nonsens, bijgeloof, vooroordelen, en flauwe kul, en de moeite die het kost om de waarheid en betrouwbare kennis te verkrijgen.

Teaching and learning is not about “The crape myrtle or Lagerstroemia is the state flower of New Hampshire”, not about simple facts, but it is about seeing the differences between true and crap. In every discussion two or more sides of a subject come forward. At least one of these is not true. And it sometimes takes an education to see the difference.

The crape myrtle or Lagerstroemia is the state flower of New Hampshire” en andere feitjes horen niet de hoofdmoot te vormen van leren en onderwijzen. Het gaat er bij onderwijs om waarheid en flauwe kul te leren onderscheiden. Als er in een diskussie twee opvattingen over de waarheid zijn, kan er hoogstens een waar zijn. En om dat te leren is soms veel onderwijs noodzakelijk

And now more about the rules of the #blimage:  In #ds106 rules are to be changed. (#blimage being something of a fork of  #ds106 and people around it)

Frans thank you for the invitation.

About Marc Champgne ON Objective KNOWLEDGE.

zweden trein
Train in Ystad Sweden

Dear Marc Champagne,

Thank you for your text about EVER-PRESENT CONSTRAINTS ON KNOWLEDGE.

You EVER-PRESENT CONSTRAINTS ON KNOWLEDGE. has some stories and fables to argue in favor of your point of view.
Your first story about the human in the railroad track does illustrate the kind of knowledge a person has in daily life situations. Most people never walk on railroad tracks, and we would not encourage anybody to do so, but we do understand your point.
You write: ” … The precise terms of my example are dialectically unimportant; what matters is the extremely limited menu of options. The person on the track is, quite literally, cornered. Her train of thought is suddenly coerced by her worldly environment into taking a certain direction—in this case a step sideways. What we have here, in essence, is a case of what the novel andmovie
The Godfather immortalized as “an offer you can’t refuse.” In otherwords, “choose” to do such and such—or die. That’s arguably a peculiar sort of “choice” (in decision theory, this situation is referred to as “Hobson’s choice,” after a man who would allow his horse-renting clients to choose only the horse nearest the stable door). … ”

You give the person in your story only two possibilities. Stay or jump sideways in the right direction when the train comes. But the menu of options is not limited. Will she jump to the left, to the right? Will she try to jump on the train? Will she run forward? Will she scream and stay unmovable? Will she lay down? Will she pray and expect the train to stop? Will she take her mobile phone and message someone to help her? Will she faint? Will the train stop?

Storytelling is fun. But storytelling in a philosophical text is dangerous. We could end up in quibbling about Minnesotan weather. (Mott, P.L. (1978) Verisimilitude by means of Short Theorems. Synthese 38, p 251 and Barnes E.C. (1991) Beyond Verisimilitude a Linguistically Invariant Basis for Scientific Progress, Synthese 88, p 313)

We do agree on knowledge about simple facts of life. I am sitting here and writing this text. Almost nobody does raise questions about these simple facts about me sitting here. Those are not the facts A. Sokal & J. Bricmont do write about. Nor does David Miller, a ‘notorious’ skeptical philosopher. The great discussion on objective knowledge is not so much about these little observable facts, but the big question of the skeptic is about scientific knowledge.
The big question is about generalizing theories, inductive arguments.

Fact ? Feiten ?

waarheidIn Amsterdam had Descartes een relatie met een dienstmeisje, Helana Jana van der Strom. Ze hadden een dochter, Francine die in 1635 in Deventer is geboren. Descartes doceerde toen aan de universiteit van Utrecht. Toen Francine stierf huilde Descartes om haar, hij schaamde zich niet voor zijn emoties. “Echte mannen huilen wel” was zijn mening.
Dit sterfgeval maakte dat Descartes ging zoeken naar de grote antwoorden, in plaats van de medische wetenschap. (Russell Shorto, Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason ISBN 978-0-385-51753-9 (New York, Random House, October 14th, 2008)
Aan het begin van zijn filosofie staat de twijfel aan alles. Alleen zijn eigen bestaan erkent hij als onmiddellijk gegeven. Hij vergeet dan de emoties en de liefde van Francine en Helena Jans. Je moet de eenvoudige duidelijk feitelijkheden uit je eigen leven niet als twijfelachtig tussen haakjes zetten.

Descartes, in Amsterdam had a relationship with a servant girl, Helena Jans van der Strom, with whom he had a daughter, Francine, who was born in 1635 in Deventer, at which time Descartes taught at the Utrecht University. Unlike many moralists of the time, Descartes was not devoid of passions but rather defended them; he wept upon her death in 1640.[22] “Descartes said that he did not believe that one must refrain from tears to prove oneself a man.” Russell Shorto postulated that the experience of fatherhood and losing a child formed a turning point in Descartes’ work, changing its focus from medicine to a quest for universal answers.(Russell Shorto, Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason ISBN 978-0-385-51753-9 (New York, Random House, October 14th, 2008)
This Descartes said the only reliable truth, the only fact he could be sure of was his existence. From there he went on to develop his philosophy. He was so wrong, because he forget the facts about his Helena Jans and his daughter. A man should not forget the simple facts of life.
Maar wat is een feit dan? Een eenvoudige waarheid is dat ik nu een stukje aan het schrijven ben. Die feiten zijn niet zo ingewikkeld, je kunt het gewoon waarnemen. Maar dat het gezond is om water te drinken, is dat ook een feit? Het zijn deze meer ingewikkelde feiten waarover we het hier hebben.

What is a fact? Is it some simple fact like: I am writing a post now. This kind of facts are easy, it is a fact you can see happening.
But what about the fact that water is a healthy drink? Is that always true for everybody? These facts are at stake here.
Spinoza begon zijn filosofie niet met twijfelen. Hij sprong omzichtig om met feiten en meningen, maar hij nam die simpele feiten in tegenstelling tot Descartes voor waar.
Spinoza did not build his philosophy on this skepticism. Spinoza was careful about facts and opinions, but he never questioned the existence of truth and simple facts as thoroughly as Descartes.
Tegenwoordig zijn nogal wat filosofen nogal in de war als het over de waarheid en de feiten gaat. (J-F. Lyotard, La condition postmoderne)

In modern philosophy some are very skeptic about the truth and about facts. (J-F. Lyotard, La condition postmoderne)

Volgens mij is het verstandig om de meeste feiten als feit te accepteren. Het leven zou onleefbaar zijn als we bleven twijfelen.
Het is iets anders als we wetenschappelijke feiten moeten accepteren of verwerpen. We zouden daarbij ook onderscheid moeten maken tussen gewone simpele feiten en de meer ingewikkelde uitspraken)

In my view it is wise to accept most facts as fact because life would be unbearable without this believe in the truth of facts. But how about accepting scientific findings as true facts? (We should make a difference, a fact is not always a simple fact)

En over deze wetenschappelijke feiten wil ik verder nadenken. Het bestaan van mijn vrienden en familie betwijfel ik niet, en ik weet dat hun liefde echt is. Maar als een wetenschapper met feiten en algemeenheden komt dat is er iets anders aan de hand.
Wetenschap is moeilijk. Sommige wetenschappelijke uitspraken zijn zo ongelofelijk, er is meer nodig om die te geloven. Bij dit soort feiten mogen we best sceptisch zijn.

And it is only this question of truth of facts in science that I want to think about. I do not want to question the existence of my friends and family, I do believe their love is true. But when a scientist tells us about some scientific facts and generalizations then something special is at stake.
We know science is difficult. We know some facts in science are unbelievable. Here we want more warrants of truth. We want to be skeptical, or critical.
En hierbij komen allerlei vragen op, want sommige uitspraken over feiten zijn waar, maar we kunnen geen garantie geven voor die waarheid. Als X vertelt dat er leven is op planeten in het heelal en Y vertelt dat de aarde de enige planeet met leven is, dan spreekt een van beiden de waarheid. Maar we kunnen (nog) niet weten welke van de twee de waarheid spreekt. (David Miller, Out of Error)

And right here are some questions.
Because some facts are true, but we cannot be ultimately sure of their truth. If dr. X tells us that on some planets in the universe is life and dr. Y tells earth is the only planet with life than one of them is telling the truth. But we do not know (now) who is right. (David Miller, Out of Error)
In de wetenschap moeten we sceptici zijn. Sceptisch over de uitspraken, niet over het bestaan van de waarheid. Wetenschappers proberen de waarheid te vinden. Maar het is logisch onmogelijk om het uiteindelijke bewijs te leveren voor wetenschappelijke uitspraken. (dat zijn vrijwel altijd meer ingewikkelde feiten, algemene uitspraken)
In science we should be skeptics. Skeptic about facts, not about truth. Scientists try hard to find the truth. But it is logically impossible to proof the ultimate truth of scientific facts. Being complicates facts and ‘laws’. (Popper, falsificationism)

Next post about fact or opinion.

Diskworld and facts , truth and knowledge

diskworld Diskworld as anybody knows does rest on three elephants who are standing on a huge turtle. You should read the books of Pratchett to learn more about this.
Diskworld staat op drie olifanten die op een reusachtige schildpad staan. Lees er de boeken van Pratchett maar op na.

diskworld 1
Every child knows our world is standing on a little table.
Zelfs een kind weet dat onze wereld op een tafeltje staat.

Everybody knows that our knowledge is based on facts? Or, that is what we like to think. But these facts where are they standing? On a little table, or on a turtle? Thinking about the grounds of our knowledge is rather confusing.
Iedereen weet dat onze kennis gebaseerd is op feiten? Tenminste dat denken we graag. Maar waar staan die feiten dan op? Op een tafeltje of op een schildpad? Denken over de grond van onze kennis is tamelijk verwarrend.

What about truth? When facts are not standing on a solid bottom, how to guarantee the truth of our knowledge? Different asnwers on this question. In a next post more about this.
Wat bijvoorbeeld betekent dat voor de waarheid? Als de feiten niet op een solide grond staan, hoe kunnen we dat de waarheid van onze kennis garanderen? Meer over deze vraag in een volgende post.