Treatise on Basic Philosophy vol. 5 – Parte 2

2.2. Learning 

learning as neural modification (42) 

an animal learns something if it forms at least one new psychon (plastic neural system) or combines in a novel fashion two or more psychons that had been established previously. And we call knowledge of an animal at a given time the set of all the items it has learnes up until that time- i.e. the collection of changes in its plastic neural supersystem. (42) 

learning, then, is not just picking up information and processing it in a mechanical way: it is a highly selective and creative process (Piaget´s assimilation). Nor does the brain remains unaffected by learning: it restructures itself as a result of learning. (Piaget´s accomodation) (46) 

<we need the sensory system to learn> however, looking, listening, sniffing, and touching are not enough to take cognizance of anything beyond appearances (47) 

this difficulty tolearn from sensing and doing has multiple sources: (a) appearance, unlike reality, is poorly structured; (b) all signals are embedded in noise; (c) perception and memory are highly selective…; (d) motivation is often lacking; (e) learning much and fast requires lots of knowing; (f) we learn most easily those items that happen to be consistent with our belief system, and tent to ignore those which are dissonant…; (g) we are seldom equipped with comprehensive and coherent theories helping us “meke sense” of experienced events…; (h) knowledge need not make us more receptive: learning develops a “set” (Einstellung) or habit that makes it difficult for the subject to face new problems or situations; (i) we may be insufficiently trained in logic, scientific method, statistics, and experimental design- all of which help learn from experience; (j) we may need to appear in the right for social reasons, and may thus be driven to simulate that we have got the message. (47) 

ordinary experience is not self-correcting (48) 

 

 

1.      Development and evolution3.1. Cognitive development 

organisms develop from birth and biopopulations evolve over time (50) 

the synchronic approach attemps to learn what and how an animal learns; the developmental studies the growth and decline of cognitive abilities (51) 

all the components of our body are genetically programmed, but they are fashioned, within the genic constraints, by the way we live and inparticular the things we do…. the genome determines only the potencial (51) 

development is not merely the unpacking or “expression” of genic destiny: it is a creative process punctuatd by the emergence of new functions and the excercise of some such functions in the acquisition of new knowledge. (56) 

 

3.2. Cognitive evolution 

all evolution proceeds by internal (in particular genic) variation and environmental (natural or social) pressure. (57) 

<behavior and cognition> these outputs are interdependent: new motor capabilities open up new possibilities of perception and ideation, and conversely. And both outcomes, the behavioral and the cognitive, are molded by society and in turn contribute to molding the latter (57) 

every cognitive activity is a neural process, and one that interacts vigorously with other processes in the animal as well as its natural an social environment (60) 

 

 

2.      Knowledge 

There is not outcome detachable from process: the former is just the final phase of a sequence of events… knowledge, when acquired, is a collection of learnes items: it is a collection of brain processes or a disposition to replay them (61) 

We may feign that cognitive processes have a “content” that can be communicated to other brains or externalized as artifacts… To be sure actually there is no such content and, a a fortiori, no such transfer. Acquiring knowledge is learning something, i.e. going trough a brain process… exchanging information is not like trading things but is interacting with  another animal in such a way that each party elicits certain learning process in the other´s brain (61) 

 

4.1. Knowledge acquisition and use 

distinguish between the assembly of new neural systems (or circuit rewiring, in the old metaphor) and the use of existing ones. (62) 

we have equated learning with the acquisition of knowledge… we equate in turn the acquisition of knowledge with a partial restructuring of the nervous system (63) 

<knowledge is not knowing how to talk about x ; also is not a process of trial and error> 

all learning is driven by motivation and expectation… not all trials are tests (67) 

  Modes of knowledge – Basic categories 

Interprets the conventional expression ‘x is known’ as ‘there is at least one animal of species S who has learned x nder circumstances y’ 

<regard knowledge as a learning process of an animal engaged in its environment>(72) 

knowledge can be:·        Sensory-motor– knowing how to walk…·        Perceptual– testing a lemon as bitter·        Conceptual or propocitional– knowing that the Earth revolves around the sun 

In classical terms: knowledge can come from any of three “sources”- action, perception, or ideation (72)They are interrelated. Thus conceptual knowledge can improve motor skills and perception… besides, all three are simultaneously present in many cognitive activities (73) 

Knowedge is not necessarily correct. Nor does knowledge involve belief (73) 

A second useful distinction is that between self-knowledge (or knowledge of oneself) and other-knowledge (or knowledge of something other than oneself). Both can be obtain through perception, and self-knowledge also from feeling and emotion (feeling and emotion are not cognitive operations, but our awareness of them is a cognitive item) (73) 

We emphasize that knowing facts is not the same as knowing propositions about facts… when perceived fact f, or performing action f, we may gain direct knowledge of f; this knowledge is not necessarily propositional. Hence we are justified in asserting “I know f” rather than  “i know that the proposition p describing fact f is true”. On the other hand when learning about facts in books, or when working out scientific theories, we have indirect or propositional knowledge of them (74) 

Types of knowledge with regard to subject matter or referent:·        Type: formal          Referent(s): constructs  Field(s): logic, math, semantics·        Type: Factual         R(s): things, facts                     F(s): ord know, arts, factual sci, ont, ·        T: Empirical           R(s): experience                       F(s): ord k, arts, crafts·        T: moral                 R(s): right conduct                   F(s): ethics, sociology, art·        T: epistemological R(s): knowledge                        F(s): espistemology 

Private knowledge: can b knowlwdge of one’s own states…or secret knowledgePublic knowledge: too comes in varieties: ordinary and specialized (75) 

Plato’s dichotomy between doxa (groundless opinion) and episteme (demonstrable science), though widely accepted, is inadequate… The relevant distinction is not that between doxa and episteme but between knowledge that is, or is not, a possible subject of scientific (or tecnological or humanistic) reserch, as well as a possible subject of further investigation. (76) 

 

Tacit and explicit knowledge 

Only some of our knowledge, wether sensory-motor, perceptual or conceptual, is conscious or explicit and expressible in some language: much of it is unconscious or tacit in the sense that we possess it without our knowing or without our bieng able to express it in any language (77) 

Tacit (or procedual) / explicit (or propositional) 

P  is objective if and ony if (a) p is public (intersubjetive) in some society, and (b) p is testable (checkable) iether conceptually or empirically… <strong concept>: p is factually objective if and only if p has a factual reference (80) 

 

Belief 

Belief is not a condition for knowledge. On the contrary, knowledge is a condition for rational or justified belief (or disbelief or suspension of belief). Knowledge, then, is not a kind of belief…. beliefs are a special case of his knowledge not the other way round (87) 

We live and die by our instincts and beliefs. In particular all our inquiries, valuations and conscious actons are guided or misguided by beliefs (88) 

 

Epistemic field 

Is a ten-tuple…at a given time of:·        System composed of persons·        Society ·        Domain or universe of discourse is the collection of objects of the inquiry·        The general outlook or philosophical background is composed of (a) an ontology or view of the nature of things, (b) an epistemology or view on te nature of knowledge, and (c) a morality concerning the proper ways of inquiring, diffusing knowledge·        Formal background is the collection of logical or mathematical theories·        Specific background is a colection of propositions and procedures … drawn from other epistemic fields.·        Problematcis·        Fund of knowledge·        Aims or goals·        Methodics  

How is knowledge possible? 

Methodical skepticism, of fallibilism…is the thesis that, although we can get to know something, such knowledge may be imperfect (neither complete nor entirely true), and is therefore susceptible to criticism and improvement. Fallibilism is a component of critical realism, i.e. the epistemology according to which we can represent and understand reality, though not exactly as it is (93) 

A dose of agnosticism, i.e. the thesis that there are unknows and unknowables (93) 

We regard the organ of knowledge (the central nervous system) as a material system placed right in the middle of the natural and social world. As part of the world, the central nervous system can obtain some “inside knowledge” of it. The brain can represent other concrete item by bieng acted upon by them and generating neuronal configurations similar in some rspects to the represented thing. In short the brain can knoe matter because it is a material thing… Moreover, bacause cognition is a process in a concrete thing, it can study it self like any other concrete process. And because cognition is a biosocial process, it develops and evolves along with other processes occuting in the higher social vertebrates (95) 

 

 

Chpter 3 – Communication 

Learning is private but inquiry is social (97) 

Language is also a powerful thinking tool… thinking is to a la rge extent accompanied by talking to oneself. So, language discharges two functions: a cognitive and a social one (97) 

 

Subject – object relation 

Distinction between subject and objectneed not, nay ought not to, imply their separation. I.e. the duality of inquirer and inquired need not imply a dualism wherein the inquirer is divorced from his object of knowledge, and experience and theory are removed from nature and society, t constitute and independent realm (98) 

A scientific approch to the subject.object relatn is then at the same time epistemological realist and ontologically naturalist (materialist) (98) 

If the object is an idea then it is a part of the subject. In this case strictly speeking- ontologically- there is no subject-object relation. In this case there is only a cognitive activity of the subject- in particular her feign that the “objects” of her cogitations are self-existing (100)Not every object of knowledge is a material object existing independent of every possibe knowing subject: some objects are parts (actual or potential) of some subjects. Another consequence is that, paradoxically, the knowledge of logic, mathematics or philosophy is, strictly speeking, a form of self-knowledge, because original logic, mathematical and philosophical objects are “produced” by the self instead of bieng self-existeing… However… we have purposively stripped them of any idiosyncratic features. In other words, abstract ideas are formed by abstracting from personal characteristics and circumstances: they do not bear any birth marks and so are universal, i.e. thinkabe in principle by anyone (100) 

Introspection, though necessary to understand the mind, is insufficient, for it tells us only that we are having such and such subjective experience, not how, let alone why, we are having it. (101) 

The material / conceptual dichotomy is methdological, not ontological: it is only a convenient fiction to abstract ideas from the brains capable of thinking them up. (112)

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