Launch of Wittgenstein-On-Learning.Com

Let's Launch !!!


It is with great pleasure (and relief) that I launch Wittgenstein-On-Learning.Com -- a Wittgensteinian view of language, literacy and learning. 

Whilst not everything is exactly in place, the core design and content will all be falling into place over the coming weeks. The site's welcome page is in place. The glossary is fleshed out. The readings are healthy. And the notes within key topics are drafted and will be rolled into the site gradually.

Visitors should find lots of stuff here, and visitors should have reasons to return with regular updates to be made to the journal and on Twitter. There are even plans to add a podcast, though that will need to wait for the moment.


The bigger question is, "who will/should visit the site? And why?" These are the most important questions for me to address in this entry.

A Wittgensteinian view of language, literacy and learning recognises that people are transformed through learning (and by what is learnt). When we learn a language, and when we develop a literacy, and when we work with numbers, we acquire tools in the community and a capacity to participate (to fulfil a form life in the stream of living). 

If one falls behind (or starts behind), if one speaks a language that isn't recognised, or if one is meant to just know how to act and perform in worlds (contexts) only recently encountered without space, time or a guide, then we should be alarmed,or at least sympathetic to the challenges being set for the learner. 

We need reminders, and to coin a line from Wittgenstein in:

The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose. (PI, 127)

If there is any core purpose to Wittgenstein's reminders, it is this: to remind us that we didn't always "see" and "speak" and "read" and "think" and "act" and "believe" and "imagine" in the ways we do. We must be reminded that we came into our language, our learning, our habits, our knowledge and our values over time and over repeated experiences often reinforced by "teaching" - some scaffolded and monitored and others more tacitly and immersive. 

It is often easy to take the conditions for our learning for granted, since these conditions may lie deep in our past or are inextricably linked to the material, social and economic conditions our lives. As teachers, we must rigorously ask, "what are we asking students to learn? Do we have all the elements in places to create optimal spaces and opportunities for this learning to occur? And is this learning - what I am asking the students to engage in and acquire - of particular relevance to the time and space in which we are living at this very moment?"

To ask such questions truly requires people to reconsider what we may take for granted when thinking about teaching and learning. To coin another phrase from Wittgenstein:

We find certain things about seeing puzzling, because we do not find the whole business of seeing puzzling enough. (PI, 212) 

It would be debilitating if we were constantly amazed that we are able to speak, read, respond and analyse in the ways that we do. We tend to assume that others speak, read, respond and analyse in ways similar to us, since any communication relies on certain stabilities to be in place. If we take these assumptions too far, though, we can end up ignoring the needs of learners and newcomers or becoming insensitive to other ways of seeing and believing or finding ourselves unable to learn since we can't imagine there is any reason to acquire new languages, knowledges and practices.

Many of these ideas are meant to provoke teachers, policy makers and anyone else with a passing interest in language, literacy and learning. Like Wittgenstein, it is difficult to capture the bulk of the ideas in a nutshell, and so I will refer to another Wittgenstein quote to admit defeat:

In teaching you philosophy I’m like a guide showing you how to find your way round [a city] ... from north to south, from east to west ... [Only] after I have taken you on many journeys through the city, in all sorts of directions, ... will [you] be able to find your way about.

I invite you to interact in the site. You may notice that it is possible to add a comment on almost any page of the site, so please provide a comment or a suggestion during your visit (e.g. a relevant reading or a new glossary term to add to the list) during your visit. We appreciate your contribution to the conversation. Please enjoy and explore.