Book Tip: Wittgenstein by Hans Sluga

Wittgenstein by Hans Sluga is part of the Blackwell Great Minds series. Sluga writes an excellent introduction to Wittgenstein's philosophy, and is committed to a text that is fresh and applicable to contemporary discussions. Whilst there are a plethora of books of its sort, this is by far the first secondary text that I turn to when exploring new ideas and seeking clarity on Wittgensteinian themes presented throughout his career.

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Equity in Access to 'Quality' Education for Students in Remote Communities

One can regularly find glaring differences between the have's and have-not's, particularly when structural factors in society serve to perpetuate the differing outcomes for members of the community. I say this in reflection to a specific place and to specific people. It is a place to which I travel often, and the observations made here are observations which I have made previously. Yet I have never quite conceptualised it in writing in the way that I am attempting to do now. I am writing about a place in the centre of Australia. For those who are curious, it is not Alice Springs. It is a sizeable town for the Northern Territory. Many forms of life are lived. Some with material comforts. Many without. There is a deep Aboriginal history in the region as well as a more recent non-Aboriginal presence.

To be more specific, I find myself at the local primary school in the town. Like many schools, the yard at recess is a space of chaos, screams, chattering and climbing. The school population is diverse, which is reflected by the students of Anglo, Asian, and Aboriginal backgrounds. Buildings are colourful as are the classrooms. Inside a particular classroom, I see the divide between those who live in literacy and technology-rich environments and those whose access to books is severely limited outside of school. Those from literacy-rich homes benefit from experiences that are consistent with the content and ways of learning to be found in the typical Australian classroom. The types of investigations and the routines of learning are consistent between school and home contexts. Successful students learn the rules, acquire the knowledge, perform the tasks, and imagine future school success. And these students are able to do so with a fair amount of stability and support from family in the home, who often have a strong understanding of what is occurring in the classroom. The fact that some students come to school better placed to succeed is something well documented. The fact that the school curriculum can inadvertently benefit the culture and experiences of certain students over others is also demonstrated by the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron (1990).

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Could things be other than we see them to be?

From "Google Glass: Artificial Unconscious?" by Neuroskeptic in Discovery Magazine (25 May 2013)

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60 years ago, Ludwig Wittgenstein famously wrote:

Where does this idea come from? It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off.

The “idea” in this case was a particular philosophical theory about language. Wittgenstein saying that other philosophers were making use of this idea without realizing it, unconsciously – so he chose the metaphor of glasses, which are always right before us, filtering what we see, even though we’re rarely aware of them.

Read more at http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2013/05/25/google-glass-artificial-unconscious/#.UaH1HJWCg-Z

Philosophy is an Activity

From "5 Minute Tute: Philosophy" by Rick Lewis (founder and editor of Philosophy Now) on Cherwell.org

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"Most academic disciplines are defined by their subject matter, but with Philosophy this is tricky, because its subject matter is, well, everything. We could say that Philosophy is a critical investigation into any aspect of the universe or of human experience. Maybe Wittgenstein’s approach is more useful here: he said that Philosophy is an activity rather than a subject. It is the activity of rational reflection, of challenging assumptions and asking questions.

Can we all be philosophers?

Yes of course – it doesn’t even require any expensive equipment! We all stumble across philosophical problems at one time or another: Is there a God? Should we eat meat? What is life for? What comes after death? Is it sometimes all right to lie? How should we deal with this or that ethical dilemma? Some of these problems are inescapable, so the only question is whether we deal with them well or badly. Sadly, many people deal with dilemmas on the basis of emotional responses, tradition, or peer pressure rather than reasoned argument. As Bertrand Russell said, 'Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do.'"

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Despite the simplicity of the above entry, there are aspects that clearly illustrate the purpose behind Wittgenstein's philosophical method. It has been written before, "Don't Think! Look!" which takes on a different quality here. Wittgenstein repeatedly urged his reader to look at how phenomenon was applied rather than explain or judge based upon expectations. For instance, one should assess religion by examining the various practices of religion rather drawing judgements based on a pre-established criteria, such as the scientific probability of the religions claims. Similarly, one should prepared to change perspectives if evidence comes to substantial alter one's expectations. By applying such a presumption, one fails to see what the practice of religion may offer individuals in a particular form of life.