Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwinand Bohr

From: Lois Holzman <lholzman who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jul 02 2007 - 08:50:25 PDT

I appreciate the reference to Sen and your response, as both help me
understand better how you see things, which is very different from how I do.
I'm not saying that humans are not problem solvers, but I do say that being
problem solvers cannot be separated from our understanding that that is what
we are. You would agree, right? It's one way of understanding what it is to
be human, one that has proven to have more efficacy than other views in
human history. But it's a view that's always had its downside, and today it
seems to me to lead to more impotence and failed attempts at solving
problems. Seeing and relating to ourselves as problem solvers keeps us from
discovering/creating new ways of living. The problem-solution paradigm (in
therapy it's called a syndrome) is over applied to areas of life that
would/could be better handled outside of that paradigm. Thinks of schooling,
think of the middle east, think of terrorism, think of poverty.

It seems to me that information is highly overrated when it comes to
generating alternative ways for humans to live on this planet.

So while there are an infinite number of characterizations of WHAT ARE WE,
which one(s) are dominant matters in day to day life on every level. I
advocate the view that humans are methodologists/tool-and-result
makers/creators/performers because not only do I see overwhelming evidence
that this is case but, more important, that when humans embrace this
capacity of ours they can and do create qualitative transformations; they
create among, other things, more and new kinds of choices.

One question is, is it a problem that we see differently? I don't think so.
I think it's a creative challenge, not to find a solution but to do
something with this difference.

As far as inspirations and influences, mine are Wittgenstein, Vygotsky,
Marx, Gergen, Shotter and my intellectual partner, Newman.


> From: Michael Glassman <>
> Reply-To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2007 13:57:00 -0400
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Conversation: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
> Darwinand Bohr
> Subject: RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
> Darwinand Bohr
> Well, more related to information than to knowledge I suppose. Relating back
> to your earlier message - if as humans we are not problem solvers, then what
> are we? The way I look at it now, if our actions are not to solve a problem,
> then they are being manipulated to solve somebody else's problem. And the
> degree to which we are able to solve problems, or understand that we are being
> manipulated to solve other people's problems is dependent on informaton, use
> of it, and more importantly control of it. If I can control information I can
> limit your ability to solve a problem, or for you to even know that you have a
> problem. Whether you actually do solve a problem is another issue. Recently
> I have been reading the capability approach of Amartya Sen. He suggested that
> many times oppressed individuals create the illusion they are happy and don't
> have problems because they feel they have to do so to protect community and
> those who are oppressing them (Friere makes a similar argument from another
> direction I think). The more they lack information, the greater the
> possibility of this happening. For example, individuals from poorer regions
> actually report lower morbidity and ill health than individuals from regions
> with greater health and access to health care.
> Maybe the idea of expert was developed precisely to control information in a
> heirarchical fashion. It's hard for me to see how you can have experts that
> are not related to information. Or how you can have human action that is not
> in some way related to problem solving.
> And in following the new and worthwhile admonition to link - here is a link to
> some of Sen's ideas on social choice for those who might be interested.
> Michael
> ________________________________
> From: on behalf of Lois Holzman
> Sent: Sat 6/30/2007 12:32 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca]
> Copernicus,Darwinand Bohr
> How come all the examples of experts are connected to knowledge?
> Lois
>> From: Michael Glassman <>
>> Reply-To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 23:18:18 -0400
>> To: <>, "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity"
>> <>
>> Conversation: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>> Darwinand Bohr
>> Subject: RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>> Darwinand Bohr
>> But the argument the other way around is that when you have an identified
>> expert you also have a hierarchy, and you give the knowledge of that
>> identified expert some a priori higher worth. And again, I would ask, who
>> would be the person to identify the expert? We have financial experts who
>> invest our money for us, but for many you could do just as well tossing darts
>> at a board. You have international experts who tell us how to handle
>> difficult international situations - and get us in to brutal wars with no
>> end.
>> If you are in a birthing room with a nurse and a doctor, and the doctor tells
>> you that you must have a C-section right now, and the nurse tells you that
>> you
>> should wait who do you listen to? Who gets listened to? If you go to a
>> brilliant Park Avenue heart doctor and he tells you that you need to have a
>> double bypass, and you go to a homeopathic doctor in a four floor walk up in
>> Brooklyn who tells you that you would do better with diet or excercise, which
>> is the right advice to choose?
>> Of course the whole idea of expert is hard to shake loose. But the truth is
>> that we never know what the next problem, the next issue will be, so how
>> could
>> anybody really be an expert at it? That doesn't mean we devalue the
>> abilities
>> and knowledge individuals already have. When I raise the idea of there being
>> no experts to students they say, "Wouldn't you want a doctor who was an
>> expert
>> operating on you?" I think from what I know of hospitals I would rather have
>> nurses that have not been overworked and an operating unit that works well
>> together - but if I thought about it I would rather have somebody who could
>> explain to me what they were going to do and help me make an informed
>> decision
>> than somebody who carried that label of expert surgeon.
>> We don't all start denovo, but to use Pepper's description of contextualism -
>> we come to a river and we build a boat to cross. We will never come to that
>> river, at that crossing point, at that particular time again. We always have
>> to take that in to account when we meet the next crossing point. To forget
>> our frailties and flaws, no matter how successful we may be been previously,
>> is to invite tragedy.
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: on behalf of Mike Cole
>> Sent: Wed 6/27/2007 10:51 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca]
>> Copernicus,Darwinand Bohr
>> Hi Louise.
>> I spend a lot of my time working on creating activities where expertise is
>> widely
>> distributed across age, class, gender, etc. So the heterogeneity of
>> expertise
>> is important to me for many reasons. It is a wonderful generative condition
>> of human life, or can be.
>> But, to deny that in a domain specific way there are people who have
>> attained a deep
>> mastery of activities in that domain: abacus users, magicians, cooks,
>> pre-school teachers,
>> invites the idea that there is no differentiation, in general, to cope well
>> with life challenges.Next time
>> you fly, ask yourself if you want to change places with the pilot......
>> I fear that that way lies cultural nihilism and the idea that we all start
>> de novo. That is a very despairing
>> view. Equal to the despair of the experts as unquestionable, context free
>> authorities, and not, as my son likes to remind
>> me, drips under pressure.
>> mike
>> On 6/27/07, Louise Hawkins <> wrote:
>>> I also find issue with the distinction between expert and novice, as if
>>> the expert has something to give and the novice something to receive.
>>> How many times is it the student who poses a question that raises a
>>> point that the 'expert' learns from?
>>> Louise
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: []
>>> On Behalf Of Michael Glassman
>>> Sent: Wednesday, 27 June 2007 04:37 AM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: RE: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>>> Darwinand Bohr
>>> Martin
>>> Why this distinction between expert and novice? What does it really buy
>>> us? And who gets to make the distinction? It seems to me in an
>>> expert/novice scenario all power lies in the hands of those who get to
>>> make this distinction on whatever level, and get to define the two
>>> classes. Take a look at the political class in the United States, we
>>> define experts as those who have the right cultural capital, wear the
>>> right type of ties and suits, who speak in somber, modulated voices with
>>> a weary sigh of resignation, suggesting "of course you cannot see what I
>>> can see, but trust me."
>>> This is not to say every generation starts from scratch. Every
>>> generation starts with the tools that they have, but then they figure
>>> out how to use those tools to solve what invariably must be new
>>> problems, or they develop new tools out of the old tools. Let's say we
>>> have a set of spears we use to hunt food. There are great spear
>>> throwers who use those spears and teach others to use them as well.
>>> Their "expertise" in spear throwing gives them great power within the
>>> community. But things change, and the spears that were once used on
>>> larger animals are not as good for smaller animals. Are the spear
>>> throwers going to give up their place in the community as "experts?" Or
>>> are they going to say, well if we just wait, or if we use the spear in a
>>> different way, or it is the fault of our lazy children who do not train
>>> in spear throwing the way previous generations did. Meanwhile the food
>>> supply dwindles for the community. A young person examines the spear
>>> and says, hmmm, the arrow head pierces the skin but it cannot reach the
>>> skin with these new animals that we hunt. Perhaps I can create
>>> something else - a bow and arrow perhaps. But she is not an expert.
>>> Who, in a hierarchical system of knowledge development would listen and
>>> adopt the work of this young innovator? This is always the danger of a
>>> heirarchical system of knowledge development.
>>> In a more lateral system of development information is everything. As a
>>> species were are problem solvers, but our problem solving is based on
>>> the easy access and flow of information. I just read the most
>>> fascinating article by the economist Amriyat (sp?) Sen. In it he talks
>>> about famine. He makes a really good argument that famine is almost
>>> never about food. There is always enough food even in some of the major
>>> famines of the twentieth century. It is about the lack of capability
>>> for getting to the food. At its core the lack of information as a tool
>>> in obtaining this basic human function. What else is there other than
>>> information. When we define information as static and give it value
>>> separate from the problems we are working on, isn't that when we find
>>> the most trouble, have the most difficulties in problems solving?
>>> I watch my son play his World of Warcraft game. I wish I knew more
>>> about it. But I see him adapting and recalibrating constantly,
>>> developing strategies and processes that see incredible to me. It is a
>>> virtual world in which there are no "experts." The world and my son and
>>> the other players co-exist.
>>> I don't know if I've done such a good job trying to explore this.
>>> Perhaps a problem that needs greater consideration.
>>> Michael
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: on behalf of Martin Packer
>>> Sent: Tue 6/26/2007 2:04 PM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: [Possible SPAM] Re: [Possible SPAM] Re: [xmca] Copernicus,
>>> Darwinand Bohr
>>> Michael, you would have each generation start on their own, from
>>> scratch? No
>>> experts, just novices? That really is a post-apocalyptic vision!
>>> My point was there is more to life (and education) than "functioning"
>>> and
>>> "information." The danger with the tool metaphor, and the emphasis on
>>> artifacts as tools, is that they reduce all of life to the production
>>> process. That is not just a conceptual mistake, it is a political
>>> agenda. To
>>> argue that thinking is not important, only tool use, is not to argue
>>> against
>>> formalization, it is to promote a purely instrumental conception of
>>> human
>>> action and interaction. It is to promote an extreme version of the
>>> division
>>> of labor, in which only a tiny elite get to think about the nature of
>>> thinking, and everyone else is simply using tools skillfully but
>>> thoughtlessly.
>>> On 6/26/07 12:40 PM, "Michael Glassman" <> wrote:
>>>> But if this information is so important, and it exists as part of the
>>> problem
>>>> solving tools of humanity, don't we trust humans to discover it
>>> through their
>>>> own activities?
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