[xmca] Epistemic hospitability

From: Kai Hakkarainen <kai.hakkarainen who-is-at joensuu.fi>
Date: Sun Oct 21 2007 - 04:06:14 PDT

Dear friends,

I have just joined this list and do not know the earlier discussion.
Nevertheless I wanted to share with you some quotations that I found from
Peirre Levy's (1997) Collective Intelligence book, quotations that may get
discussion toward a more positive trajectory than mere focusing on Watson's
remarks appear to do. From Pierre Levy's perspective Watson's remark and all
other corresponding remarks are violations of epistemic or cognitive
hospitability. Just like any other kind of human activity, epistemic affairs
require us to provide hospitability to our fellow human beings. When we fail
to acknowledge someone's intelligence because he does not have our own
cognitive socialization or our kind of "proper" education, it is violation
of epistemic hospitability. Racism implies, of course, an extreme lack of
such epistemic desirability.

"My initial premise is based on the notion of a universally distributed
intelligence. No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all
knowledge resides in humanity. . The light of mind shines even where we
attempt to persuade other that no intelligence exists: "educational
failure", "rote execution", "underdevelopment". The overarching judgment of
ignorance turns against the judges. If you are tempted to judge someone as
ignorant, look for the context in which his knowledge can be turned into
gold." (Levy, 1997, p. 14)

"Regardless of my temporary social position, regardless of the judgment of
an educational institution about my abilities, I can also become an
opportunity for learning to someone else. Through my experience of life, my
professional career, my social and cultural habits, I can - since knowledge
is coextensive with life - provide knowledge resources for community. Even
if I am unemployed, or without money or a diploma, condemned to life in
ghetto, illiterate, I am not useless. I am not interchangeable. I have an
image, a position, dignity, a personal and positive value within the
knowledge space. All of us have the right to be acknowledged as a knowledge
identity." (Levy, 1997, P. 13)

As Levy argued, "in the age of knowledge, failure to recognize the other as
an intelligent being is to deny his true social identity" (Levy, 1997, p.

I have used the epistemic-hospitability metaphor in many public talks in
Finland; it appears to make people to question at least some of their
presuppositions concerning intelligence. As psychologist, I consider talking
about these issues to be very important. Together with my colleagues I have
investigated conceptions of intelligence of students and teachers of my
country that revealed a strong gender and age effect: Males (both students
and teachers) appear to think that inherited and fixed abilities determine
what you may intellectually achieve whereas females tend to think that your
own epistemic efforts are crucial. Perhaps this is one of reason for the
female students becoming a large majority in high schools and universities.
Further, older generations of teachers represent the fixed-abilities view
much more strongly than younger generations (the latter ones are likely to
be used to surpass themselves). Watson is clearly a representative of his
own gender & generation in terms of having a non-dynamic view of
intelligence as a fixed and given entity.

I am bringing these issues up because I feel that not only racism is at
stake here but also assumptions concerning the very nature of human
intelligence that make it hard to overcome racist tendencies. Together with
my colleagues, I have developed a framework of networked intelligence so as
to contribute to problematizing the received conceptions of intelligence
http://www.lime.ki.se/uploads/images/517/Hakkarainen_Lonka_Paavola.pdf). It
is just a preliminary sketch based on premises probably well known in this
circle about relevant issues; I am interested in parallel and, perhaps, more
mature cultural-psychological reconceptualizations concerning what
intelligence is all about.

Sincerely yours,

Kai Hakkarainen, Ph.D.
Professor (Learning and Learning Environments)
Savonlinna Department of Teacher Education
University of Joensuu
Kuninkaankartanonkatu 5, P.O. Box 55
FIN-57101 Savonlinna, Finland
GSM +358 50 4129572
Tel +358-15-5117686
Fax +358 15 53 1060
Email: kai.hakkarainen@joensuu.fi
Director, Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building,
Department of Psychology
Address: P.O. Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 20D),
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
GSM: +358-50-4129572
Fax: +358-9-19129443
e-mail: kai.hakkarainen@helsinki.fi
-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of E. Knutsson
Sent: Sunday, October 21, 2007 12:31 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Nobel prize talks stupid things about human intelligence

This is highly irrelevant and biased, Andy, a special case of irrelevant
conclusion, a so-called fallacy of relevance: Argumentum ad populum and
argumentum ad hominem (speaking "against the man" rather than to the issue).

Attacking the premises of an argument by casting aspersions on the character
the proponent of the argument, would usually be characterized as committing
ad hominem fallacy. The (supposed) character of the proponent of an argument

has no relevance to the validity of the argument.

On 2007-10-21, at 10:42, Andy Blunden wrote:
> Eric, I was not following this debate closely. This post clearly explains
> where you are coming from, so my "What's the problem?" response was
> uncalled for. I guess I was not reacting to Watson as a "grand old man"
> "non-conformist" who "made a mistake" but rather as one of many people who

> follow unthinkingly in the trend of which Watson was a contributor, to the

> effect that it is "all in the genes." So of course in his "correction" he
> only repeats what caused offence: "Africans aren't inferior, just
> ... because of their genes."
> I should apologise for using derogatory words about anyone on this list, I

> suppose, but any specialist who thinks that their own particular
> explains everything is not in my humble opinion worthy of very much
> Andy

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