Adonis Diaries

Testing 3,000 years of philosophical babbling

Posted on: December 6, 2009

Testing 3,000 years of babbling

Goethe said “he who cannot draw on 3 thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”  

Philosophers have been arguing how man acquired knowledge, what he did with all that knowledge, and for what purpose.

Plato position was that there is nothing in the natural world that has not first existed in the world of ideas and that “the soul yearns to fly home on the wings of love to world of ideas. It longs to be freed from the chain of the body.”

The Irish bishop, George Berkeley (1685-1753), recaptured Plato concept and ventured even further “our sense perceptions proceed from God” and denied the existence of the material world beyond the human mind.

Aristotle countered Plato and wrote “nothing exist in consciousness that has not first been experienced by the senses; Plato is doubling the number of things.”

David Hume, the contemporary of Berkeley, Voltaire, and Rousseau (the Enlightenment Age in Europe), fine tuned the philosophy of Aristotle in what is called the empirical method for acquiring knowledge and said “no philosophy will ever be able to take us behind the daily experiences or give us rules of conducts that are different from those we get through reflections on everyday life.”

I propose that we test the two seemingly “opposing” hypothesis.

It is theoretically feasible to do the set of experiments, though we might face difficult ethical problems and a few confounding effects.

For example; we may select an experimental group of children, aged less than one year, and confine each child in separate rooms.  The only connection to the real world would be a wide screen showing all kinds of objects, animals, plants, people, sceneries of the environmental and geographic varieties on earth, along with all kinds of functions and relations of “laws of nature”. 

Color and audio sounds may or may not accompany the movies, depending on the experimental designs.

Consequently, the senses of touch, odor, and temperature will be reduced to the bare minimum; the senses of hearing and seeing of real objects will be restricted to the family member or nurse delivering food and health care.

There are several confounding variables that are difficult to control.

First, the child has to be fed and cared for.  A task that will inevitably get the child in contact with many real world “objects” and psychological diversities.

How this experimental group will fair compared to a control group of children in constant and free contact with the real world?

Obviously, the prime test should first focus on brain association processes before venturing in testing other forms of intelligence.

The experiments will vary in the age groups of children, the duration of the experiment, the programs on the screen, the duration of projections and their frequencies per day, the type of human contacts for caring to the well being of the child, and so on.

In any event, these experiments will provide directions to the strength of the theory that says “it is contact with real objects and the real world that is the foundation for acquiring knowledge.” 

They might provide better insight on the most advantageous age for exposing children to real world “objects”.

Second confounding factor that cannot be controlled and which is “Do genes, through a couple of million years of evolution, have any effect in supplying or overcoming deficiencies from lack of contact with the real world?”

If Plato is correct, then a human child, born say on planet Mars and then relocated to earth while still a child, will not be able to build a coherent world more complex than earth born children; simply because his “set of ideas” were confirmed in environments richer and more varied in objects and conditions; the assumption is that the child born in Mars had no time enough to build all the relevant associations in his brain.

I think that each object has many images in our mind or definitions, and depends on our mood, circumstances, and environment.

People who are intelligent in one form or another had brain mechanism of better association capabilities when they were children than do deficient children.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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