comprehensivity

The Measurements of Life (Tools for Comprehensivity)

This resource examines measurement as an important tool for our comprehensivity, our toolkit of ways to better understand the world and each other. It explores and contextualizes measurement inspired by the broad schema called the measurements of life discussed in Chapter 6 of “The Design Way” by Harold G. Nelson and Eric Stolterman.

To provide an exemplar of comprehensive exploration, this resource recapitulates and expands on the idea of comprehensive thinking beginning with experience. The importance of experience was introduced as a source for comprehensive inquiry and action in the resource on The Comprehensive Thinking of R. Buckminster Fuller. Several other resources on experience and our comprehensivity were summarized and expanded upon in the resource on The Ethics of Learning from Experience.

This is the second resource in a series on Tools for Comprehensivity. The first one explored Ambiguity, Contradiction, and Paradox.

The Interpretation of Experience, Information, and Data

R. Buckminster Fuller’s approach to comprehensive thinking starts with Universe: “The universe is the aggregate of all of humanity’s consciously-apprehended and communicated experience”. This all-encompassing inclusion of all the experience of all Humanity is the starting point for any comprehensive inquiry or action. In this way experience is fundamental in all our comprehensive thinking and learning.

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Articulating Comprehensivity: The Comprehensive Design of Our Lives

To better understand how we might practice our comprehensivity, our aspiration for comprehensive thinking and doing, we might examine how to clarify or make effective such desires. This resource attempts to imagine how we might practice our comprehensivity. In the end we might apprehend how we can articulate the comprehensive design of our lives.

Articulating Comprehensivity

According to Wiktionary, to articulate is “to make clear or effective”. Comprehensivity is our inclination to understand it all and each other. So by articulating comprehensivity we mean making our aspiration to understand it all and each other more effective and clearer. How can we better clarify and make more effective our efforts to build an ever more extensive, ever more intensive, and ever more integrated understanding of our worlds and its peoples? How can we better articulate our comprehensivity?

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Comprehensive Exploration, Comprehension, and Collaboration

To better understand the kind of inquiry and action that might foster our comprehensivity, our aspiration to better understand it all and each other, we can examine alternative approaches. Comparisons between alternative approaches to learning may help us better imagine what might facilitate our comprehensivity. This resource reviews Ten Epistemic Virtues for comprehensive andragogy identified in a previous resource and then compares them to the Three Sisters Garden Metaphor for Learning of Barbara Wall and the Four Sets of Competencies for Learning from “The Design Way”.

Since this resource references the indigenous wisdom included in the Three Sisters Garden Metaphor (discussed below), it is appropriate to include a land acknowledgment: I write from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania which is part of the traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape. I acknowledge the Lenni-Lenape as the original people of this land and their continuing relationship with their territory. I acknowledge the injustice of the state-sponsored genocide and settler colonialism that gave me the “right” to occupy this land without a meaningful reconciliation with the Lenni-Lenape. The governments of Australia and Canada have both organized commissions that have acknowledged the genocides on their territories and have made some attempts at reconciling with indigenous peoples. I regret that the government of the United States has not yet begun a meaningful process of reconciliation. Follow this link for some materials I organized documenting these genocides.

Footnote: Barbara Wall’s eloquent four minute introduction and land acknowledgement exemplifies and contextualizes these comments:

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Shifting Perspectives and Representing The Truth

In an exquisite video presentation Tricia Wang explains the benefits of perspective shifting to better represent the truths of our worlds and its peoples:

This resource will situate Wang’s powerful and important ideas in the context of our Art of Comprehensivity, our learning practices for building an ever more extensive, ever more intensive, and ever more integrated understanding of our worlds and its peoples.

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Comprehensivism in the Islamic Golden Age

Comprehensivism is the practice of integrating as many of Humanity’s sources of learning as possible to better comprehend the world and how it works. The Islamic Golden Age, roughly between the 8th and 14th centuries CE, forged a culture infused with comprehensivist epistemic virtues and these significantly shaped what historian Richard Bulliet calls Islamo-Christian Civilization and the development of Renaissance comprehensivists like Leonardo and modern science.

How did the Islamic world establish their comprehensivist foundation for knowledge? In this resource we will explore some of what has been learned of the cultural traditions that came together during the Islamic Golden Age to provide a historical background for today’s comprehensivism movement. We will offer a comprehensivist interpretation of three exquisite hour long BBC documentaries on “Science and Islam” with the award-winning physicist Jim Al-Khalili as host:

  1. “The Language of Science”: http://y2u.be/stJOl0PYHUE
  2. “The Empire of Reason”: http://y2u.be/z-xQKfMWK2Y
  3. “The Power of Doubt”: http://y2u.be/SwHvQiihXg4

We will also consider Patricia Fara’s epic 2009 book “Science: A Four Thousand Year History”, Dimitri Gutas’s 1998 book “Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ʿAbbāsid Society”, and other resources.

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Redressing The Crises of Ignorance

Buckminster Fuller discussed problems of ignorance in multiple contexts. His most dramatic usage was as a crisis of ignorance referring to our failure to recognize our abundance of solar, tidal, and geothermal energy causing the illusion of an “energy crisis”. In this resource we abstract and interpret several crises of ignorance inspired, in part, by Bucky’s thinking. We start by revisiting Bucky’s idea of mistake mystique and Stuart Firestein’s thinking on ignorance and science. Then we explore Bucky’s essay “The Wellspring of Reality”. Finally, we expand on some visionary ideas from Bucky’s essay “Education Automation”.

This exploration is organized around four critically important crises of ignorance and how we might redress them. This should reveal new ways to see the importance of our comprehensivity, our “wanting to understand all and put everything together” as Bucky explained it in his book “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth”.

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How to Create That-Which-Is-Not-Yet

To develop our comprehensivity, our interest in broadly and deeply understanding our worlds and its peoples, we actively consider the learning of other traditions, traditions that may seem very strange to us. When we explore these kinds of resources, we may come across ideas that puzzle or intrigue us. The practicing comprehensivist will, from time-to-time, want to linger to explore a line of thought and some questions that arose in a prior exploration. This resource will exemplify such a follow-up exploration that extends our previous examination of change as ongoing genesis, ongoing creation. A key motivating issue for this continuation will be how we create that-which-is-not-yet. Many of these ideas are adapted from the 2012 book “The Design Way” by Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman.

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Rethinking Change and Evolution: Is Genesis Ongoing?

There are many ways to approach the development of our comprehensivity, our ways of understanding the world and its peoples through broad and extensive considerations that are also deep and intensive with the aim of forming a more and more complete and integrated comprehension of our worlds. Previous resources engaged essays, papers, video lectures, books, surveys, syntheses, condensations, contextualizations, interpretations, investigations, and explorations. This resource curates a small sampling of ideas in the hopes of stimulating a broader, more comprehensive appreciation of the nature of change, evolution, and design in our conceptuality.

The idea for this resource came from the provocative, revolutionary, and controversial 2012 book “The Design Way: Intentional Change Change in an Unpredictable World” by Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman. I no longer recommend the book because too many of my associates have been unable to appreciate its provocative style. I find the book to be a wellspring of intriguing ideas. Its revolutionary approach in considering design as Humanity’s first tradition of inquiry and action is an exemplar for my efforts to create a new tradition for comprehensivism, the practice of our comprehensivity. In addition, this resource will consider ideas from W. E. H. Stanner’s essay “The Dreaming” (see a July 2017 event on “The Dreaming and The Songlines” for more notes on Stanner’s essay), Dan Everett’s studies of the Pirahã people from the “New Yorker” profile by John Colapinto, and Richard Lewontin (see his three presentations for the 2003 Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lectures at the Santa Fe Institute).

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Mistake Mystique in Learning and in Life

Comprehensivity is our inclination to integrate all our sources of learning so as to better comprehend the world and how it works. To effectively guide our newfound comprehensivity we require newfound epistemic virtues, new criteria for good knowledge. In previous resources, we have explored two such proposed epistemic virtues: the inductive attitude and the method of multiple working hypotheses.

This resource will investigate mistake mystique as a third proposed epistemic virtue for our comprehensivity. Our primary guide for this exploration is R. Buckminster Fuller’s essay Mistake Mystique. It was published in the now defunct periodical East/West Journal, you can find a copy in some anthologies including “Your Private Sky: Discourse: Buckminster Fuller” edited by Joachim Krausse and Claude Lichtenstein (2001) and Education Automation: Comprehensive Learning for Emergent Humanity published by Lars Muller Publishers (2010). We will also consider some ideas of Stuart Firestein from the 2012 book “Ignorance: How It Drives Science”.

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The Inductive Attitude: A Moral Basis for Science and Comprehensivism

Comprehensivism is an emerging practice that takes seriously Buckminster Fuller’s observation that we want “to understand all and put everything together”. In this practice, we value learning from other traditions of inquiry and action, all our communicated experiences, and the Ethnosphere, our all-encompassing cultural zone. To assess this learning, we value accumulating and comparing many working hypotheses, conjectures, guesses, theories, and explanations so we can evaluate our vast inventory of knowledge comprehensively.

With these aspirations and values in mind, this resource will consider inductive reasoning as a moral basis for science as examined by George Pólya (1887–1985) in his 1954 public domain book “Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning: Volume I: Induction and Analogy in Mathematics”. We will also explore the implications of Pólya’s ideas for our comprehensivity, our efforts at learning that are broad in scope and deeply incisive or cutting. For diligent readers who want to assess the relevant parts of Pólya’s book on their own, at the end there is a section with links to its most important and most accessible sections on inductive reasoning.

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