Dangers of Categorical Thinking

Measuring Beliefs

Measurement, it turns out, is an essential faculty for our comprehensivity, our emerging approach for reimagining our learning, philosophy, science, and life planning by taking seriously Buckminster Fuller’s guiding virtue of “the adequately macro-comprehensive and micro-incisive” as a principle for our lives. To help us tune in to the nature and importance of comprehensive measurement, this resource examines its application to assessing beliefs.

The previous resource on The Measurements of Life scoped interpretation and introduced the measurements of life schema from “The Design Way” by Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman. This resource builds on that foundation. As frequently happens in comprehensive practice, the task is facilitated by adding another source to consider, namely, Rebecca Goldstein’s schema of core beliefs and by reviewing techniques from other resources. Our aim is to clarify the treatment of both beliefs and comprehensive measurement for our comprehensive explorations. Although beliefs are only one aspect of any tradition of inquiry and action, they are important enough that limiting our purview to beliefs will not diminish the effectiveness of our toolkit for comprehensive measurement.

Assessing Beliefs

Our approach to comprehensive learning invites us to consider all the experiences and all the traditions of all Humanity since there is no way to know which might provide a key idea or behavior that we might otherwise overlook. When practiced diligently, this broadly sourced approach to learning will challenge us to consider many unfamiliar beliefs. If we are to better understand the world and each other through engaging so many diverse traditions of inquiry and action, the comprehensive explorer is obliged to understand and situate these unfamiliar beliefs. How might we assess such beliefs?

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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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Humanity’s Great Traditions of Inquiry and Action

In order to undertake the project of becoming a comprehensivist—to come to understand our worlds more and more broadly and deeply—we need to provision a toolkit for the task. What are all the possible approaches that we might mobilize in our quest to make sense of it all and of each other?

“The Design Way” by Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman argues that design, not any of the arts or sciences, was humanity’s first “tradition of inquiry and action“. The “Great Books” and “Great Ideas” collections of Mortimer J. Adler and others, inspired us to prefix the word “great” in front of the phrase from “The Design Way”. We now reformulate our initial question as What are the Great Traditions of Inquiry and Action that humanity has accumulated through the ages? Will this suffice to delimit the range of possible approaches which a comprehensivist might assay?

First, let’s pause to ask: Is it necessary and/or sufficient to encompass all humanity’s traditions with the metaphysics of inquiry and action? I am not at all sure, but since we need some organizing principle, as with all proposed and allegedly “obvious” first principles, we might just accept “inquiry and action” as a good enough working hypothesis of the nature of all humanity’s traditions without too much thought and boldly adopt it.

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