epistemic virtues

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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The Ethics of Learning from Experience

The way in which any tradition of inquiry and action is practiced is beset with issues about the correct or proper way to conduct inquiry and act within the tradition. Learning from experience has been proposed as a core epistemic virtue for our comprehensivity, our inclination to understand it all and each other. This resource explores several issues which may arise as we consider how we should learn from experience. Buckminster Fuller’s thinking about experiential learning will instigate much of the exploration.

The value of learning from experience, also known as the inductive attitude or empiricism, was introduced in the resource on The Comprehensive Thinking of R. Buckminster Fuller and was further developed in The Inductive Attitude: A Moral Basis for Science and Comprehensivism and has been reprised in the summarizing resources Comprehensivism in the Islamic Golden Age and Dante’s Comedìa and Our Comprehensivity.

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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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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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The Value of Multiple Working Hypotheses

This resource summarizes and interprets a short essay published in 1890 by T. C. Chamberlin to exemplify how we can engage primary resources from scholarly periodicals for the learning of collaborative comprehensivism, learning in groups to comprehensively comprehend our worlds and its peoples. We will see that Chamberlin’s paper expounds the benefits and drawbacks of an important moral reform for our lives, namely, the value of multiple working hypotheses. We will then assess the implications of this moral reform for comprehensivist learning.

You can read Chamberlin’s paper in a six-page 1965 reprint at http://webhome.auburn.edu/~tds0009/Articles/Chamberlain%201965.pdf or on JSTOR (requires a free account) at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1716334 or you can read the original five-page 1890 version on JSTOR at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1764336.

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