Reflection for the 5th week.

Searle, J. R. (1998). Mind, language and society: Philosophy in a new key. Chapter 1: Basic Metaphysics: Reality and truth (pp. 1 - 37). New York: Basic Books.
Prisig, R. M. (1974). Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: An inquiry into values (pp. 29 - 36). New York: Corgi Books.
Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Chapter 7: Nelson Goodman's Worlds. (pp. 93 - 105). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
von Glasersfeld, E. (1992). Aspects of radical constructivism and its educational recommendations.

The authors of the readings all took their own epistemological position in understanding the world around them and at the same time trying to convince their readers to believe their narration of discussion is reliable and real.

The discussion, or even debate, focused on the epistemological issues are much more complicated and has a much longer history than research on media and education. To some extent, the position one takes in this debate could work as a premise of how they perceive the work in media and education. That is because philosophical stand is the fundamental methodology of how people think.


Searle, J. R. (1998). Searle took a different approach in his introductory writing for philosophy. For this point I would say the targeted readers have to have some former knowledge on the philosophical perspectives to digest his introduction well without easily convinced by the discussion. He adopted a format of debate by which he addressed two popular camps that do not agree the perspective of "external reality": antirealism and skeptivism. The author started his argument by listing several default position of philosophical issues in his mind: independtly existence of a real world, direct perceptual access to the world through senses, clear meanings possessed by words in our language, true or false call on our statements based on the facts in the world, causation as a real relation among objects and events in the world. Then he began his real focus on reality, the real world. The major camps he is arguing against is the group of various kinds of antirealists, such as social constructionism, pragmatism, deconstructionism, relativism, postmodernism, etc. and those of skepticism. Along with his discussion, he provided his viewpoint that "External realism is not a claim about the existence of this or that object, but rather a presupposition of the way we understand such claims". Befor he began his final session of discussion on Atheism, he re-emphasized his position of the motivation for anti-realism: a will to power, a desire for control, and a deep and abiding resentment. In the last part of this article, Searle reinformce his argument of existing external independent real world by providing various examples showing the significance of evidence in the case of Atheism. It is quite challenging to have in depth discussion on some key issues of basic philosophy theories in such a limited space.

Bruner, J. (1986). After read the article by Searle, it is easier to follow the main idea of Goodman presented by Bruner. Obviously, Goodman took the postion of constructivism, or a form of antirealism. In Goodman's system, he discussed distinction of versions and worlds. A "world is not the version itself; the version may have features -- such as being in English or consisting of words -- that its world does not" (pp.99). And he also argued that "we make versions, and right versions make worlds. And however distinct worlds may be from right versions, making right versions is making worlds" (pp.99). Then Bruner led his discussion to Goodman's theory of symbol. As proposed by Goodman, each constructed the world differently, the disctinction at issue is the use of "symbol system". The central notion of Goodman's symbol theory is "reference", a "primitive term covering all sorts of symbolization, all cases of standing for" (pp.101). Bruner discussed later then that a contribution of Goodman's perspective is providing a clearer a concept of mind 'as an instrument for producing worlds" (pp.104). But in the end, Bruner's argument went back to a general understanding of Goodman's approach that the discipline of his theoretical framework changed radically when he adoped a stipulation in a symbol system to interpret "the world" than accepting the idea of the existence of "the world".

Prisig, R. M. (1974). This is a great fit for the current discussion that we have for this weeks. Basically, this is a narrative in which some big ideas of philosophy exists. The father who are confident in making decisions were doing them by his impulse and senses. The main scene of discussion of the existence of ghost and the argument of Indian and European difference in belief. The father, as a symbolic creature representing a lot of common people that have their own believes, talked about the science and the changes it has brought around to people's mind, to the way people see things, and to the way people perceive the surroundings, not in a serious academic way, but in a vivid, home-style way. As the main scene of the story, the talk around ghost is also a lead for the main character to show the root of his current ideas: the ideas of Phaedrus. I cannot help to make some reflection at the moment connect this story with other articles for this week. Basically, there are two linking points. First, the story telling and conversation is the main source and form of development of knowledge starting from ancient time. This form ignites questions on big problems, and development of imagination. Like books of Confucius, like Bible, like books of Greek philosophers, the story telling is the main form adopted by the authors of those books to show big ideas, in depth theories. They are more successful in communicating and spreading knowledge and ideas than some serious academic argument of philosophy at present. Second, the development of science, the revolutionary improvement of understanding the brain, the root of thoughts/mind/consciousness, and prograss in cognition recognition, all make the interpretation of the world differently than before. I'd like throw a dialectic idea. The scientific approach is really a key player in the construction of philosophy system. But should there be a balance between evidence and imagination? We can narrow down this thought back to education, such as the debate we have in education the Qualitative study vs the Quantitative study in "scientific research"?

von Glasersfeld, E. (1992). In this short article, the author focused on a specific theory, radical constructivism (RC). As clearly said, the RC is "an attempt to develop a theory of knowing" (pp.1). Obviously, RC is rooted in constructivism, we can see this from the argument that RC "assumes that the cognizing activity is instrumental and neither does nor can concern anything but the experiental world of the knower" (pp.1). Other than just a brief introduction of the basic ideas of RC, the author further developed his argument into a critic of other aspects in order to clarify the stand of RC thoroughly. The author clarified that the RC does not ignore the role of social interaction in the oconstruction of knowledge. Furthermore, the author argue that RC belives that "no matter how viable and satisfactory the solution to a problem might seem, it can never be regarded as teh only possible solution" (pp.2). This statement leaves me a flavor of skeptivism. In the discussion connecting the stand of RC with the practice or interpretation of education, the author focused on the math education and the manipulation of symbols. As he quoted from Hersh that "Sympols are used as aids to thinking just as musical scores are used as adis to music" (pp.3). At the end of this short article, the discussion raised an important problem: for the fact that may be considered certain, it is because "we come to construct units in a particular way and have agreed on how they are to be counted". Typical constructivism statement, but also practical for our behavior of social communication and so-called common sense. But one important thing is missing here: depends on what we construct those units? Scientific evidence or personal experience construction of someone? That could make huge difference of the root of philosophical stand.

Focus questions:

Do you think there is an objective reality? Why or why not?

I have been taking the stand that there is an objective reality or "external reality" existing independent from our existing. It is not just because I have been continuously reminded the existence of the Big Nature by infomoration from the physical world we have been living in: global warming, harricane, penguins, fossiles, energy crisis, war, rockets and spaceshipa launched into the sky, etc. or the life encountering such as 20 hours flight back to China, conversation with people from different countries with unique experiences, watching live games or games on TV, fixing problems of cars, furnitures, computers, and other hardwares, etc. It is also because what I know from my education and experience. I think I am among the people we trust what they found out from present "evidence".

I belive in the theory that human beings are the result of nature selection and evolution. Human beings are not from nowhere. Although we are different from other animals because of the social nature, we have our natrue shared by primates. The problem of the existence of objective reality is one of the fundamental question of philosophy. And the root of it, which is the shared by other philosophical questions, is curiosity of knowing where did we come from, who are we, and where are we going. At this point, I have some question on Searle's judge call that the basic reason for anti-realism is the will of power. I kinda not agree with this comment.

1. If we relate this week's main theme with the research in media and education, what do you think could make the connnection? Why it is important to be aware of this debate on realism/reality existence?
2. Related to the first question, do you think taking different position of external reality may affect the research in media and education? If yes, in what way? If no, why?
3. As I discussed in the summary of von Glasersfeld, E. (1992): "we come to construct units in a particular way and have agreed on how they are to be counted"is a typical constructivism statement. It is also very practical for our behavior of social communication and so-called common sense. But one important thing is missing here: depends on what we construct those units? Scientific evidence or personal experience construction of someone? That could make huge difference of the root of philosophical stand. I'd like to know our classmates's stand on the "external reality" and debate a little bit on this question based on their own position.