P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 15
23 September 2001
I. The Courage to Face Uncertainty. Essay by John Paolini
II. The European Educational Technology Forum
III. Hermeneutics in Russia
I. THE COURAGE TO FACE UNCERTAINTY
I received the following essay from Pathways student John Paolini on 12 August.
In view of the recent terrible events in the USA, I originally thought of
removing the sentence, "The certainty of heaven affirmed by suicide bombers is
frightening" which in hindsight seems to have been a gross understatement. That
writer surely meant merely that it is frightening that anyone should hold that
degree of certainty. He did not mean - because he could never have predicted -
that we ourselves should be frightened because of the threat posed to ourselves
and our loved ones by "the first war of the twenty-first century".
'EXISTENCE: THE TRUTH THAT HIDES IN ERROR' by John Paolini
The truth hidden in nihilism is that there is no Absolute Truth. Hidden in
atheism is the truth that there is no certainty in theism or religion. Absolute
Truth has died. We live in uncertainty. We need courage to find and argue for
provisional truths with a small 't'. For millennia humankind has lived in a
bewitched world of mythical and unexamined certainty. Then and now we are still
learning to live bravely in a world without miracle or providence. We live naked
in a lonely world. We look back and see a mirage of a lost golden age.
Fundamentalist ghost dancers are trying to restore the world of absolute truth.
All they can do is to show the destructiveness of absolutism. The certainty of
heaven affirmed by suicide bombers is frightening. Christian, Hebrew, and
Muslim fundamentalism in their hunger for power hold so tightly to their belief
in the absolute that they, through their destructive acts, betraying an inner
nihilism and despair.
Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, had the courage to leave the certainly of
Hesiod and to venture to explain their world in naturalistic rather than in
theological terms. I don't know other people's experiences, but I guess that
unless you have grown up in a fundamentalist cosmology you may not know how
uneasily we journey into the unknown.
As an experiment, after I was told by my pragmatist college professor that
there is no supernatural, I tried to live between two stops on the subway line
as if there were no God. It frightened the piss out of me. I decided to go on
into the ministry. Later in life I left my position as pastor of a church and
studied in Paris. I was walking down a crowded street looking at the mob and
then realized that the church meant nothing in this word in which I was living.
There is no divine safety net for believers. The 'foule' in Paris lived as if
God were truly dead. How could this be? I wondered as I was preparing to be a
missionary to Algeria. My desire to proselytize was zero. I decided that I
would try to help the poor. As the spiritual went, "I didn't feel at home in
this world any more."
In this kind of world the Milesian philosophers could not prove their theories,
shame, call down lightning, heal, or preach. They could only reason, present and
persuade. Their visions of reality were leaving the temples and entering the
market place. Rhetoric replaced theology.
The profession of being a sophist was invented to teach citizens to live in a
more mobile world for the common man without gods or hierarchy but where wealth
replaced the advantages of high birth. A certain vagueness was an improvement
over the absolute. They were making a world where democracy was possible.
Hierarchy demands absolutism. The hoi pollio had needed a theology to keep them
from revolting against their "betters." Now they usurped the aristocracy. The
had the power of unity. As in the TV show "Survivors" they had the power to
vote troublemakers or potential trouble makers out of the city. As Heidegger
would say "averageness" replaced the dominance of rulers and heroes.
Imagination, inventiveness and improvisation of ideas replaced the storehouse
of the unchanging truth of mythology. It was dangerous to do this in that
society and is as dangerous in ours. Rooted, systemic, powers defend their
boundaries. In order to defend the core of power they set the limits of
trespass far from the core. I was a young methodist pastor who smoked and used
explicit language that was in violation of my ordination vows. I noticed that
no one in authority would bother to punish my smoking and language unless I
were to become embarrassing or inconvenient. When I did become troublesome I
was brought up before a group of my peers on the Board of Ordained Ministry
with the bishop presiding. This was at annual conference. (I swear this to be
true!) A member of the board brought up the charge that I used foul language. I
escaped because it was all so silly. I was fortunate that I lived in a gentler
society. It was out of vengeance that Socrates was proclaimed a blasphemer and
put to death. The men of the time felt that Socrates was harming the old order
and causing the existing decadence in society.
It is not that I am less interested in the arguments of the early Greek
philosophers over physics than I am in the dramas and issues of existence. I am
ignoring many issues in stressing the new situation in the trading towns of
secularism and individualism. The old religion had united people. That was its
purpose as in the root of the word. The Milesian philosophers were
demythologizing: windowing out the grains of truth from the fanciful world of
They did not have time for the evolution of powerful concepts like "being." In
their work of demythologizing and laying the ground for individualism they
focused the attention of thought on individual people away from the stifling
lock step of life in the villages. I wish that there had been a straight line
from this beginning to universal respect for each individual human being. We
are still killing and fighting between tribes, groups and nations. The
individual's ego has not established its rule over the animal beast in us and
the tyranny of the punitive moralists. Yet in theorizing about physics these
men unintentionally laid the groundwork for a liberal society.
Note: I use the word 'men' in a literal sense. In Ancient Greece, the greater
majority of people were without any rights or recognition. They were women and
slaves. In this day and age women still are not ordained in the largest
(c) John Paolini 2001
II. THE EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY FORUM
As reported in issue 10 of 'Pathways News', I have been invited to give a
presentation at the European Educational Technology Forum, to be held next week
at University College Dublin.
Provided that I can get the hang of the technology, I shall be introducing my
talk with guided tour of the Pathways web sites, using a 'data projector' to
display the web pages on a big screen. That will be fun!
In my talk, I shall tell the gathering of distinguished academics how Pathways
was launched as a way to "find an audience for my work":
"Pathways was conceived as a one-to-one dialogue between student and mentor,
following the Socratic ideal. The form of the program is thus determined by the
unique character of philosophy itself.
"Pathways tuition is designed to be labour intensive, at a time when
universities have been looking to distance learning and computer technology as
a way of increasing the throughput of students per lecturer hour. Yet Pathways
is entirely self-financing, receiving no grant aid of any kind.
"The hub of Pathways is the Pathways web site, and its ancillary sites. It is
through the Pathways web site that students from five continents and
thirty-eight countries to date have enrolled on the Pathways programs. The web
site is not just a marketing tool. The many hundreds of pages add value to the
experience of being a Pathways student.
"In terms of my initial goal, I have succeeded. I have found a way of working
in philosophy which I love and would never give up. Now I am looking for more
philosophers to join me."
Here are the latest details of the Educational Technology Forum, gleaned from
the University College Dublin Audio Visual Centre web page.
THE EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY FORUM
Hosted by the Audio Visual Centre
University College Dublin
Supported by the Higher Education Authority
Date: 27th September 2001
Venue: O'Reilly Hall
University College Dublin
The European Educational Technology Forum is designed to provide a platform to
senior academics and key academic support personnel to discuss strategic issues
in relation to how educational technology can be employed to enhance teaching
and learning within the university sector.
Leading European academics will share their experiences and present their
findings on the most effective ways to integrate educational technology into
third-level curricula. Models of best practice will be demonstrated and ample
opportunity will be made available to discuss some of the key issues that will
impact on future pedagogical models.
This years event "Educational Technology: Shifting Pedagogical Paradigms"
builds on previous seminars, such as the Educational Technology Forum (2000)
and the Telematics Breakfast (1999), organised by the AVC to heighten awareness
and stimulate critical debate on the benefits and pitfalls of integrating
technology into existing pedagogical models within the university environment.
Registrars, Faculty Deans, Associate Deans, Librarians, Directors of Computing
Services, Audio Visual Centres and Teaching Development Units, from all the
universities in Ireland are invited to participate in this strategic event.
For further information on the Educational Technology Forum contact:
Educational Technology Officer
Audio Visual Centre, University College Dublin
Tel: 01-7167035, Fax: 01-2830060
For conference booking, or travel and accommodation
Assistant to the Director
Audio Visual Centre, University College Dublin
Tel: 01-7167031, Fax: 01-2830060
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
8.30 am Registration
9.00 am Opening Address and Chairperson of Session One
9.1 5am "The Impact of Educational Technology on Teaching
and Learning within the University Sector"
Dr. David Cavallo,
Epistemology and Learning Group
MIT Media Lab.
10.00 am "Integrating Educational Technology: Systems,
Processes and Outcomes"
Dr. Paul Blackmore
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick.
10.45 am Question & Answer Session
11.00 am Coffee.
11.15 am Chairperson Session Two
11.30 am "Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights in
Relation to the Use of Educational Technology"
Professor Robert Clark
Faculty of Law
University College Dublin
Professor Norma Dawson
The School of Law
Queen's University of Belfast
12.15 pm "Issues of Authentication in University Virtual
Dr. Nick Heap,
Department of Telematics
The Open University
12.45 pm Question & Answer Session
1.00 pm Lunch
2.15 pm Chairperson Session Three
2.30 pm "Ethics and the Internet"
Professor Gordon Graham FRSE
Regius Professor of Moral Philosophy
Kings' College, University of Aberdeen.
3.00 pm "Pathways: the Leading Philosophy Open Learning
Programme on the World Wide Web"
Dr Geoffrey Klempner
Director of Studies
The Philosophical Society of England
University of Sheffield
3.30 pm Question & Answer Session
3.45 pm Coffee
4.00 pm Chairperson Session Four
4.15 pm "Telematics: Digital Television and Life Long
Professor Maria Amata Garito
NETTUNO National Centre, Rome
4.45 pm "Basic Electronic Surgical Training: E-learning
in Medicine" (Winner of the Best Online Training
Programme 2000 International EMMA Awards)
Deputy Chief Executive
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
5.15 pm Question & Answer Session. Reception Follows
7.00 pm Dinner in the O'Reilly Hall
III. HERMENEUTICS IN RUSSIA
The editorial board of "Hermeneutics in Russia", the interdisciplinary
international electronic journal, is currently seeking submissions for its 2001
issues. Philosophical and linguistics papers as well as economical, pedagogical
and mathematical works relevant to philosophy will be considered.
Aims of the Journal
1. Development of dialogue between Russian and English-speaking investigators
in hermeneutics and philosophy.
2. Cultivation of Russian philosophy and literature critique in the context of
contemporary world philosophy. Raising the level of knowledge of Russian
philologists, philosophers and teachers.
3. Assistance to postgraduate students and young researchers in progression of
their research works. 4. Attention to problems of Human rights and democracy.
1. Philosophical hermeneutics. The problems of reading and treatment.
Linguistic and ontological problems of text. Metaphysics and hermeneutics.
Literary critique as a form of philosophy.
2. Phenomenology of reading. Perception and treatment.
3. Philosophical and linguistic problems of interpretation. Problem of symbol
4. Religious phenomenon of text. Dualism of religious symbolism. Religion and
mind: problems of text reading and treatment. Dialogue and polylogue:
phenomenon of church.
5. Analytical tradition in philosophy and the problems of reading. Hermeneutic
aspects of the theory of argumentation and logic.
6. Structuralism and poststructuralism. Writing and reading. Figures of author
and reader in hermeneutics.
7. Time and history as the hermeneutic problems.
8. Psychology of treatment. Psychoanalysis. Psycholinguistics.
9. Russian philosophical tradition in hermeneutics. A. Potebnya, M. Bakhtin, M.
Any person who has reached the level of an MA, MPhil, MPsy, or MLitt degree may
submit their original work to "Hermeneutics in Russia".
Submission papers should be written in English, and should not exceed 80,000
On the cover page, with the title, please include the following:
Brief (50 word) biographical citation
In addition to a hard copy of the paper, submissions must include a 3.5" floppy
disk containing only a copy of the submitted work and biographical citation.
Clearly label the disk with your full name, phone number, the title of your
work, and the software (including version) and platform used.
Submissions should also contain an abstract of the paper (not exceed 50 words).
Please mail your submission to:
Lenin avenue 51
Urals State University
We are hoping to organize a printed version of the Journal. Please contact me
by email or at the above address if you know anyone who might be interested in
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