Tue Sep 21 2021 journal
Some thoughts from this morning. Sitting in the Peet's cafe near the gym at UC Davis, listening to 80s synthwave.

Education and authoritarianism[[meta-acropolis]] [[ideas]]

Class starts tomorrow. It's been a while since I've read the strangely authoritarian language of a course syllabus, a long string of "thou shalt not"s followed by more prohibitions and percentages. Thinking about the anti-educational-institution streak in certain tech circles and the many projects aiming to replace the university, I wonder if this kind of authoritarianism is inherent to education. Most alt-ed projects promise to liberate students from pointless assessments and the caprice of individual instructors but I wonder if these might be empty promises, like how most revolutionary movements end up becoming oppressive themselves.[[meta-acropolis]] [[ideas]]

There's an argument to be made that education requires authority, because learning requires humility. My objection to this is that a learner's humility does not require an instructor's authority, and in fact oftentimes an instructor's authoritarian behavior has the opposite effect of inspiring prideful resistance. [[meta-acropolis]] [[ideas]]

More broadly, I wonder if the authoritarian element of learning comes from the instructor-student relationship. Historically learning required an instructor and a student, but the internet has provided incredibly powerful tools for the autodidact. Could we live in a world where everyone taught themselves? [[meta-acropolis]] [[ideas]]

I've had some spirited debates on this subject, most recently with [[Jared]] of [[hyperlink-academy]]. I personally believe this is possible, but I've also heard very good arguments otherwise. The synthesis in my head is currently this: the instructor/student relationship is not neccessary, but a social learning environment is. To improve at something, we need to be around people better than ourselves, and a certain level of humility is required to learn from those better than ourselves. An instructor/student relationship is an institutionalized way to approximate this; how effective it is depends on the quality of the institution. I don't think it's the only way to achieve this however, and there are interesting experiments in cohort-based learning that could illustrate other ways to provide a social learning environment.[[meta-acropolis]] [[ideas]] [[Jared]] [[hyperlink-academy]]

Tagging this all meta-acropolis, an edtech project I'm in the early stages of working on. Don't have any code for it, just ideas, but I plan on putting something together soon™. [[meta-acropolis]] [[ideas]]

Budgeting time

Working on a refactor for [[exegesis]] and [[synesthesia]], thinking about how to budget time. Working strategy is to take estimate for each feature, and double the time for each to account for stupid roadblocks (wifi not working, interrupted by something, bad documentation, etc. etc.) [[code]] [[devlog]]

Listening to music

Listening to [[music]] can either be a great aid to [[focus]], or a huge impediment. Sometimes it helps me get in the zone. When it happens, usually the music fades into the background and I'm not even noticing it - this is the sweet spot for focus. Music that I like too much actually distracts me, and music that I don't like enough bores me and I end up wasting time switching what music I listen to. Working without music doesn't seem to be an option at all. I hope maybe [[synesthesia]] will help change my music listening habits? [[personal-reflection]]


Sitting the UC Davis MU, listening to King Crimson.


Yesterday I picked up a copy of [[Habermas]], a very short introduction at a used bookstore, because I recognized the name and it was $2.50 (my bookshelf is littered with books I purchased for similar reasons). The last book I read in the series was the very short introduction to Kant by Roger Scruton, which I enjoyed thoroughly.

My aim in reading [[philosophy]] is more for general intellectual enrichment and to provide insights into my work, not philosophy for its own sake, so I feel fine with reading summaries as opposed to heavy primary literature (except where the primary literature interests me). For thinkers who are influential that don't interest me very much (like Kant), I've found summaries from the very short series and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to be very helpful.

So far I've only read the introduction, but Habermas' work seems heavily related to [[mark-fischer]]'s - specifically, when Fischer talks about the lack of a public subject at the end of [[Capitalist-Realism]]. The book talks about Habermas' early work as addressing the emergence and decline of a "public sphere" in modern Europe, and how he broke from other Critical Theorists because he believed that the idea of a public sphere, while still ideological, could serve genuinely emancipatory ends.

It could be interesting to compare [[Habermas]]' program for reestablishing a public sphere, and [[mark-fischer]]'s program for reestablishing a public subject (which I think in his view would necessitate a viable alternative to capitalism).

Naturally, [[Habermas]]'s thoughts on the public sphere - which referred to salons, coffee shops and other public spaces in his day, and probably the internet today - are relevant to the social features of [[exegesis]].

Rational men at war with rationality

In the introduction to the [[Habermas]] book, the author briefly discusses the Critical Theorists he spent his youth with, and how they believed rationality was man's only hope for emancipation. However, they also believed rationality had devolved into "instrumental rationality" - a kind of ruthlessly utilitarian rationality - that would also end up dooming mankind. Because of this contradiction, the Critical Theorists became extremely pessimistic.

I could not help but find this extraordinarily similar to what the protagonist and narrator of [[Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair]] goes through - he starts as a scientist, looks for justifications for science in philosophy, becomes frustrated with philosophy and eventually embraces esotericism before going insane. The instrumental rationality that the Critical Theorists disliked seems roughly equivalent to the "classical rationality" Phaedrus talks about in [[Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair]] as well.

It's like an excess of rationality always ends eating itself. Those who take rationality serious enough end up directing rational criticism at rationality itself - a dynamic similar to what [[Nietzsche]] thought had happened to Christianity (that Christianity bore the value of truth-seeking, which ended up being turned against it).

It also seems like [[philosophy]] requires a war-like state of mind - against others, against oneself, against philosophy itself. I'm again reminded of an aphorism from [[The Gay Science]], simply titled "excelsior" - "Thou wilt never more pray, never more worship, never more repose in infinite trust - thou refusest to stand still and dismiss thy thoughts before an ultimate wisdom, an ultimate virtue, an ultimate power, - thou hast no constant guardian and friend in thy seven solitudes - thou livest without the outlook on a mountain that has snow on its head and fire in its heart - there is no longer any requiter for thee, nor any amender with his finishing touch - there is no longer any reason in that which happens, or any love in that which will happen to thee - there is no longer any resting-place for thy weary heart, where it has only to find and no longer to seek, thou art opposed to any kind of ultimate peace, thou desirest the eternal recurrence of war and peace: - man of renunciation, wilt thou renounce in all these things? Who will give thee the strength to do so? No one has yet had this strength!" - There is a lake which one day refused to flow away, and threw up a dam at the place where it had hitherto discharged: since then this lake has always risen higher and higher. Perhaps the very renunciation will also furnish us with the strength with which the renunciation itself can be borne; perhaps man will ever rise higher and higher from that point onward, when he no longer flows out into a God."[[quotes]] [[Nietzsche]] [[philosophy]] [[The Gay Science]]