Monday, May 20, 2013

Unlearn before learning

I see my objective as a  lecturer to explain how to think not what to think. That needs to start by getting principles of qualitative analysis under one's belt from sources, books and articles, where they are developed and elaborated on at length. Only after that we go on to learn to use them to make up our own opinions. In other words, we first analyse how knowledge is manufactured, evaluate the merits and demerits of each approach and then investigate how the state of the field has bee achieved by analysing its context. That way we can deconstruct public opinion, media influences social biases, scientific epistemes, personal opinions etc.: in other words, a meta-analysis of all existing points of view as opposed to simply asserting your own opinion at the expense of all others.
Some sources are very good to learn such principles of meta-analysis, mostly writings with a strong philosophical slant like Arendt, Baudrillard or Foucault.
Unlearning the old ways and accepting the uncertainty of new ways you are expected to discard as mere ideal types, can take a while. I saw first feeble flashes of light after about half a year and the process picked up the momentum at the end of the second year. I was lucky enough to choose a discipline with a major  epistemological preoccupation, namely anthropology, and also with a couple of lecturers extremely skilled at asking very good questions.
I recommend my students good sources as Zen-Buddism style kōans. There is no enlightenment in them, but in the truth at which they hint. Each attains their own, to the level of the questions they ask. Light never penetrates minds that are full of answers, rather than questions.

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