Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Post-Credits Scene

*post-credits scene (also called a tagstingercodabuttonmid-credits sceneafter-credits sequenceend-credit scenesecret ending or credit cookie) is a short clip that appears after all or some of the closing credits have rolled and sometimes after a production logo of a filmTV series, or video game have run. It is usually included for humour or to set up a possible sequel.
** "If you understand something, you should be able to explain it to a child" (attributed to Albert Einstein) 

Getting Beyond "I Like the Book"

Creating Space for Critical Literacy in K-6 Classrooms

by Vivian Vasquez
Reviewed by John MacDonald

Getting Beyond "I Like the Book" shows how to use print material to facilitate higher-order thinking skills in students. Case studies provide examples of how students can be encouraged to move beyond reading comprehension and response toward reflective questioning and critique.
Texts are chosen for their functional value and not, as is so often the case, according to levelling criteria.
Vasquez recounts that some of the students in her kindergarten class felt marginalized because they did not see themselves in the school library's books. Her students wrote a letter to the librarian expressing their concern and the librarian attempted to rectify the problem.
This is an important text for the Canadian/Ontario educator and even more so since specific recommendations in the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession are reflected in the book's general spirit and specific ideologies.
Some teachers may disagree with Vasquez's proposition that students should be encouraged to think that social action naturally follows from social-policy disagreement. However, this book will be of interest because it illustrates how using analogies when exploring issues augments students' ability to construct meaning based on their own life knowledge.
 Getting Beyond "I Like the Book," International Reading Association, Newark, Delaware, 2003, ISBN 0-87207-512-5, softcover, 108 pages, US$17.95, tel 302-731-1600, fax 302-731-1057,
John MacDonald teaches Grade 5 at Dallington Public School in Toronto.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Coda: My Philosophy and Music

I tried to show, through this blog, what I had begun to think through in my Master's thesis about how the beings we encounter lose their novelty and luster for us, a tragic interpretation of human existence.  Here are some relevant examples from the thesis:

          pg. 38
Often as people we will make time for ourselves to go out for the evening with friends. In doing this we our able to leave ourselves behind for a time, that empty us which we would have had to live with if we remained at home. Even this, though, doesn't allow us to escape our boredom entirely, as evidenced by a slight yawn or polite tapping of the fingers during the conversation. And in any event, you know it is just for one night, that your desire to eliminate boredom will not be properly satiated by it. I understand this in the following way: Everyone knows that, for instance, the luster of a new favorite song quickly wears off after repeatedly playing it for hours on end - a problem also for new love. In the time we give ourselves for the evening out, we bring time, the drawing out of time, to a standstill, but only for a while where we are entirely present in the situation, cut off from our past responsibilities and future concerns. We see this in the reverse direction when melancholics observe people that have been oppressed by something or other (either directly or indirectly) and take it up as their cause to right the injustice with all the fire of youth. The individual with the cause speaks from an existence pervaded by purpose and a drive toward the overcoming of
          pg. 39
inequity and tyranny, while the melancholic, partially out of amusement and partially out of self pity remarks: at least this one has a cause.  In terms of my interpretation, we might say that there are many things that press on us in life: the sensation of first eye-contact with a strange girl, the heartbreak of a love betrayed, the oppression of one's 'rights,' the need to fight for philosophy against a common conception of its triviality, the sorrow at the emptiness of religion in our time, the recklessness of politicians, the television channel changer that is not at hand, and we could draw this out infinitely. Heidegger writes that the most profound boredom consists in the fact that none of these concerns oppress us absolutely, "[t]he deepest, essential need in Dasein is not that a particular actual need oppresses us, but that an essential oppressiveness refuses itself, that we scarcely apprehend and are scarcely able to apprehend this telling refusal of any oppressiveness as a whole." (see Heidegger FCM, 163-165) 
 Nietzsche clearly saw that we are are enraptured by beings and novelty, beings that present themselves as though they are bringing satiety, but ultimately this luster fades, and we encounter them as though we have encountered them countless times before - Nietzsche's thought of Eternal Recurrence.  This was not a metaphor, but as Heidegger brilliantly saw, the existentia or manner in which beings present themselves to us.  Hence, elsewhere in my thesis I write:

           pg. 57
Put somewhat more simply in terms of human existence, the difference is whether we are to understand tragedy as a merely ontic phenomenon, or in terms of the basic character of beings themselves. On the one hand, the dwarf perceives the most dismal thought to be a mere travesty of time, whereby beings become indifferent to us in light of the fact that newness and novelty of them gets ripped asunder. Zarathustra, on the other hand, understands beings themselves as tragic, which is precisely what makes the thought so abysmal...
pg. 58
... To be a being, then, means to be something that can be an object of concern. But then beings are merely that, something which we can concern ourselves with. Nihilism breathes precisely in this melancholic awareness: no matter what I am concerned with or the extent to which I am concerned with it, it is merely something, one being among infinite others, and no more worthy of my concern than any other being.
 So, the thesis was basically that whatever concerns us is just another something that is worthy of concern for a while, but then fades from view.  The thesis is here for free on the internet if you are interested: (c) John MacDonald 2002

But what does this have to do with music?  Since this is Worldwide Mental Health Day, I will just mention I wrote a short experimental fiction companion piece to the thesis which (the companion piece) was published online by the Case Against Faith website in 2009 called "The Eternal Return" which is about someone dealing with these existential trials who is also dual diagnosed Bipolar and Alcoholic, and it contains lots of neat musical references. See .  Why music?

I love popular culture, and I believe it is a fundamental source for clues about the human condition.  Here are some lyrics from a song that I think sum up Nietzsche's joyous argument perfectly! 

Escape (The Pina Colada Song)

I was tired of my lady, we'd been together too long
Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song

So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read

"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I'm the love that you've looked for, write to me, and escape"

I didn't think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine

So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad
And though I'm nobody's poet, I thought it wasn't half bad

"Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne
I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O'Malley's, where we'll plan our escape"

So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, "Oh, it's you"
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, "I never knew"

"That you liked Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
You're the love that I've looked for, come with me, and escape"

"If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I'm the love that you've looked for, come with me, and escape"
Writer/s: Rupert Holmes
Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Nietzsche was a joyful Philosopher who wanted us to have a glass half full attitude so we could learn to dance in our chains.  And what could be a better Philosophy of Life than that?Take Care,JohnLA LA LA LA LA

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Pascal and Being-Addicted to Novelty

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” (Pascal)

One thing I have talked about on this blog and elsewhere for quite some time is how the inherent restlessness of humans drives us into beings and novelty. There is a being-addicted to beings and novelty which produces fidgety withdrawal symptoms when separated from the satiety of beings/novelty, such as in cabin fever and a child's time out.  See, for instance,

I was pleasantly surprised today when Dr. Anita Leirfall shared an article about this on Twitter by Zat Rana, which contained the above quote from Pascal which I was not aware of:

My MA thesis from 2002 directly addressed these issues of boredom in relation to Heidegger's Tragic Greeks and the relationship between the Greek ideas of parestios and deinon.  It can be viewed for free here:

I started specifically using the term "Being-addicted" as a general characteristic of human intentionality shortly after my thesis, and did so in light of ideas like Robert Palmer's song "Addicted to Love." 

One of the first places I published the concept of "being-addicted" online was in this short piece of narrative fiction published on Sept 22, 2009 by the Case Against Faith website:  In the narrative one thing I write is:

 “It sounds to me like you’re very bored,” Nathan commented.
            “When I wrote my thesis on Heidegger, I talked about how he distinguishes in Classic Greek Philosophy between parestios, which means something like being-at-home, being in the warmth of the hearth fire, and deinon, the fundamental restlessness of human life, to the effect that humans basically fracture their attention in endless directions in order to satiate the restlessness inside of them, but always remain fundamentally unsatisfied – kind of like our relationship to the things we enjoy is a drug-like addiction, a being-addicted, where the lack is obviously more fundamental than the pleasure.”
            “Tragic Greeks.  It sounds like you picked a thesis topic to fit your mood,” Nathan laughed. 
            “Nietzsche says somewhere that we only ever dip our pen in the inkwell of our own experience,”

Ideas from this short narrative piece eventually became the first post on this blog about the Noble Lie Theory of Christian Origins.  See:

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Phenomenology of Space (3 - Conclusion)

Heidegger and Dreyfus suggest there is a kind of Existential Lived Space that we operate in every day that, by way of our existing, we open up as a field within which we can encounter things as existentially near and far (as I outlined in the previous 2 posts).  But what of Cartesian Space?

Dreyfus and Heidegger say the interesting question is not whether Existential Space or Cartesian Space is causally earlier, but rather Cartesian space becomes intelligible or conspicuous as that which was initially hidden.  So, in my workshop when I reach for the hammer and it's missing, the place of the hammer emerges into conspicuousness. Similarly, the space of the carpet that is spatially inconspicuous/invisible in my usual dealings on the carpet emerges into conspicuousness when I decide I need to measure it for some reason. 

When I am not just involved in circumspective measuring/constructing the fence I just built, but am just purely looking at it and, for instance, its formal relations, the fence in its full Cartesian spatiality becomes conspicuous.  There is no way to arrive at Existential Spatial Intelligibility from Cartesian Space, but rather, the intelligibility of Cartesian Space is arrived at the more and more we have a disinterested look at the world.  This does not mean Cartesian Space is causally prior, just that it is hidden or conspicuous in our usual Existential dealings with the world.

In mere looking at the world, the place of the missing hammer ceases being the hammer's place, and becomes conspicuous as "just another place," a mere spatio/temporal coordinate that is homogeneous with any other in a space that has no inherent "here" as the kind we get when a person is navigating the world.  Just as the piece of chalk is released into being what it is when I pick it up and start to use it in the context of its relations in the classroom, so too geometric space is released or coaxed out of the background into the foreground the less I am caught up with in involvement and the more I am engaged in a pure look.

We de-world entities when we simply look at them with the theoretical attitude, such as with the hammer when we just consider the hammer as a thing with properties and are not using it.  But the relationship with the human is still implied, since if we disagree as to whether the hammer is orange, we appeal to it at-hand.  So, presence at hand is manifested in our theoretical looking at the hammer.

The take away point is that for Dreyfus and Heidegger Existential Space is not made intelligible via the horizon of Physical Space, but that the intelligibility of Physical Space is what we arrive at by de-worlding Existential Space.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Phenomenology of Space (2): "IN"

Last time I talked about how "near" and "far" in Existential Space doesn't refer to distance in Cartesian Space terms.  So, for instance, the passenger beside me on the plane who is on her 4th transfer and has been flying for 14 hours may perceive the final destination which is 1 1/2 hours away as relievingly near, whereas I, who am just on the same 1 1/2 hour trip as a direct flight, may find the same final destination as boringly far.

Dreyfus and Heidegger distinguish between two senses of "in."  There is the "in" in the sense of "being-included," in the sense of the bottle of beer is included in the box.  This is not the primary "in" sense of humans.  Rather, humans are "involved" in the world, actively dealing with it in such a way that we disclose entities as being near and far in the existential sense.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Phenomenology of Space

In Being and Time, Heidegger contrasts Cartesian Space and the distance between things with Existential Space and how Dasein opens up a world that lets nearness and farness be.

For instance, Toronto was 60 miles away from where I grew up. Heidegger speaks of a Ent-fernung or de-distancing of Cartesian space, where beings are released into a world of near and far. So, once on a drive to Toronto when the car radio was broken, my driver friend experienced Toronto as pleasantly near, while for me on the trip Toronto was boringly far. Existential nearness and farness seems to have something to do with the care we have for beings (beings= things that 'are' in some way or other: cities, dreams, hallucinations, chairs, etc)

Nearness doesn't simply refer to the objective distance we are from something, but has an existential, lived component.

Dreyfus gives the example of accessibility nearness, the idea that the coin in the locked box in front of me that I can't get into is existentially further from me than the microphone in the open drawer across the room. Further, there is nearness of mattering, where a loved one who is far away is still near and dear to my heart in a way that someone I don't know isn't, even though the stranger may be physically closer. Dreyfus gives the further example of attention nearness, such as the painting on the wall that I am absorbed in is nearer to me than the unnoticed glasses on my nose. Existential nearness and farness can't be measured by Cartesian spatial distance.

So, the natural question seems to arise as to whether the understanding of Cartesian spatial relations between things (eg., neighboring galaxies) is grounded in a more primordial experience of existential nearness and farness?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Phenomenology of Time

The Phenomenology of Time

Generally speaking, Phenomenology structures experience as: 1) Perceiving (intentio), 2) Perceived (intentum), 3) “Perceived-ness” of intentum.  Number 3 is experienced as belonging to the intentum, but is not a property of it.  Number 3 is a kind of copula uniting 1 and 2.  Number 3 does not strictly refer to “what” the intentum is, but rather the “how” or “manner” in which it is.

So, for instance, I may 1) Be aroused, 2) By the woman, 3) Who looks sexy to me.  Number 3 is “how” the woman looks to me, she really does look sexy to me, but at the same time sexiness is not a property of her like brown hair or dark skin and another person may not find her sexy at all.

Similarly, 1) I may be bored 2) With the TV show, 3) which appears “boringly” to me – even though my friend watching the show with me may not be experiencing the show AS BORING

Also, I may 1) Be experiencing frustration, 2) at the table, 3) which I am experiencing as being “badly positioned.”  3 doesn’t strictly belong to the table as a property, because you can’t arrive at its “badly positionedness” by analyzing the concept of table.

It seems to be similar with TIME.  There can be my 1) Expectantly awaiting 2) the lecture 3) which I am awaiting as futural.  The futuricity of the lecture does not belong to the lecture as a property, because the content of the lecture would be the same regardless of whether it happens later, or right now, or already happened in the past.  Time seems to represent 3, "how" we experience beings (things that "are" in some way or other, like tables or dreams of hallucinations), like the example of the woman who looks sexy that I gave above -  but that time is not a 2) intentum, or 1) simply an arbitrary intentio, but is rather like a copula uniting 1 and 2

This is the sense in which I intended these comments from yesterday’s post:
It's interesting the brain can create the experience of space and time, such as in dreams, and how the brain can be acted on to block that creation/experience of space and time, such as in a brief chemically induced coma like general anesthesia, where an hour passes in an instant
 It makes me wonder how much of what we experience as space/time represents a mind-independent external reality, and how much space/time are just the forms of intuition furnished by the mind?
 For instance, we experience time as flowing in the direction from past to future as a “now” steadily marching forward (2 more days till we reach Christmas), and conversely from future to present to past (Christmas is coming, is here, has faded into the past), and as the stretching out of time in boredom, the disappearance of time in enjoyment, etc
 Maybe time is like everything else: eg Phenomenologically, there is (1) being bored (intentio) (2) with the TV show (intentum) (3) that "appears boringly" to me (3 is the copula of 1&2). In this form, with time, eg (1) Being expectant (2) of the lecture (3) that "shows itself futurally." The boringness of the show isn't strictly a property of the show (the intentum), because someone else might not find the show boring. It is not a "what," but rather "how" the show "appears" to me. Similarly, the futurality of the lecture isn't strictly a property of the expected lecture, since the Prof might cancel the lecture.
 Similar phenomena seem to apply to the past and future. We seem to think there is reality to the past, like we should be able to travel back in a time machine to it if only we had the technology. But the reality is, all we can really say of the past is that it is not present, not that it exists in a present that we could travel back to. Similarly, experience of the present seems to require a conscious and unconscious "care," enpresenting (making present), because, if I am in a boring conversation and my mind wanders, my conversation partner is no longer in my awareness, is not presencing to me in a spatio-temporal experience. Time does not pertain to "what" something is, but rather the manner in which or "how" something is. For instance, the lecture is the same, whether it is in the past of retention, the future of expecting, or the now of enpresenting.