I liked the Alfred North Whitehead quote in the Social Studies section in Globe and Mail today:

In formal logic, a contradiction is a signal of defeat: but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory

I’m not very familiar with Whitehead’s work, but I know Carl Bereiter (for e.g., in Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age) describes Whitehead as a philosopher willing to regard ideas as “real things,” and who coined the term “inert knowledge” to describe the kind of failed learning that students can exhibit on an exam but otherwise plays no role in their lives. The quote above is useful to me in thinking about progressive discourse because it highlights the importance of contradictions, which might also be considered refutations in the Popperian sense. I think Carl’s notion of progressive discourse is logical, but maybe it doesn’t have to be so linear as in the strict formal logic sense?

BTW, I noticed just now that Doug had commented on my last entry from almost two weeks ago. Sorry Doug! I’ve been reading via the GRAIL aggregator, and it doesn’t display comments on my blog entries unless I click on one of the “Comments” links (there are 2?!). So, I decided to add a “Recent Comments” section on my blog template so that I can more readily see comments people make on my blog entries. I’m not completely happy with the way this display shows 6 most recent comments out of context of the original blog entries, but it is more obvious to me than the little number inside the brackets, e.g. (1), under each blog entry.


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