In an experience or experiencing?

Something is proving very difficult for me to pin down at the moment. Am I experiencing  or am I having an experience? Don’t ask me why this question matters. Or, why on earth it entered my head. All I can say in response is that it has.

Dennis Atkinson describes experiencing as a temporal process, a series of temporal flows; whilst experience is a more substantial entity. An experience is something that happened, a reduction of the flow of experiencing temporalities to the form of a series of signifiers. So, when experiencing I’m having temporal interactions with my environment, my landscape, my being. I’ve read that some individuals with depression experience changes in their temporal experiences of time. The flow of being in an experience, absorbed, tends to change our perception of time. On the one hand time goes more slowly yet it appears to whoosh by unnoticed.

Husserl appears to have considered temporalising and here’s a great paper considering temporalising consciousness. I’m going to need to consider this more, however, the stand out words at the moment are: “The present is not simple. It is fundamentally complex.” So, temporal flows abound during the process of experiencing, perhaps chaotically, disorganised, numerous and jumping back and forwards in time. I can somehow go with this. It creates an image of neural networks sparking reactions multidimensionally, multilayered and in all shades of colour. I feel that experiencing and experience are both simultaneous and asynchronous.

Atkinson states that there’s a reduction in temporal flows when experiencing transforms to experience. Perhaps this is our cognitive filing system coming into the foreground, anchoring meaningful temporal flows with our existing representations of subjects and establishing new ones where the temporal flow is unknown, unrecognised. I can potentially see where an overload of temporal flows which cannot be reduced and linked to signifiers might be almost ‘dangerous.’ I can also see where this idea of disrupting the flow of experiencing can lead to learning through possible disorientation, and, as Atkinson states disjunctive temporality, ruptures, punctures and disturbances in our experience of a subject or topic.

I don’t know enough about education, teaching or learning. All I know is that my temporal flow take me to Gert Biesta’s discussion of learning as a reaction to a disturbance:

“If we look at learning in this way, we can say that someone has learned something not when she is able to copy and reproduce what already existed, but when she responds to what is unfamiliar, what is different, what challenges, irritates, or even disturbs. Here learning becomes a creation or an invention, a process of bringing something new into the world: one’s own, unique response…. Instead of seeing learning as an attempt to acquire, to master, to internalize, or any other possessive metaphors we can think of, we might see learning as a reaction to a disturbance, as an attempt to reorganize and reintegrate as a result of disintegration” 

Is learning a series of temporal flows (experiencing) which have been reduced to a series of signifiers? Or is it because some temporal flows are themselves forms of signifiers which are unknown, and therefore result in reorganisation of an experience?

Perhaps this leaves me with more questions than answers. 

Dennis Atkinson: Art, equality and learning. Pedagogies against the state

Gert Biesta: Beyond learning. Democratic education for a human future

The philosophy cafe

If each day had a word today’s would be praxis.

Following a morning at the Philosophy Cafe held at Manchester Art Gallery and an evening practicing Tai Chi, I’m using a single word to guide my reflections.

The questions given to us this morning were:

  1. Should philosophy be taught to children in primary schools?
  2. What might the advantages be?
  3. What might the disadvantages be?

After a chat over drinks in small groups we considered our questions further in gallery 6. Currently it’s exhibiting paintings, a couple of sculptures and a tartan dress representing Victorian views of Scottishness: A highland romance. The largest painting on display is by Richard Andsell, I think it’s called The Chase, although there seems to be a series of these. The one which really caught my eye was by Henry Moore, who I tend to associate more with drawings of coal miners and people sheltering in the underground, as well as his sculptures of course. Anyway, it turns out that this is a different Henry Moore. Following a discussion around how Mancunian Victorians engaged in the Scottish hunting lifestyle, bought paintings which they subsequently often bequeathed t to Manchester we entered into a full round discussion of the given questions.

I can’t really summarise the entire discussion but here are some of the main points:

  • some discussion around definitions of philosophy
  • how crowded the school curriculum already is and what will be pushed out to make room?
  • who will teach it? Will they have qualifications in philosophy?
  • children will turn off if teachers fill their heads with philosophy
  • it’s too early, perhaps it should be introduced at ages 12/13
  • there’s been some recent studies which show it has positive effects
  • if we teach children how to argue they’ll be arguing about everything
  • perhaps it should be part of the ‘friendship groups’ which happen in my children’s school. They take place at lunchtime.
  • it’s really about teaching children how to think, not necessarily about Kant
  • what about the poor parents who will need to respond to the children’s constant questioning?
  • teaching is about rote learning in order to meet set targets
  • the vocabulary already exists to approach philosophy……why?
  • it can be used to help children learn how to listen, question and learn to respect each other
  • perhaps we should be using an education system as  in America. (If you know what the USA system mentioned is please let me know).
  • rather than the theories we need to focus on practical philosophy
  • how will teachers be able to cope with the constant questioning by children?

I hope you can see why I chose praxis as my reflective word. I’m reminded of something I read in Biesta’s  ‘The beautiful risk of education,’ pages 132 on….., where he discusses Aristotle’s  2 modes of acting poeisis and praxis.  On praxis he states  “The orientation here is not toward the production of things but to bringing about goodness or human flourishing (eudomania). Praxis is about what sort of things conduce to the good life in general. It is about good action….good action itself is its end. The kind of judgement we need here is not about how things should be done; we need judgement about what is to be done.” Aristotle refers to this kind of judgement as phronesis, which is usually translated as practical wisdom.

The concluding summary of the Philosophy Cafe discussion was that if there’s a concern about including  ‘philosophy’ in a primary school curriculum we can call it ‘teaching thinking and how to be human.’ Phronesis indeed.

Perhaps we’re not teaching philosophy but doing it.

Also, take a little look at this visual reading list for aspiring teachers (powerpoint download).


And here’s a pic I took recently in a Todmorden supermarket car park, which sums up some of my thoughts today.

Values matter.

The curious incident of words landing in my notebook: A pedagogy of wonder

Words are never still. Words I scrawled during a recent talk by Dennis Atkinson have unexpectedly led me to the foot of a formidable ridge. There’s no rhythm, no boundaries, just sharpness, jagged edges, escarpments and sheer verticals. I’m struck by the form of the words which have landed in my notebook. They are not smooth peaceful words they’re active, sharp, direct action words, and I wonder what they are communicating about the world of teaching and learning. I believe that words work physical magic, creating ‘Castles in the air,’ landscapes, maps, architecture and spaces. Words shape how people think, feel and judge who and what we are. As John Humphrys states; words and “language reflect back to us the way we live.” Continue reading

Blogging from the edge: thoughts on Biesta and care

Don’t I heard as I teetered on the edge!
I’ve thought, read, scribbled, scrunched, scratched and re-read since my last blog (1 February 2014).Scrunched lots of paper into balls for feline toys, which don’t exist for my cats until humans have left the room. Scribbling in school exercise books which aim to engender the discipline of writing correctly and legibly, I’ve scratched my way through inches of pencils. Continue reading