As a student studying philosophy and psychology, my goals have always been oriented towards finding practical ways of bettering oneself. Recently I’ve realized that my answers keep pointing me towards the direction of analyzing the education system. In other words, I’ve realized that, in order to make a substantial difference, the formula for how to better oneself must be implemented into the education system, which in turn, will produce a society where individuals are bread with those qualities.
The most recent course I took about Emmanuel Kant stimulated me to create this new goal of putting together a more practical education system. With the ideologies that underlie the success of behavioral conditioning, it seemed evident that the best path would exist along those lines. In other words, since behavioral conditioning has been demonstrated as a method of teaching or changing behavioral habits, it’s only obvious that in order to maintain a motivation towards practical change, a type of conditioning needs to be implemented into the education system. Now, the reason I’m mentioning Kant is because his philosophy summarizes a unity between rationalism and empiricism. He says that the answers for truth are both in the mind and in the external world. He explains that the transcendental idealism is the projection of our subjective capacities onto the external world; or in other words, there is an internal veil that colors the perception of the external world. Kant says that, since it’s impossible to understand the objective world as it is, we are capable of analyzing the interaction between our inner and outer worlds. This claim is important because, although he admits we might not have the ability to change or be outside of a causality, he suggests we do have the power to project a proper image of the world. Whether that means by determining truths that are more objectively reflective of what we can know of the external world, or whether it be the power to change current projections for the better, both are needed today.
In shorter words, Kant suggests that there is a practical way of applying the sciences. Some may wonder why this is important, without ever reading the scientific article from which they derive they’re way of thought. For example, my psychology professor the other day told the class “don’t believe everything you read, just because a scientist says it”. Most might think this is common sense, but what he was referring to were the inferences scientists must make in order to allow for certain experiments to take place. For example, many conclusions we derive (that color our perception of the world) are based on mice models that scientists infer behaviors from, and then derive conclusions fueled by data they feel justified they’re claim. In order to even get the data, the scientist must first infer that the mouse’s behavior means they like or dislike a certain substance, for example. To what extent as people can we really believe we understand or know what the mouse is feeling. And trust me, as someone who has sat and timed mice running back and forth between one side to another, and the differences are seconds apart. So, beyond the fact that the mice are really just running around and stopping for very little time and then being labelled as liking or disliking a certain side, but also, the differences sometimes are so slight, even when they make the “significant difference” instituted by other scientists (again, an error model made by an error human to measure human error… ). Then we make conclusions and derive that caffeine is bad for you, and then an epidemic strikes and everyone stops drinking caffeine. Then you find out the study was actually done on makes, so really, what was being concluded in that particular study was that caffeine is bad for male (rodents). Of course these are hypothetical based on true stories, but it highlights what my professor was suggesting when he stated that individuals should be careful what they read. Moreover, it highlights Kant’s ideas that, because it is impossible to truly know the reality as it is (aka inferring rodent behavior), it is in our power to choose how we interact with the external world. In other words, taking a second to fully describe the conclusion and be courageous enough to admit that it’s all we know (which is a lot, and we should be proud!). Doing so would color a better image of the world.
Where does this tie in to the dialectical Discussion Group you may be asking? Well, what I’m trying to promote is this motivation to look deeper. This motivation to take a step back and get the bigger picture. Being honest with oneself as a nation, realize our mistakes, and what’s in our power to change. What I think we’ll notice is that, there’s so much less of the external world we need to look for, and way more in other domains then what we thought. For example, why study the waves of finance when spending energy on how to make sure there’s less carbon footprint is more important for future generations? Are we that lazy? And if someone said that there was a way of motivating everyone to prioritize delayed gratification over individual wealth, wouldn’t everyone agree that it would ultimately lead to happiness? So, isn’t it important to figure out a way to find out how to motivate everyone to choose happiness over wealth?
When I visited TelAviv Israel, I went to a short presentation about the Weizmann Institute of Science: “an institute with a long history of investigation and discovery rooted in a mission of advancing science for the benefit of humanity. The Weizmann Institute holds a firm belief that it’s most important asset is its people, and a clear understanding that basic research requires years—even decades—of investment to bear fruit”. By integrating life sciences together, with the united goal of discovery, Weizmann has become known as one of the leading institutions for scientific discovery with findings on important cancer cells and noble winning technological advances. I was astonished to hear that this institution housed only biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computer science, especially since those are the least applicable to humanity on a subjective level. There was lacking, in the world, an institution that emphasized not only human health and objective understanding of the surrounding environment, but also one that prioritized human happiness and mental well-beings; an institution with philosophy and psychology. Through this realization, my interest started shifting towards establishing measures to determine such a facility that was modeled on life science institutions, but with research fueled by the motivation at arriving to practical avenues of positive change.
The way I envisioned this naïve goal was of having a research facility that was divided into two assets; one that philosophically arrived to, as Kant suggests, the practical ways of analyzing our subjective projections into the external world, and another branch that would take those questions and apply empirical testing in accordance to the principles set out by the first branch. For example, having the first branch assess what in society needs to be analyzed, and once arrived to the form or root of the problem, send it off to the second branch to confirm. Once confirmed, the first branch again, attempts to assess how it is that this concept can be integrated into society through the means of education (for example). Once that is concluded, the second branch empirically tests it and reaffirms it. Once reaffirmed the change is properly and practically integrated into the population, and the concept is absorbed; the society changed. Of course this image paints a simple picture that is naïve, but the motivation behind it is to increase quality of life by means of positive science. In other words, by taking moments to be more rational and apply proper modes of change, quality of life is easier to increase and maintain, rather than continuously attempting to pick up the broken pieces scattered by past generations.
Such an initiative is important because it lays out what is truly in our control to change. We might realize as a society that some things are more out of our control then others, and that some changes are harder to achieve than others. What will be gained is the constant strive for a better world, decreasing lethargy and nihilism by finding meaning in collaborating for better futures. What the Dialectical Discussion Group attempts to do is connect principles such as those stated by the Weizmann Institute or Emmanuel Kant, principles that emphasize optimism. A group that suggests that seeing the glass half full is a choice, and thus an ideal world is a matter of motivation not possibility. What the Dialectical Discussion Group does, is it marries the ancient Greek concept of a dialectical discussion (fueled by logical argumentation that attempts to arrive to valid conclusions) and the modern hunger for revolution, allowing for voices all around the community to be heard and appreciated; a true and equal democracy. I hope that through the uniting of people with the shared goal of arriving to practical avenues of positive change, we can fulfil the first half of the naïve goal towards revamping the education system, and motivate people to stop making excuses and take back the power.