I’m a walking contradiction

My ultimate conclusion on life is that no one really knows anything about anything. Conclusive, I know.

I find it hard to believe something if I know others disagree just as strongly as I agree, with legitimate reasoning. I’ve tried writing posts with strong opinions before, (supposedly the correct way to blog)  but counter-arguments were popping in my head as I typed, making the entire post seem like a contradiction. I’m wary to believe anything regarding philosophies or beliefs in general, (including religion) because I find it foolish to believe in an absolute truth. No offense to religious people.

Perhaps this is why math is so fascinating to me– even with different paths of reasoning, there will always be a truth. There aren’t any “soft” aspects to worry about–it’s just pure manipulation. However, the math taught in school is a complete bore. I wrote more about this in a post about algebra and math education nearly a year ago, but I also want to add that math isn’t a linear set of lessons to be taught one after another. In my mind, math is a complex web of ideas that needs to be woven together and applied collectively, not  a bunch of loose concepts that are learned and forgotten. (Yes, this is completely going against what I said about believing philosophies, but this is an absolute truth for me. Tell me in the comments if you disagree.)

E7 graph

I like to think that ideas in my mind are linked this nicely.

I’ve been reading a decent amount on education reform over the past school year, but realizing the faults of our schooling system isn’t exactly the best motivation to do well in school. Nevertheless, my mind has completely picked apart the current system and its problems, but once I get to the root of education and try rebuilding schools from the bottom up, what we have in place right now starts making sense, and it’s near impossible to think of an alternative other than to completely eliminate structured schooling altogether. (Which actually isn’t as bad of an idea as it sounds. See democratic education.)

Of course, this way of thinking lends me no credibility at all and makes me seem indecisive and insecure, (“I don’t know anything!”) but I like to think I have a clearer sense of reality than most people. It’s just disorganized, and I have trouble expressing it. Politicians on the other hand, will say practically anything with conviction and confidence, and people find a sense of security in hearing them, if not an alarm screaming “LIES.” (Hint: My career path: not politician)

For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to write a post about my thoughts on education, but seeing both sides of the issue makes it hard to decide what I’m really trying to say. Even though I’ve had multiple small discussions with people about school and how it should change, it’s hard to put down ideas onto paper pixels and say “This is what I believe 100%”  All I can say is that the current system’s not the best solution, but I can’t think of a better alternative. Excellent blogging skills put into action. *sarcasm

Anyways, what are your thoughts? How do you live in a world with so many competing philosophies? Is it more foolish to believe something fully despite opposing ideals, or to not be able to believe anything at all? Is living through the system without any doubts the right way to go? Are there any perspectives you view life or education from? Is there anything particularly controversial that I said that you want to refute? (Answer: No. At least I don’t think so.) Tell me!

Faith is belief without evidence and reason; coincidentally that’s also the definition of delusion.

–Richard Dawkins

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5 thoughts on “I’m a walking contradiction

  1. Oddly enough, I do disagree with you because I don’t think that there *is* a total truth out there that we can discover. For as far as I know, there is no absolute truth. I believe that most things are shades of grey (ew ignore obvious reference); very few are black and white, When you see an issue with a definitive viewpoint, the problem is that you begin to reject other viewpoints altogether.

    Often, there will be cases where it would seem that it is “obvious” that one side or the other is correct. If an article has been written to be like that, take it with a grain of salt. Before reading “The Working Poor”, I thought that the solution to poverty was relativity simple, but after seeing the difficulties that not only the poor workers, but also the managers, had, it was clear that there were lots and lots of facets within the problem.

    I guess the most important thing is to keep on reading and adapting, and being humble enough to accept when we are wrong, but diligent enough to question why. I’m in the IB program, and one of our required courses is Theory of Knowledge, or otherwise a basic epistemology course, where we discuss truth and philosophy. While we were talking about Utilitarianism/Categorical Imperative, I asked my teacher: Will there ever be a time when either one of these philosophies be used to the full extent? Keep in mind: both of these theories demand quite strict adherence, such as abandoning your friend to die in order to not lie. To my surprise, our teacher replied that probably no. The main point of teaching both of these is to make us think more about what we do. It’s all about thinking about your actions and words, not jumping to a decision based on “oh I’ve always done this” or “this has always been the way to do it”.

    Oh and on the topic of pure logic in math, ehhhhhhhehehehe :D It gets fuzzy as you start to go out there. Just the path that you take to approach the “truth” is obscured, and a large problem is trying to work for years and year only…to find that there was a counterexample and all your work was for nought :P But go read Fermat’s Enigma, very very fascinating book!

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    • My main problem is figuring out what philosophy to employ in the real world and how to balance out opposing ideals. For instance, in education, the system is currently very utilitarianist (if that’s a word), but even if it could be changed to follow the categorical imperative, the idea of school is based off utilitarianism. Like you said, you can’t just halfheartedly follow a philosophy, and it’s hard to decide which one to follow, if any. I can (sort of) live with the idea that there is no absolute truth, but that has nothing to do with actual practicality. (Pragmatism, another philosophy, wheee)

      We have the IB program at our school as well, and I’ve overheard a few TOK classes while doing homework in the library. Their discussions are extremely thought-provoking, and almost make me want to do IB, if the upperclassmen didn’t say that it sucks at our school.

      As for math, I haven’t nearly gotten to that level, (read: WHAT THE HECK IS CALCULUS) but I’ll definitely check out Fermat’s Enigma. Thanks for the recommendation!

      All in all, I fully absorbed your comment, but I’m not too sure what to say in response, unless you wanted the entire comment to say “I agree, I agree, I agree.” :P Thanks for commenting!

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  2. On your point on mathematics, I know it may seem like math is absolute and perfect and I was really happy with that image in my head…until I went to Math Camp. Don’t get me wrong, math camp was amazing and mind-blowing and tons of fun and you should go. But, we had to take number theory (which was also awesome) but it lent me a whole new perspective in math. For the first time, the validity of the equation n*0=0 was tested and at first I just thought, “What is this?? That’s just a fact.” and then you realize it’s not just a fact and must be proven. From there, you realize that math after all is still a human invention and is also not as concrete as it seems.
    Also cool video about that whole math is an invention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbNymweHW4E
    With education, it gets incredibly complicated because everybody’s a different type of learner. There is no one education system that will fit everybody’s optimal learning state. Some people are test takers; some people aren’t. Some people learn well from lecturing while others absolutely need discussion as well. There are also a lot of technological programs that are coming up for education as well which I’m excited about because I hope it allows people to play at their strengths more. One failing of our education system is the fact that it’s so skewed to one type of learning that people who aren’t suited to that type are immediately shut out and labeled as “stupid”. I dunno. Again, there’s more arguments. I think our education system needs to get more versatile. And this is the point where my thoughts are simply a jumble. KEEP WRITING :D

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    • Ugh, people keep telling me such great things about math camp, which really makes me want to go. And yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot about mathematical philosophy, which is screwing up my perfect world of absolute truths. :

      Education-wise, if you read anything by Nikhil Goyal, he’s trying to advocate for individualized/democratic schools, which is becoming increasingly possible with technological advances. And guess whose school is getting laptops for everyone next year? :) I doubt that’ll change much though, since the system has been in place for decades now. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

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  3. Pingback: Mental Mapping | afois

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