Category Archives: Education

Duration to Completion of the Great Books of the Western World

I get many search queries that hit my website, and loads of questions, pertaining to how long it takes to read the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW), edited by Mortimer Adler.  Of course, there’s no strict answer to this question, but I can give some perspective.  I think, for the average working layperson, reading the set within ten years is more than reasonable.  A couple such plans may be found by clicking here and here.  In fact, another plan puts the duration at seven years, and this might be the outright reasonable timeframe for the average working (and more or less disciplined) layperson.  Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Great Books and Harvard Classics Series, Literature

Moving into a Professorship in Philosophy and Some Thoughts on Class Structure

A little bit unusual for my blog, I am posting a personal update, which may interest various people for various reasons.  This next year should be a rather interesting year in my intellectual development: I have taken a post as adjunct professor of philosophy at one of the United States’ largest community college, the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, PA —a seven-campus college.  I will be at the main campus, the Allegheny Campus.  Since Indiana University’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science doesn’t grant undergraduate degrees, teaching assignments for graduate students are scarce with so few in-department undergraduate courses, especially for grads in their first two years, I felt it important that I find and take on, at the very least, a one-year appointment as a lecturer, hence the desire to take on an adjunct professorship.  Teaching is an important part of the academician’s craft as a whole.  Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Personal, Philosophy

Between Feynman in Babylon and Metaphysics: What the Mathematical Process and the History of Science Can Tell Us Philosophically about the Education Process

Since I have spent the summer studying mathematics at Harvard University with Jameel Al-Aidroos (Ph.D Berkeley), expect that my next few posts, or at least some of them, will be on topics related to mathematics.  I want to take some time, in this blog post, to look at where mathematical thought fits into some of my understandings of I have gleaned from studying the history of science.  The upshot of the historical, philosophical, and mathematical content and musings will be pedagogical, just to give the reader some idea of where I am going.  An important thing to understand, before reading this post, is the distinction between pure and applied mathematics.  “Pure mathematics,” as opposed to “applied mathematics,” is, in its essence, math for its own sake, entirely apart from possible applications.  In many cases, pure mathematics initially has no known application.  Additionally, pure mathematics deals with abstract entities that have been detached from particular entities —and this will prove to be important to what I will say later.

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Filed under Education, History and Philosophy of Science, History of Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, Philosophy of Mathematics

Feynman on the Necessity of Philosophy for the Progress of Physics

Serendipity often leads to some of our most fruitful realizations, creative ideas, and understanding —and are even responsible for our most citation-worthy bits of supporting information.  Such is the case to be discussed here.  It so happened that, just after writing the blog in response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ignorant position on philosophy, I read Richard P. Feynman’s The Character of Physical Law to unwind.  The Nobel laureate was always notoriously, even devilishly, anti-philosophy. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Philosophy, Physics, Popular Science, Science

Mathematics Education: What in the World Is the Point?

There seems to be some question, in the minds of some (many?), about the value of teaching mathematics in middle and high school, and even whether we should, as a society, continue to institute such education.  Being a science- and mathematics-trained philosopher (and, in some attenuated sense, an historian), I usually find myself defending the humanities against the pervading scientism of, “what’s the point of all these poems, stories, and philosophizing; what does it do, from a practical standpoint?”  When I hear the question, “why should we teach the general populace mathematics beyond elementary school?” I become thoroughly disconcerted —can’t we see the value in any intellectual activity?  I came across the TEDx video by John Bennett (below), in which he says, ‘I am a middle school and high school math teacher, but I have to tell you something: I don’t think what I teach is very important.  In fact, if it were up to me, I would no longer require math to be taught in middle school or high school.’ Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Mathematics

(Humorous) Anecdote from within the Walls of a Department of History and Philosophy of Science

One of the fascinating things about the discipline of history and philosophy of science is that, while it is, in some respects, truly an integrated discipline, there are other respects in which it is not.  In fact, I would call the process of integrating history of science and philosophy of science a kind of “tension,” which bears the seeds of incredible fruit and creativity.  I love this aspect of the discipline.  Continue reading

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Filed under Education, History and Philosophy of Science, Personal

Review of American Public University

Since, naturally, my experiences at American Public University (APU)[1] were limited, this review will be limited.  I do not claim it to be a sweeping, all-encompassing review of the institution.  I’ll begin by explaining the kinds of coursework I did at APU, what I intended to get out of it, and the general nature of my educational relationship with APU.  I will end with my assessment of the quality of the programs and school. Continue reading

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