Ask Meno Questions

Re: Richard Hake

I would not have imagined it possible to read Plato’s Meno quite so literally as those inquirers did — but now I do not have to imagine it, and so, in a way, I have learned something.

But taken more liberally than literally, Plato’s dialogue raises important questions about the nature of learning and teaching, of communication and creativity, and ultimately about the nature of inquiry itself.

What does it mean to learn? to teach? What does it mean to gain information? to transfer it from a place where it is to a place where it isn’t? What are the conditions for the possibility of all those things — learning and teaching, acquiring and transferring information?

After all this time, those questions remain open …

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6 Responses to Ask Meno Questions

  1. Poor Richard says:

    This paragraph is a tangent but it leads to my real comment: the questions of universals (as in Plato’s forms) and wholeness (as in mereology, holism, synergy, etc.) are unsolvable by logic, but second-nature to brains. A brain knows a thing’s type or a part from a whole when it sees it. The so-called universal or whole is entirely the prerogative of each individual brain based on its history of associations.

    My hypothesis about learning may not fit with biosemiotics, but it could be called bioinformatics if that term were not already taken by computer science. My definition would be information processing BY biology rather than about it. Anyway I think the learning process is straightforward. The organism doesn’t need a model of what it is searching for–it searches for everything it is physically capable of searching for. This is like Google’s web bots that crawl the entire web building a condensed symbolic representation of the digital “environment”. The unconscious side of the brain (the bulk of it) does something like that all the time.

    Another part of the unconscious brain does something else like Google — it looks at all the collected data and discovers all the possible patterns (and patterns of patterns) that can be found there. No model is required in advance other than some algorithm that defines what a pattern is, and this is genetically encoded in all neurons. It is from the strength and relations of these identified patterns that the brain gradually and progressively builds a knowledge base,

    Learning is a combination of data mining and progressive pattern detection without the necessity of pre-existing data models or “objects”. The interesting thing is that this same process is currently turning the scientific method on its head, and machines are beginning to learn the way the brain has been learning all along.


    • Jon Awbrey says:

      My brain moves so glacially these days I’m already falling way behind the interweaving discussions here and on the Peirce List. It may take the week to cache up …

  2. Poor Richard says:

    (The above synapsis obviously leaves out a lot of intermediate steps from simple associations to neural cooperation and division of labor to increasingly sophisticated patter-detection capabilities on the assumption that a word to the wise is sufficient…and because we haven’t learned all that stuff yet.)

  3. Pingback: Plato’s Puppet Returns | Inquiry Into Inquiry

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