It's days like the one I had yesterday that give me hope for the future of education, on the bleak background of day-to-day Academe as I have experienced it since primary school.
I am marking Wednesday, March 5, 2003 as a pretty important day in my life. The more I dug into the Philosophy of Science, the less I could tell what people mean when they use that word (and why). And yesterday I realized that I am not interested in Science, after all. This happened after a gorgeous day of what I consider the strength of Academe: Dialogue. I had a short, practical discussion with Edina and a long, winding, theoretico-ludico-practical discussion with Terry, both of which were informed for me by having fresh in my mind a three-year-long email exchange with Andy and a discussion on science in Corinne's pragmatics seminar, courtesy of Matt. I was also quite tired after pulling two all-nighters in a row on MonDoc and the ECreeTalk project.
So what I currently think I'm interested in, is nexialism. If you did not read the Voyage of the Space Beagle by A.E.vanVogt (a Canadian, BTW!), here's my subjective, informal definition:
nexialism is a 'strictly loose' methodological and conceptual apparatus (just like the human mind is); a cognitive endeavor aimed at making the best possible use of the human cognitive abilities as they are and as they can be improved through applied study; a situated, interdisciplinary approach at the Universe, and especially at the inner world of the human who reflects on the Universe. It uses some results from various Sciences just like various Sciences started by using some results from Philosophy. It is beautifully recursive (and of course, like any worthwhile endeavor, infinite.) It is the node that closes the lattice opened by conceptual analysis. It is generalized Gestalt with the support of the summum of theoretical and empirical research available at any moment to a given person.
Nexialism is to any attempts at Science I've ever seen, as Origami is to Geometry and Topology. It's no wonder to me that the vast majority of people who made really good additions to Math and especially to Geometry were artists.*
I'm not sure that's vanVogt's definition of nexialism, but that's what I remember from reading his book way back, in highschool. I have even lost (conscious) track of it until I found a like-minded friend who actually read the book (surprisingly rare event, even in Canada , even among cognitive scientists). In retrospect, though, the more I think about it, the more I see how it has influenced my mentality and decisions throughout my life.
I find the term nexialism much better suited than its alternative , some people use, because people following in the steps of Alfred Korzybski made general semantics much more constrained than what vanVogt described later on, and because semantics is already a largely loaded term. However, the Nexial Institute seems to have died before birth, in 2000. Any information I have not managed to track down on it would be greatly appreciated :)
Unfortunately, days like yesterday don't happen often. I wish more of us would spend time discussing our projects either on this list or in the rare face-to-face moments I get with you. Because that's the only reason I come to school. Social interaction I can find elsewhere. Books and knowledge I can find in libraries. My ideas I can make public through publications, through my web site or by talking to friends and relatives. The only thing a school can give us is the possibility of Dialogue with people who are interested in the same kind of phenomena we study.
So what do you people say?
"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
-- Frederick Douglass
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