Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sundry items making no coherent whole

I've added content to the following old posts:
These old lines by Mike Royko seem timely:
I always believed that being a Cubs fan built strong character. It taught a person that if you try hard enough and long enough, you'll still lose. And that's the story of life. .... [a year later] Being a Cub Fan prepares you for life because everyone in life winds up a loser. Just check the cemetery. (Royko, 'A Farewell to Cubs' April 20, 1980, and 'When Ya Gotta Go' April 9, 1981, rpt. in For the Love of Mike: More of the Best by Mike Royko [University of Chicago Press, 2001], p. 35 & p. 40)
Leonard Nimoy explains the Spock pinch (the link is to the video for a 1969 CBC interview).

The BBC's list of 10 'lost' books worth our time.

The Guardian's 'top 10 philosopher's fictions'.

Pardon my crooked scanning of this image:

New Words in 1919 (from The New Republic, Oct. 1, 1919)
Hermann Broch (c. 1939-1948): 'When living in a twilight haze, one cannot distinguish between the conditions of nature and those of culture. One's attitude towards culture, then, resembles that of animals towards nature.'* (Hermann Broch Massenwahntheorie: Beitrage zu einer Psychologie der Politik, ed. Paul Michael Lützeler, [Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1979], p. 69; trans. of 1st sentence: Stefan Andriopoulos, Possessed, trans. author & Peter Jansen [University of Chicago Press, 2008], n. 456)

Roland Barthes (1984): 'Myth consists in turning culture into nature, or at least turning the social, the cultural, the historical into "the natural".' (Barthes, in The Rustle of Language, trans. Richard Howard, [NY: Hill & Wang, 1986; 1st published in French in 1984], p. 65)

C. D. Broad (1954):
[Aunt Julia's] cat for a great many years was a large tom, whom even I (who am inclined to be weak about cats) must admit to have been ugly, greedy, lecherous, and lacking in affection. She lavished good food on him .... She had named him Urijah .... Urijah survived his mistress for several years. He was treated with the same marked generosity by my cousin Ernest, who surely cannot have approved of his character, and died in extreme and unlovely old age. (Broad, 'Autobiography', The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp [NY: Tudor Publishing Company, 1959], p. 20)
James Lees-Milne (1942): '... Ronnie Norman, the eternal handsome schoolboy, noisily loquacious until he finds the conclusion to an argument, when he stops like an unwound clock.' (James Lees-Milne, Diaries, 1942-1954, ed. Michael Bloch, entry for Jan 12, 1942)

The 'Indiscreet charm of Beryl Bainbridge' by Philip Hensher.

Beryl Bainbridge in Coronation Street:

* Broch's above-quoted remarks in German: 'Wenn der Mensch sich im Dämmerzustand befindet, kann er nicht zwischen den Gegebenheiten von Natur und Kultur unterscheiden. Seine Einstellung gegenuber der Kultur ahnelt dann der des Tieres gegenuber der Natur.'

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Did an Oxford-comma error lead the press to overstate British gains at the Battle of Loos?

Debate has long raged about use of the Oxford comma (aka the serial comma). This troubling comma has its own Twitter feed, and it can be crucial for interpreting laws. [Update March 19, 2017: Here's a more recent example of a legal case involving the controversial comma.]

I was raised in accordance with The Canadian Style, which includes the Government's of Canada's recommendation not to bother with the serial comma unless it is required for resolving an ambiguity. Some have called any wider use of the serial comma unCanadian. Indeed, it is said to be unAustralian and unBritish, too (despite its Oxford pedigree). It is reputed to be an American thing.

I found an antecedent of the Government of Canada's advice in an Ontario high-school textbook from the 1920s. The book is called High-School English Composition. (H. W. Irwin and J. F. van Every [Toronto: The Copp Clark Company, 1921, rpt. 1929]) The authors say that the serial comma should be used only when necessary. To exemplify its capacity to alter one's meaning, they give this example:
During the Great War, when the British troops were engaged in a critical struggle with the Germans for the possession of Hill 70, General French sent the following message to England: 'We captured the western outskirts of Bulluch [sic., should be Hulluch], the village of Loos, and the mining works around it and Hill 70.' By an error, the message was made to read: 'We captured the western outskirts of [H]ulluch, the village of Loos, and the mining works around it, and Hill 70.' The insertion of the comma after 'it' conveyed the impression that Hill 70 had been captured. In consequence, public celebrations and rejoicings were held in all parts of the country. (pp. 199-200)
It's difficult to find much by way of corroboration for this tale, and the putative celebrations sound far-fetched. Still, the sentence that implies the taking of Hill 70 (and close re-phrasings of it) did appear in newspapers on Sept. 27, 1915 and shortly thereafter. On Oct. 16, 1915, the New York Times (p. 2) quotes a passage from the British Daily News under the headline, 'War Office Official Gives Evasive Answers When Questioned', according to which the Under Secretary for War had tried to clarify matters by saying:
There has been a misunderstanding on this point. The message from Sir John French, which was published in the papers of Sept. 27, stated that we had captured the western outskirts of Hulluch village, Loos and the mining works around it and Hill 70. This was been [sic.] read to mean that Hill 70 had been taken. If the words were correctly read it would be seen that the capture only of the mining works around Hill 70 was claimed.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Critical thinking as meta-thinking in Gadske's dissertation

Critical thinking is often associated with what psychologists call metacognition. In such cognition, the mind thinks (and hopefully gains knowledge) about its own operations. This is akin to what Kant pursued in his own work, where the mind turns its focus back upon itself in order to reflect on its own functioning. Philosophers say that such thinking is 'higher-order' in nature (though they sometimes reserve this phrase for a more restricted kind of thought). Here, 'higher-order' does not mean simply that the thinking is very sophisticated; rather, the point is that such thoughts take as their object further thoughts (just as higher-order desires are directed at other desires).

Some authors identify critical thinking with a specific type of higher-order thinking or metacognition. For example, in his unpublished, 1940 dissertation, Richard Edward Gadske* writes:
The adjective 'critical', therefore, suggests a very special phase of thinking. Thus, critical thinking becomes a process of becoming aware and criticising the thinking that has already taken place. In other words, it is a process of thinking about thinking from the point of view of a critic.' (Gadske, Demonstrative Geometry as a Means for Improving Critical Thinking, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University [Evanston, Illinois, June, 1940], p. 9; emphasis added)
A critic, says Gadske, is one 'who expresses a judgment on any matter with respect to its value, truth, or beauty'. (Ibid.) However, Gadske's notion of critical thinking might extend beyond what philosophers typically mean by 'higher-order thinking' and what psychologists seem to mean by 'metacognition', since it may be directed at the thinking of others (rather than just at one's own thinking). As Gadske puts it, critical thinking occurs
... when a person is analyzing his own thinking as well as the thinking of others through the media of self-scrutiny, questioning, discrimination, search, and research with respect to any situation that may be of interest or of vital concern to him. (Ibid.; emphasis added)
But critical thinking, on Gadske's conception, may yet be a species of higher-order thought or metacognition. After all, even if my aim is to assess the thoughts of someone else, it's hard to see how I can do so without exploring those thoughts, and this seems to require me to think those thoughts (or relevantly similar ones). I have to make those thoughts my own before I can subject them to critical scrutiny. Also, recall (from the previous post) that critical thinking is plausibly taken to be directed at a decision that culminates in a judgment of my own. That is, the outcome should be a decision about what I ought to think (or believe or conclude). Thus, even if my focus initially was on someone else's thinking, the critical-thinking process must include a step whereby I assess the thoughts and consider the sort of judgment that I ought to form about them.

Still, one may doubt that critical thinking is always a matter of thinking about one's own thinking. When I reflect on whether local real-estate prices will go up in the next year, I entertain propositions about recent market trends, interest rates, the approaching introduction of a new land-transfer tax, etc. Here, my thoughts seem transparent: rather than thinking of them, I think, via them (or through them), of the market, interest rates, new taxes, etc. Insofar as I consider logical and evidential relations, they are relations among propositions about these things (rather than relations among my thoughts about the propositions).

Regardless of the merits of Gadske's conception, his notion of critical thinking is similar to one of Richard Paul's later definitions. According to Paul, 'Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better'.

*Richard Edward Gadske (1901-1989) was born in Chicago on April 4, 1901. He held a B.S. in Electrical Engineering (awarded by the University of Colorado or the South Dakota School of Mines -- the records are conflicting -- in 1925) and two advanced degrees in Education from Northwestern University: an M.S. (1932) and a doctoral degree (1940). As an undergraduate, he played on a varsity football team for four years. For most of his career, he taught math at New Trier High School (Winnetka, Illinois). He coached high-school football, basketball, baseball, and track teams. In WWII, he served for four years as a commander in the US Navy. He died on July 21, 1989. (Gadske was the high-school advisor of James C. Warren, who is one of the Tuskegee airmen. Warren played on football and baseball teams that Gadske coached, and Gadske accompanied the young Warren to father-son events.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Critical and reflective thinking (3) - Dewey on these terms

H. Reed Geertsen attributes to John Dewey an interesting distinction between 'reflective' and 'critical' thinking. According to Geertsen, Dewey 'distinguished between searching and judging and called them reflective and critical thought'. (H. Reed Geertsen, 'Rethinking Thinking about Higher-Level Thinking'  Teaching Sociology, 31 [2003]: 1-19, at 2) On the one hand, says Geertsen, Dewey took reflective thought to be a 'mental process that originated with a state of doubt and then expanded into a search for ways to ease that doubt'. (Ibid.) On the other hand, Dewey is said to have 'described as critical thinking the judgments that an individual made while solving some problem'. (Ibid.) In support of his attribution, Geertsen cites Dewey's How We Think, but he supplies no page or chapter number. The book was first published in 1910, but Geertsen cites the revised, 1933 edition. (Dewey, How we think : a restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process [Boston: D. C. Heath and Company, 1933]; hereafter cited as '1933')

I cannot locate this distinction in either edition of How We Think. To be sure, Dewey's analysis of reflective thinking does distinguish a process of searching ('hunting', p. 112 [1910]) that culminates in a judgment. However, I cannot find a passage in which Dewey reserves the term 'critical' for the culminating act of judgment. In fact, the 1933 version of How We Think has fewer uses of 'critical' than the 1910 edition. The word 'critical' appears in the index to the earlier edition (under 'inference') but not in the later version's index.

In fact, in some places Dewey uses 'critical' and 'reflective' interchangeably. For instance, in a 1922 reply to Laurence Buermeyer, Dewey says that Buermeyer uses the word 'reasoning' 'to express what I call critical or reflective thinking -- thinking in its eulogistic sense'. (Dewey, 'An Analysis of Reflective Thought' The Journal of Philosophy 19 (1922): 29-38, at 31, n. 2, emphasis added)

Perhaps Dewey made the distinction in question in one of his other works (which are many).

The distinction is in accordance with the etymology of 'critic' and its cognates. The English word has its source in the ancient Greek verb krino, which implies sifting or selecting, or forming a discriminating judgment. (Dewey uses 'sifting' on p. 101 and p. 102. [1910]) The related Greek phrase kritikós indicates an ability to discern and decide. So, there is the notion of weighing or assessing something (e.g., evidence) in view of some at least tacit standards; there is also the implication of acting, or making a decision. The act is typically one of judgment. Roughly, then, one who has good judgment, or a keen critical sense, is able to decide how to judge based on some discerning insight. (Note that in German, 'beurteilen' is used to clarify kritikós.)

It is safe to say that Dewey was familiar with this etymology. According to Jay Martin's biography, Dewey studied ancient Greek in high school for three years. Moreover, the process that Dewey outlines conforms to standard interpretations of kritikós; for Dewey repeatedly emphasizes that reflective (or critical) thinking involves a searching and sifting (or 'hunting') stage, which is followed by a decision to issue a judgment. For example, in the first chapter of How We Think, Dewey writes, 'Reflective thinking, in short, means judgment suspended during further inquiry; and suspense is likely to be somewhat painful.' (1910, p. 13) Later, he says, 'The essence of critical thinking is suspended judgment; and the essence of this suspense is inquiry to determine the nature of the problem before proceeding to attempts at its solution'. (1910, p. 74) Both versions of How We Think contain this sentence: 'The judgment when formed is a decision; it closes, or concludes, the question at issue.' (1910, p. 107; 1933, p. 126)

Here, the decision that terminates the search process is usually a choice, or a free action; for it is often within our power (says Dewey) to suspend or postpone it. In addition, Dewey takes the overall process of reflective (or critical) thinking to be essential to our autonomy. In both versions of How We Think, Dewey writes:
Genuine freedom, in short, is intellectual; it rests in the trained power of thought, in ability to 'turn things over,' to look at matters deliberately, to judge whether the amount and kind of evidence requisite for decision is at hand, and if not, to tell where and how to seek such evidence. (1910, pp. 66-7; 1933, p. 90)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Critical and reflective thinking (2)

In my previous post, I noted that the phrases 'critical thinking' and 'reflective thinking' are often used interchangeably and that both terms have Kantian connotations that suggest a focus on thinking about one's thoughts.

In his 1910 book, How We Think, John Dewey's terminological preference was for 'reflective thought' rather than 'critical thought'. However, as is evident from the quotations in an earlier post, many of those whom Dewey influenced soon adopted 'critical thinking' as the moniker for their topic. In places, Dewey, himself, seems to use the phrases as being roughly equivalent. For instance, in one book, he writes of a pre-scientific stage, in which 'no reflective or critical thinking' is present. (Essays in Experimental Logic [The University of Chicago Press, 1916], p. 89) (In an interesting paper, H. Reed Geertsen says that Dewey did assign distinct meanings to 'critical thinking' and 'reflective thinking'. The meanings are closely interrelated. I'll look at them in a later post.)

In the previous post, I noted that in addition to Dewey, another anglophone philosopher in the early 20th Century, George Ladd, used 'critical thinking' and 'reflective thinking' as meaning largely the same thing. A third philosopher to exhibit this pattern is Rupert Clendon Lodge. (Marshall McLuhan was one of Lodge's students at the University of Manitoba.)

In a 1920 paper, Lodge clarifies what he means by 'critical' and 'reflective'. First, says Lodge, we must recognize that judgment is produced by
... reflection upon sensory experience. The primitive sensuous consciousness is split up, certain elements are cut off and fixed by the mind, and by the application of such intellectual standards as identity, difference, and organization, select elements from the original material are so worked over and reconstructed that they can be taken up into the intellectual self-consciousness in the form of concepts or mental counters which can be referred to, or judged of. ('The Logical Status of Elementary and Reflective Judgements'  The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 17 [1920]: 215)
So, a first level of judgment, or cognition, arises from mental operations upon sensory material. So far, so Kantian (broadly). Lodge then adds a second level of judgment:
There is a further level of "reflection", at which we consider, not the data of sensory experience, but our own judgment about these data, and reflect upon the method of this judgment, its validity or invalidity, its success or its failure to bring us in touch with reality. These two levels of reflection are distinguished as the Urteil or elementary judgment, and the Beurteilung or critical, reflective judgment, respectively. (Ibid.; last emphasis added)
As interpreted by Lodge, the elementary kind of judgment (Urteil) seems to be more spontaneous and, given its connection to sensation, is likely to feel automatic (in the sense of not requiring much conscious thought or deliberation). The second type of judgment (Beurteilung) has an inner focus and involves assessing or evaluating other judgments. By way of summarizing his distinction, Lodge has this to say:
In judging, we synthesize ideas in such a way as to produce in the mind a relational structure which corresponds to some relational structure in the objective world. ... For traditional logic, all thought is of this general kind. For modern logic, only a small part of our thinking falls within this field, which is treated as the field of "elementary" judgment. The modern viewpoint in logic, as in other sciences, is fundamentally skeptical, critical, and reflective; and for the modern logician, the vast majority of our judgments belong to the field of thought about thought, reflection upon method, critical or reflective judgment, which only mediately, if at all, is concerned with a reality beyond that of the mind itself. Expressed technically, traditional logic recognizes only the Urteil, while modern logic recognizes the Beurteilung as well as the Urteil. (Ibid., 214; first and second emphases added)
Here, Lodge isn't concerned to follow Kant. Instead, he indicates (in a footnote) that he is following F. H. Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, Wilhelm Wundt, Benno Erdmann, and Christoph Sigwart. (Ibid., n. 2)

Beurteilung is a philosophically intriguing German word. Lodge treats it as implying (in some contexts) critical and reflective judgment about thought and method. In a subsequent post, I'll give reasons for thinking that the use of this German term by late 19th-Century German psychologists (such as Wundt, Erdmann, and Sigwart) influenced Dewey.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Critical and reflective thinking (1)

I've looked into the history of the phrase 'critical thinking'. Given the phrase's Kantian connotations, it's no surprise that several early uses of 'critical thinking' occurred in papers about Kant. For example, there are a couple of uses in an 1883 issue of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, which was prepared (a couple of years earlier?) to mark the 100th anniversary of the Critique of Pure Reason. (One use is on p. 232 of an English translation of a paper by Kuno Fischer.)

There are even earlier uses in some American, Protestant religious publications, which are also likely to have a Kantian source.

As the Google Ngram at the end of this post indicates, use of the phrase took off in the 1890s. What sparked its surge? It might be the use of 'critical thinking' in the 'Art of Thinking' (c. 1892) by Henry Makepeace Thayer. That piece found its way into a school textbook (Ethics of Success: a Reader for the Higher Grades of Schools, 1894).

Some authors show a tendency to use interchangeably the phrases 'critical thinking' and 'reflective thinking'. Both phrases have a Kantian ring. The Kantian aura is clear in George Trumbull Ladd's 1904 Presidential Address at a meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Ladd spoke of philosophers as 'reflective and critical thinkers' ('The Mission of Philosophy', The Philosophical Review 14 [1905]: 119) and of philosophy as resting on 'critical and reflective thinking'. (Ibid., 120, 126, 135) A big part of Ladd's paper focused on Kant. Accordingly, Ladd gave a Kantian characterization of philosophy as being addressed not directly at external reality but, instead, at our cognitions or representations of that reality. Ladd, himself, was much influenced by Rudolf Hermann Lotze and was familiar with the works of German philosophers and psychologists who followed in Lotze's wake (e.g., Wilhelm Wundt, Benno Erdmann, and Christoph Sigwart).

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The NEA's de-emphasis of propaganda in its promotion of critical thinking

The National Education Association's early efforts to promote critical thinking were concentrated on helping secondary students to resist propaganda. This endeavor culminated in a 1937 collection of papers: Education Against Propaganda, Seventh Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies, ed. Elmer Ellis. [Cambridge, MA: The National Council for the Social Studies, a Department of the National Education Association, 1937] The focus was on teaching students about the techniques that propagandists used.

By 1942, when the NEA's National Council for the Social Studies published its Thirteenth Yearbook, [Washington, DC: The National Council for the Social Studies, a Department of the National Education Association, 1942] this method was deemed to be too narrow, since it did not make students any less susceptible to propaganda. (Howard R. Anderson, 'Introduction' in Ibid., p. vi; Hilda Taba, 'The Evaluation of Critical Thinking', in Ibid., pp. 161-2) Also, according to Hilda Taba, (Ibid., p. 162) the focus on resistance to propaganda was merely negative, since it aimed only to help students to diminish the influence of harmful, external content, and did little to promote a wider use of critical thinking in guiding one's own, constructive reasoning.

Anderson and Taba both cite a study by Wayland Osborn, who concluded that:
While the possession of knowledge and intelligence is no doubt necessary in order to do critical thinking, the results of this experiment strongly suggest that an individual may, according to commonly obtained measures, possess both these traits to a high degree and yet be highly susceptible to propaganda influences. ('An Experiment in Teaching Resistance to Propaganda' The Journal of Experimental Education 8 [1939]: 16)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

America's Critical-Thinking Movement in the 1930s & '40s

In the 1930s and '40s there was a big push for teaching critical thinking in secondary schools. It was chiefly inspired by John Dewey's work (esp. his book How We Think). A major impetus for the movement was provided by progressivists in the National Education Association. For them, critical thinking was essential to democracy. Good citizens must be able to resist propaganda and overcome prejudices, and critical thinking was to be the primary tool for forming such citizens. Many of these authors emphasized the importance of logic, or what today is called informal logic, but they saw it as just one part of a wider program of curriculum reform.

Most of the following excerpts give a sense of the critical-thinking movement that came to prominence in the 1930s. The first and second quotations are included to illustrate that the phrase 'critical thinking' was already in use in education studies by the 1930s. The final quotation is provided to show that the vagueness of the phrase was bothering academics in the 1960s.

N. S. Maddox (1922): 'Educators have long been accustomed to hear that our schools do not teach real thinking.' ('Review of Teaching to Think' The Journal of Educational Research 6 [1922]: 265)

A. S. Barr (1931): 'There are probably many classifications in the literature of education, that are more or less indefensible. One learns, for example, that there are four ways (more or less) of getting experience: (1) by participation (or doing); (2) by observation; (3) by reading and conversing with others (the verbal mode); and (4) by reflective thinking. One naturally wonders whether there really are four modes of acquiring experience or whether there are just three modes (that is, from this point of view), and whether the fourth (critical thinking) is not merely a condition necessary for effective operation.' ('Educational Terminology' The Journal of Educational Research 23 [1931]: 417)

William W. Biddle (1932): 'Wherein has education failed to produce critical thinking? Education has often been the handmaiden of propaganda. Religious groups, communists, or believers in one-hundred-per-cent Americanism have seen in education an opportunity to indoctrinate students with their particular ideas. ...We must examine the process whereby critical thinking is achieved.' (Propaganda and Education [New York: Bureau of Publications, Teacher's College, Columbia University, 1932], p. 10)

Richard Gadske (1940):
The need for developing more effective critical thinking abilities of high school pupils is generally recognized. This need has been brought to the educational foreground as a result of one of man's great periods of transition. Modern life, during the past several decades, has become extremely complex and greatly enhanced through the medium of invention and discovery. Greatly improved methods of transportation make it possible to travel extensively and within a relatively short period of time. Highly improved ways and means of communication facilitate the exchange of ideas. Modern production and distribution is fostered by widespread advertising. In the light of these penetrating and far-reaching social forces, the citizenry in a democratic society are challenged in their thinking to the limits of their capacities. A society that calls itself democratic, therefore, necessitates the education of individuals who are capable of self-direction and a high degree of critical thinking. (Gadske, Demonstrative Geometry as a Means for Improving Critical Thinking, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University [Evanston, Illinois, June, 1940], p. 15)
Edward Maynard Glaser (1941): 'American education is freely criticized today because the ability to think critically is not well developed among secondary school pupils and even among college graduates. Many "educated" persons jump to conclusions which are not supported by evidence, are unaware of their own contradictory statements, seem unable to keep their wishes from influencing their interpretation of data or evaluation of arguments, and, in general, do not make sufficient conscious and voluntary effort to establish belief upon a firm basis of evidence and rationality.' (Glaser, An experiment in the development of critical thinking [New York, Teacher's College, Columbia University, 1941], p. 8)

Glaser (1941): 'The development of critical thinking is a desirable outcome of education not only because it contributes to the intellectual and social competence of the individual ..., but also because it helps him to cooperate better with his fellow men. It helps him to form intelligent judgments on public issues and to contribute democratically to the solution of social problems. ... At no time in our history has wider realization of this educational objective been more urgently needed.' (Ibid., pp. 9-10)

Deobold van Dalen (1941): 'A democratic conception of education would require the young to learn progressively, under decreasingly directive guidance, how to think critically, how to judge objectively, and how to act responsibly.... Democracy's ultimate safeguard is the enlightened conscience of the citizen.' ('Civic Competence: Classical or Controversial?' The Social Studies 32 [1941]: 246-247)

Frederick George Marcham (1942): 'The whole concept of a democratic society, as it exists and is developing in the United States, rests upon the cooperation of socially alert and active citizens. To bring home to each individual the importance of critical thinking as a prelude to social action is to help to preserve and enlarge the democratic way of life in the United States.' ('The Nature and Purpose of Critical Thinking in the Social Studies', in Teaching Critical Thinking in the Social Studies, ed. Howard R. Anderson, Thirteenth Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies [Washington, DC: The National Council for the Social Studies, a Department of the National Education Association, 1942], p. 47)

H. H. Giles and William van Til (1946): 'A third hypothesis is that if community organizations and schools emphasize the need for critical thinking and proof, there can be developed an increased understanding of scapegoating and the use of stereotypes which helps to break down libelous labeling.' ('School and Community Projects' The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 244 [1946]: 40-41)

John Ward Studebaker (1947): 'Critical thinking is our only democratic safeguard against the domination of our thinking and feeling by various organs of mass communication.' ('Social Implications of Modern Science' The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 249 (1947): 138)

B. O. Smith (1965): 'Under close examination, it became clear to us that it is a vague and ambiguous notion. We found, for example, that many people tend to identify critical thinking with so-called propaganda analysis, or to associate it with wholesale skepticism or even with juvenile negativism of the rebellious adolescent.' -reporting on the Illinois Project on Critical Thinking (quoted from Allen, R. R. and Rott, Robert K., 'The Nature of Critical Thinking. Report from the Concepts in Verbal Argument Project'. Theoretical Paper No. 20.Wisconsin Univ., Madison. Research and Development, Center for Cognitive Learning)

Update (in response to a Facebook comment by Jay Gupta): It's interesting that Smith in 1965 notes a tendency to equate critical thinking with 'propaganda analysis' (or what we might now call 'media literacy'), since that was a focus of critical thinking in the early 1930s (e.g., W. Biddle's 1932 study). It was in reaction to that tendency that some progressivists widened the scope of critical thinking.

Monday, August 29, 2016

John Albert Chadwick, WWI vet who left Cambridge logic for an Ashram

My list of UK philosophers who served in WWI must be expanded to include John Albert Chadwick. I learned of this philosopher from C. D. Broad's obituary for him in Mind. (vol. 49 [1940]: 129-131)

Chadwick's main contribution to analytic philosophy is his paper in Mind called 'Logical Constants'(vol. 36 [1927]: 1-11) His other publications included articles, reviews, and discussion notes in Mind. They are chiefly devoted to philosophical logic.

Chadwick was born in Lewes, England (May 23, 1899), to the Rev. Albert Chadwick and Madeleine Ann Chadwick (née Comper). She was born in 1866 in Aberdeen; the father was born in 1863 in Yorkshire.

Broad reports that John Chadwick entered the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers 'towards the end' of WWI. (Broad, 'John Albert Chadwick: 1899-1939', Mind 49: 129) According to a 'Supplement' to the London Gazette, (June 21, 1918, p. 7291) Chadwick was made (temporarily) a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on May 29, 1918. He seems to have finished the War with that rank. The Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers was formed to handle and release chemical weapons.

After the War, Chadwick began his studies at Cambridge University in 1920. In 1925, he won a fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Broad writes that the War left 'scars on [Chadwick's] spirit'. (Broad, 129) He adds that Chadwick's early promise in philosophical logic was compromised by a physical illness, the loss of a close friend, and 'another emotional upset' (not further specified). (Broad, 130) According to Broad, the psychological toll exacted by these experiences led Chadwick to become 'aloof from and unreasonably suspicious of many of his colleagues'. (Broad, 130)

Broad says that Chadwick befriended an older couple in Cambridge, John Stuart Mackenzie and Millicent Mackenzie. They were retired academics who devoted much of their time to traveling. J. S. Mackenzie was a respected Hegelian; Millicent Mackenzie, too, was interested in Hegel and had published a book on his philosophy of education. In their retirement, the Mackenzies cultivated an interest in theosophy (which took an interesting form in England) and, in particular, the writings of Rudolf Steiner. They shared with Chadwick an interest in Indian spiritual philosophy.

Via, I learned that the Mackenzies brought Chadwick along on at least one of their trips. According to the UK Outward Passenger Lists (1890-1960), the three of them departed from Liverpool on July 29, 1926 and traveled 1st-class to Marseilles aboard the Leicestershire. The UK Incoming Passenger Lists (1878-1960) indicate that they returned to England (London) on the Lancashire on Aug. 30, 1926. These two ships originated or terminated their voyages in Rangoon (with stops in Colombo), but the records show that Chadwick and the Mackenzies traveled only as far as Marseilles. All three of the travelers gave their address as being at 2 Hertford St., Cambridge, so Chadwick might have been renting a room in the Mackenzies' house. Strangely, he's identified in the records for the outgoing leg of the trip as a 26-year-old professor but in the records for the return trip (in August) he is a 27-year-old student. (Perhaps he unlearned something in Marseilles.)

In 1927, the Mackenzies helped to secure a teaching position for Chadwick at Lucknow University. (Broad, 130) In 1930, Chadwick resigned his position there and entered the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. He there took the name Arjava and wrote much poetry.

Chadwick's decision to leave the university might have been influenced by a similar choice that had been made by an English professor at Lucknow, Ronald Nixon. Nixon, too, was a WWI vet who studied at Cambridge after the War. He resigned from Lucknow in 1928 and took the name Krishna Prem. (Nixon is among those who is thought to have influenced Somerset Maugham's writing of The Razor's Edge, although the novel's main character might also have been inspired by Major Alan W. Chadwick, yet another English WWI vet seeking enlightenment in India.)

John Albert Chadwick died on May 5, 1939 near Bangalore. He left his money (a little more than £939) to his mother. (England & Wales, National Probate Calendar [Index of Wills and Administrations] 1858-1966)

Update (Oct. 15, 2016): For a small fee, I obtained a copy of J. A. Chadwick's military records from the British National Archives.

According to those records, Chadwick was a student at Marlborough College when he joined the British army. He gave his address as 'Field House, Marlborough College'. He had been in the Officers Training Corps at Marlborough (from May, 1913 until his enlistment in the army). His attestation papers are dated Feb. 19, 1917. On May 11, 1917, he applied for admission to an officer cadet unit, with a preference indicated for the Siege Artillery. His application includes the signature of his housemaster at Marlborough, C. C. Carter (later a geography professor at Oxford University), who attested to Chadwick's moral character. In his application, Chadwick said that he had never suffered from a 'serious illness or injury', had 'never suffered from "fits" of any description', and could see well without needing eyeglasses. His height was 5 ft 9 3/4 inches and he weighed 113 pounds. His application was approved on June 1, 1917.

He was mobilised and posted to the Devonshire Regiment on Dec. 31, 1917. On Jan. 3, 1918, he was attached to 'no. 5' (5th Battalion?) as an officer cadet. He was discharged from the Devonshire Regiment on May 29, 1918 in order to be transferred to the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers. The last unit in which he served was the '350th'. His 'theatre of war' is listed as 'France'. He ceased being paid by the army on Oct. 21, 1919.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Wittgenstein and WWI authors

In his analysis of writings by WWI veterans, Samuel Hynes writes that:
Writing like this, seeing like this, implies a fundamental separation in the perceiver: it asserts that there is a reality in war that the customary ways of seeing and saying cannot render, and consequently it divides the soldier from the civilian, Front from Home, Us from You, Us as We Are from Us as We Were.... The whole of the war experience was unique and beyond the comprehension of those who had not fought. (Hynes, A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture [London: Bodley Head, 1990], p. 116)
Based on this next bit by J. M. Winter, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan seems to have exemplified this separation:
Harold Macmillan was one of the many who believed fervently that the men who went to war had been initiated into mysteries that they and only they could really understand. (Winter, 'Oxford and the First World War' in The History of the University of OxfordVolume VIII: The Twentieth Century, ed. Brian Harrison [Oxford University Press, 1994], pp. 3-25, at p. 24)
Here we have a group of individuals who have been marked and set apart from the majority by their experiential grasp of some profound and otherwise incommunicable truth.

Authors in this group try to gesture, at least, towards this ineffable truth but despair of capturing it in words. But who is their audience? After all, other veterans of the front already know the 'mysteries' at which the author gestures, while those individuals who have no battle-front experience are (by hypothesis) in no position to understand such matters.

Edmund Blunden points to this predicament in his 'Preliminary' to Undertones of War (his WWI memoir):
I know that the experience to be sketched in it is very local, limited, incoherent; that it is almost useless, in the sense that no one will read it who is not already aware of all the intimations and discoveries in it, and many more, by reason of having gone the same journey. No one? Some, I am sure; but not many. Neither will they understand – that will not be all my fault.' (Blunden, Undertones of War [London: R. Cobden-Sanderson, 1928], p. vii)
This despair of being understood by the uninitiated echoes Wittgenstein's remark in the 'Preface' to the Tractatus: 'Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it -- or at least similar thoughts'. (Wittgenstein, Tractatus, trans. Pears & McGuinness) (The 'Preface' to the Philosophical Investigations includes this plaintive sentence: 'It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another -- but, of course, it is not likely'. (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. Anscombe))

Like other WWI writers (and like many writers who have experienced trauma), Wittgenstein was in the odd predicament of writing about the incommunicable. Of course, for many of these writers (e.g., Blunden), the incommunicable truth resided in their battle-front experience while, for Wittgenstein, it dwelt in 'the mystical'. While Blunden and others aspired to give some sense of their ineffable insight, they could not hope to induce the relevant experience via their writing, for the experience in question required being plunked in the middle of horrendous violence. By contrast, those who aim at some truth about the mystical can, perhaps, through their writing foster or provoke an experiential insight into their target. (Think of romantic poets trying to kindle a sense for the sublime.) Perhaps Wittgenstein tailored his cryptic style towards such ends.

Regardless, it's likely that any hermetic tendency in the young Wittgenstein was strengthened by his WWI experience. After such knowledge, how could one hope to capture in words the profoundest truths, insights gleaned from raw and rare experience? I think, here, of Wittgenstein turning his back on the Vienna Circle members and reading to them Tagore's poems.