A brief presentation

Is it?* Don’t say it unless you’re sure.** *Brief depends on context, but in the absence of a clear norm a 5 minute presentation – 10 minutes including pre- and post-amble – is a good rule of thumb. **Even if you are, it’s probably better to say how long – and always say it will be five minutes longer than…

Educated (11): Truth in context

Another aspect of the limits of knowledge is the contingent nature of most of what we know: Truth is usually* truth-in-context. A pair of non-parallel lines will only ever cross once… on the infinite flat plane of Euclidian geometry.** Swans are only white… as far as Europeans knew before someone saw a black one in Australia. It’s safest to walk…

Educated (10): Limits to knowledge

An education should give us an awareness of the limits of knowledge. Most obviously: That there are things that we (humans) don’t understand; That some of those things we may never understand (or at least, in our lifetimes); That we (as individuals) can’t possibly know everything that is known; … and so what we do know is necessarily incomplete; ……

Freedom to the nose (2): stealing at work

How free are you at work? How free are the people you’re responsible for? “As free as possible,” is a good answer, but there are some clear limits: no-one is allowed to hurt people physically (freedom to the nose) or to steal the property of the organisation (or other people). Intangible theft – stealing time, for example – is harder…

Freedom to the nose

Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins. John B Finch (early version of a saying often attributed to John Stuart Mill, Lincoln and others) A fundamental principle of liberty and libertarianism is that people should be given as few limits as possible. John Stuart Mill argued for absolute freedom…

Educated (9): taxonomy and the fruits of knowledge

You’re probably familiar with the old saw “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” This response to the smart alec’s observation that a tomato is not (botanically speaking) a vegetable points out that the distinction is meaningless in the kitchen.* Think a little harder and it gets…

Knowing better (3): the best values

My values are the best that I know; I assume you feel the same. Changing them is hard – it takes some combination of (delete as appropriate)… experience / evidence / awareness / engagement with an argument / a strong feeling… …of / with / about … the flaws in our existing values / the way that something we think…

Podcast recommendation: Seth Godin on The Hedonic Treadmill

This episode of Akimbo is a thoughtful look out our tendency to seek more of what we like – whether loud music or extreme sports or money or beauty. In a nutshell:It’s almost inevitable that we’ll experience diminishing satisfaction from a given amount of whatever brings you pleasure, so we’re always seeking to turn the dial to eleven (out of…

Educated (7): you, life and other people

If you can raise your children to like and believe in themselves, and to be interested in life and other people, the rest is detail. Cousin-in-law Most of the important bits of “educated” are absorbed rather than taught. Schooling and opportunities help, but the slow drip of love and respect from people you love and respect is indispensable. Which leads…