PEPPER & POPPER: WHY EXPERTS DISAGREE WITH EACH OTHER

Consulting others for their expertise sometimes makes our problems worse because we discover that they frequently disagree with each other. Is there an expertise which tackles this meta-problem directly?

Fortunately there is.  Stephen Pepper's answer to the meta-problem is because they hold different mental attitudes and different world-views. Much neglected his work World-Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence  was published in 1942 . He described three different mental attitudes: dogmatism, utter scepticism or reasonable scepticism; and six  world views. He held that two are grossly inadequate -animist, mysticist and four as adequate - formicist, mechanicist, organicist and contextualist.

The textualist view, adopted here, is a modified form of Pepper's contextualism. It is an embodied world-view, in that the body (and in particular the hand) and mind(brain) are regarded as being and, therefore, acting as one. And they do in a way such that either they are in harmony with each other and with the rest of the world, or they are not. It is this single body-mind entity which has to handle itself and what the world, literally and metaphorically speaking, throws at it.

Never having heard of Stephen Pepper most people mis-hear his name as "Popper". They are in fact two separate identities. In their different ways both Stephen Pepper and Karl Popper explain why theory-free, culture-free and interpretation-free facts and observations are impossible. Combining their work provides a radical textualist world-view framework for defining expertise which we can then use to identify and manage personal, educational, occupational and well-being difficulties. In short our words and deeds are an expression of particular world-views, each with its own range of application.

One catastrophic shift in human history, is moving from a pre-literate to a literate state: a major aspect of which is handling pencil and paper. Indeed it was while I was using pen and paper to study Pepper that I re-figured his contextualist world-view first as a 2-d Venn diagram. In this re-casting the context for the textualist model is provided by the overlap with his three other adequate world-views. It then occurred to me that in rejecting animism and mysticism as adequate world views he was making his 'model' less human. My new 3-d structure re-casts animism and mysticism orthogonally overlapping the other overlapping word-views. This Pepperian model is fundamentally different from the Cartesian mechanicist view which regards the body and mind as separate entities.

This page outlines how  Pepper's work can be used to help re-solve apparently intractable problems:

Mental attitudes and world-views

Stephen Pepper published World-Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence as long ago as 1942. There he systematized the range of potentially infinite explanatory schemas that people hold and called them world-views. In so far as they describe how we account for the world we live in and our place in the universe they might be better described as cosmological views.

Pepper prefaced his account of the six over-arching world-views by stating:

  • people can't be convinced of anything against their own better judgement,
  • contrary to popular opinion, radical cognitive destruction is more difficult than construction. In short, it's not easy to shake ourselves or others down to rock solid foundations. Yet unless we do so, we're building on ever shifting sands,
  • amongst all the objects in the world there are the views, ideas or hypotheses we hold about how the world itself works. These 'objects' can be grouped according to their root images.
  • cognitive attitudes can be sifted into three categories: dogmatism, utter scepticism and reasonable scepticism.

One clear implication of Pepper's work is that dogmatists' minds cannot be changed by direct confrontation. (As an aside Festinger later tackled the same phenomenon calling it cognitive dissonance'). This does not mean that dogmatists' minds cannot be changed. They can, indirectly or by directly challenging their appeal to:

self-evident principles, immutable truths and infallible authority

Pepper points out that utter sceptics, in so far as they claim not to believe in anything, are indeed dogmatists by another name because of the fervour with which they hold to their utter scepticism. Reasonable scepticism is the optimal cognitive attitude: it is the hallmark of doubters waiting to be convinced by the quality of their self-validated evidence.

Pepper's unique insight was to note that the potentially infinite number of hypotheses individuals have about the world collapse, under close scrutiny to just six: animism, mysticism, formism, mechanism, organicism and contextualism. The critical features of each are as tabulated:

 

TABLE 1 OVERVIEW OF PEPPER'S WORLD-VIEW HYPOTHESES
World-view Descriptive Root Metaphor Explanatory Value Tools Questions Leads to
Animism common-sense man grossly inadequate emotions What is the spirit of X? infallible authority
Mysticism the common emotion of love How can we appease the gods? indubitability
Formism shoe last - template
acorn-oak - essence
adequate nouns What is the essence of X, Y or Z? mechanism
Mechanism machine: lever-fulcrum How does X affect Y? contextualism
Organicism plant / animal What are the links amongst A, B & C? creative imagination
Contextualism doing, enduring, enjoying verbs Plus ca change, plus la meme chose? operationalism

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A Popper-Pepper riddle

If Karl Popper
were to pick a piece of Stephen Pepper,
which piece of Stephen Pepper
would Karl Popper pick?

Because of the similarity between their names, I have often been asked whether I should have said Popper when introducing Pepper into workshops. The question itself reveals familiarity with Popper and general ignorance about Pepper. Why has each left entirely different legacies. The non-rhetorical question is whether Pepper is more complex? My brief answer is "No". The purpose of this playful riddle, therefore, is to emphasize the fact that Popper's and Pepper's views are interlocking and are key to grasping the link between mind-sets and action. How one handles the riddle provides one measure of how well one has grasped the message of each.

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A sprinkling of Popper

Popper is well known for his view on the provisional nature of objective facts. He believed:

  • there are no such things as interpretation-free observations,
  • evidence is only evidence with respect to a particular conjecture, theory or judgement,
  • academic disciplines have arisen for historical reasons and been maintained for administrative convenience,
  • we should focus on helping individuals with their concrete miseries rather than abstract utopian ideals,
  • if we wish to prove the truth of X (for example Adam cannot read and write with ease) we should try to refute it (by seeing if someone can help Adam work through his difficulties). If Adam eventually reads and writes with ease the truth of X has been refuted. If no one can help Adam read and write with ease then we have to accept X as true until proven otherwise. This is known as his refutation / falsification principle.

To convey the cogency of Popper's stance it is worth quoting at some length from his 1963 Conjectures and Refutations (London Routledge & Kegan Paul) on three topics: (a) observation - theory, (b) disciplines - problems, and (c) concrete miseries - abstract utopian ideals.

What comes first, observation or theory?

The belief that science proceeds from observation to theory is still so widely and so firmly held that my denial of it is often met with incredulity. I have even been suspected of being insincere-of denying what nobody in his senses can doubt.
But in fact the belief that we can start with pure observations alone, without anything in the nature of a theory, is absurd; as may be illustrated by the story of the man who dedicated his life to natural science, wrote down everything he could observe, and bequeathed his priceless collection of observations to the Royal Society to be used as inductive evidence. This story should show us that though beetles may profitably be collected, observations may not.

 

Twenty-five years ago I tried to bring home the same point to a group of physics students in Vienna by beginning a lecture with the following instructions: 'Take pencil and paper; carefully observe, and write down what you have observed ' They asked, of course, what I wanted them to observe. Clearly the instruction, 'Observe(' is absurd. (It is not even idiomatic, unless the object of the transitive verb can be taken as understood.) Observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem. And its description presupposes a descriptive language, with property words; it presupposes similarity and classification, which in its turn presupposes interests, points of view, and problems. 'A hungry animal', writes Katz (divides the environment into edible and inedible things. An animal in flight sees roads to escape and hiding places .... Generally speaking, objects change ... according to the needs of the animal. We may add that objects can be classified, and can become similar or dissimilar, only in this way - by being related to needs and interests. This rule applies not only to animals but also to scientists. For the animal a point of view is provided by its needs, the task of the moment, and its expectations; for the scientist by his theoretical interests, the special problem under investigation, his conjectures and anticipations, and the theories which he accepts as a kind of background: his frame of reference, his 'horizon of expectations'.

The problem 'Which comes first, the hypothesis (H) or the observation (0),' is soluble; as is the problem, 'Which comes first, the hen (h) or the egg (0)'. The reply to the latter is, 'An earlier kind of egg'; to the former, 'An earlier kind of hypothesis'. It is quite true that any particular hypothesis we choose will have been preceded by observations - the observations, for example, which it is designed to explain. But these observations, in their turn, presupposed the adoption of a frame of reference: a frame of expectations: a frame of theories. If they were significant, if they created a need for explanation and thus gave rise to the invention of a hypothesis, it was because they could not be explained within the old theoretical framework, the old horizon of expectations. There is no danger here of an infinite regress. Going back to more and more primitive theories and myths we shall in the end find unconscious, inborn expectations.

The theory of inborn ideas is absurd, I think; but every organism has inborn reactions or responses; and among them, responses adapted to impending events. These responses we may describe as 'expectations' without implying that these 'expectations' are conscious. The new-born baby 'expects', in this sense, to be fed (and, one could even argue, to be protected and loved). In view of the close relation between expectation and knowledge we may even speak in quite a reasonable sense of 'inborn knowledge'. This 'knowledge' is not, however, valid a priori; an inborn expectation, no matter how strong and specific, may be mistaken. (The newborn child may be abandoned, and starve.)

Thus we are born with expectations; with 'knowledge' which, although not valid a priori, is psychologically or genetically a priori, i.e. prior to all observational experience. One of the most important of these expectations is the expectation of finding a regularity. It is connected with an inborn propensity to look out for regularities, or with a need to find regularities, as we may see from the pleasure of the child who satisfies this need.

This 'instinctive' expectation of finding regularities, which is psychologically a priori, corresponds very closely to the 'law of causality' which Kant believed to be part of our mental outfit and to be a priori valid. One might thus be inclined to say that Kant failed to distinguish between psychologically a priori ways of thinking or responding and a priori valid beliefs. But I do. (pp 46-47)

A discipline-based or problem-driven approach?

The belief that there is such a thing as physics, or biology, or archaeology, and that these studies or disciplines are distinguishable by the subject matter which they investigate, appears to me to be a residue from the time when one believed that a theory had to proceed from a definition of its own subject matter [essentialism]. But subject matter, or kinds of things, do not, I hold, constitute a basis for distinguishing disciplines. Disciplines are distinguished partly for historical reasons and reasons of administrative convenience (such as the organisation of teaching and of appointments), and partly because the theories which we construct to solve our problems have a tendency to grow into unified systems. But all this classification and distinction is a comparatively unimportant and trivial affair. We are not students of some subject matter but students of problems. And problems may cut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline. (p. 67)

Eliminating concrete miseries vs fulfilling abstract utopian ideals?

.....Again, the only way to avoid such changes of our aims seems to be to use violence, which includes propaganda, the suppression of criticism, and the annihilation of all opposition. ...

Wherein, then, lies the difference between those benevolent Utopian plans to which I object because they lead to violence, and those other important and far-reaching political reforms which I am inclined to recommend? If I were to give a simple formula or recipe for distinguishing between what I consider to be admissible plans for social reform and inadmissible Utopian blueprints, I might say:

Work for the elimination of concrete evils rather than for the realization of abstract goods. Do not aim at establishing happiness by political means. Rather aim at the elimination of concrete miseries. Or, in more practical terms: fight for the elimination of poverty by direct means-for example, by making sure that everybody has a minimum income. Or fight against epidemics and disease by erecting hospitals and schools of medicine. Fight illiteracy as you fight criminality. But do all this by direct means. Choose what you consider the most urgent evil of the society in which you live, and try patiently to convince people that we can get rid of it.

But do not try to realize these aims indirectly by designing and working for a distant ideal of a society which is wholly good. However deeply you may feel indebted to its inspiring vision, do not think that you are obliged to work for its realization, or that it is your mission to open the eyes of others to its beauty. Do not allow your dreams of a beautiful world to lure you away from the claims of men who suffer here and now. Our fellow men have a claim to our help; no generation must be sacrificed for the sake of future generations, for the sake of an ideal of happiness that may never be realized. In brief, it is my thesis that human misery is the most urgent problem of a rational public policy and that happiness is not such a problem. The attainment of happiness should be left to our private endeavours.

It is a fact, and not a very strange fact, that it is not so very difficult to reach agreement by discussion on what are the most intolerable evils of our society, and on what are the most urgent social reforms. Such an agreement can be reached much more easily than an agreement concerning some ideal form of social life. For the evils are with us here and now. They can be experienced, and are being experienced every day, by many people who have been and are being made miserable by poverty, unemployment, national oppression, war and disease. Those of us who do not suffer from these miseries meet every day others who can describe them to us. This is what makes the evils concrete. This is why we can get somewhere in arguing about them; why we can profit here from the attitude of reasonableness . We can learn by listening to concrete claims, by patiently trying to assess them as impartially as we can, and by considering ways of meeting them without creating worse evils. (p.360)

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Textual tools

Through correspondence with Bill Harrell and Art Efron, in 2010, I discovered that Stephen Pepper had felt compelled to create a seventh world view, which he labelled 'Selectivism'. It seemed to me to be an unnecessary addition to his initial set of six. I believe the problem that caused him to construct selectivism is resolved by deleting the 'con' prefix from his contextualist world-view, leaving his five other world views to provide the context for his sixth 'textualist' world-view. Is the label change, from 'contextualism' to 'textualism', mere word-substitution? No, because a change in descriptive label evidences the existence of a different micro-world. However, when descriptive labels are treated as the phenomena themselves, they are masquerading as explanations. This occurs in many occupations, disciplines and professions.

This said, words are often poly-valent and thus slippery tools. This makes them powerful playthings, as best exemplified by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass. It is futile, therefore, to try to solve intractable personal or interpersonal difficulties by legislating for labels to be unambiguously mono-valent. It is more reasonable to accept that intractable problems persist because we fail to accept that meaning lies not in words themselves but in interaction. Abraham Maslow captured the spirit of this fact when he said:

It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."

We can collapse the curiosity-driven questions "who, what, when, where, how and why" into Popper's two principal functional categories: operational and essence. Operational questions, such as 'What happens if we do X instead of Y?' are of greater pedagogic and scientific value than 'legalistic' essentialist questions, such as 'Is this person dyslexic?', 'What is dyslexia?' or 'Am I dyslexic?' The latter can only be answered by appealing to some 'higher' external authority or ultimate rescuer.

Asking operational questions makes us take a 'let's try doing something different and see the result' course of action. Trying another way, answers an operational question in a self-validating manner and leads to new knowledge. Essence questions, on the other hand, lead only to endless debate over authority status. They also lead to interminable border disputes over academic or professional territory, including the precise meanings of labels such as 'dyslexia', 'autistic', 'ADHD' or 'disabled', with consequences for their treatment.

The simplest 'test' for the communicative value of the words we utter, read or write, is whether they achieve their purpose. It follows then that when communication fails, it is not because of the words we use but because we don't experience the same common ground. This is why endless repetition but with increasing intensity or vigour fails to induce successful communication.

Existentialist tools

The 17th Century English poet John Donne long ago proclaimed " ... no man is an island ... ".
This sentiment finds expression, in defining the 'unit of discourse' as individuals interacting with each other, in various social contexts and not as decontextualised or disembodied individuals. For this reason commonsense, communication and interaction are treated as core existential tools. Each is defined operationally as follows:

Common-sense when what I see agrees with what I hear such that I feel comfortable with the common message from the different senses.

Communication the shared interpretation of action.

Interaction

strong: both parties change in some respect as a result of the action

weak: no party to the action changes in any respect as a result of the action

mixed: only one party changes as a result of the action but the other doesn't.

Exploratory tools - dynamic and static

Reasonable sceptics, in questioning the status quo, implicitly conform to Popper's refutationary mind set. Dogmatists and utter sceptics, by contrast, maintain the status quo by seeking evidence to confirm their opening stance. They will naturally always find it since the facts which they cite as evidence to support their stance are the very facts which gave rise to their dogmatic or utter sceptical stance in the first place. The tools of each cane be described as exploratory and explanatory respectively.

Amongst the 'object' tools we use are the jigsaw puzzle, ice-berg, tetrahedral pyramid and computer. They fall into two exploratory categories: dynamic and static:

Dynamic

The jigsaw puzzle allows us to formulate our problems in terms of each of us having some pieces of a fragmented and therefore puzzling picture. We need to identify the relevant pieces then ensure they are face up and then assembled to see what overall sense can be made of the separate, seemingly nonsensical pieces the world throws at us.

The ice-berg image allows us to regard what we see, hear and feel as being merely the tip of deeper sets of multi-facted facts and multi-purposed acts.

Juggling is used here as a 'doing, enduring, enjoying' verb inspired tool. It is also used metaphorically to capture the common feeling of trying to handle a number of awkward-to-handle facts without dropping any of them.

Static

The tetrahedron or four-faced pyramid embodies the fact that humans are singular dynamic entities, and not the sum of separate static physical, intellectual, emotional and social components. Each facet of the singular entity simply reflects others' focus. Using this image as a tool implies that when one facet is found to be out of killer, other facets will, on closer probing, be found to be out of kilter too.

The computer analogy embodies two notions. First, that the brain, like the computer, is hard-wired. However, unlike the computer the brain is generally hard-wired for only one cerebral hemisphere to be co-functional with the adept hand. Second, the computer needs software to operate. The human brain also needs programming software which it gains from the soundscape and landscape world around it. This software is called (natural) language. However, unlike the computer where running the software does not change the hardware's physical structure, the brain's structure is changed by the functions it acquires.

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Reconfiguring the common-place

We can use Pepper's world-views schema as a metaphorical riddle to sift the wheat from the chaff and into different kinds of wheat. In doing so we can reconfigure the links amongst the words, images and actions we use to describe and explain our interactions. Here are just three:

  • thought vs cognition: word substitution
  • the cognitive conceit
  • writing is itself a doing, enduring and enjoying body-mind tool

Thought versus Cognition: a word substitution game
There has been a trend over the recent past to substitute the Latin-rooted noun 'cognition', and the adjective 'cognitive' for the Germanic-rooted 'thought / thinking'. Is this a simple case of mere word substitution or does it signify something else? It reveals that users are unable to 'think' implicatively for they go on to use the doubly Latin-rooted 'cognitive science'. For, cogito - 'I think' and scio - 'I know I understand' reduce to the same core notion of belief. Its technical counterpart 'applying cognitive science' denies the fact that science itself is a particular form of doing, enduring an enjoying activity.

One insidious consequence, however, of substituting 'cognitive' for 'thinking' and then arguing that our actions are governed by our cognitions is the implication that feeling plays no role in our interactions. It is this compartmentalisation that leads to the cognitive conceit.

The cognitive conceit: homo faber vs homo sapiens
The self-ascribed label 'homo sapiens' (Latin - taste of, understand, have sense) signifying wisdom is, to quote Howard Brown, a conceit. The conceit stems from the fact that we view ourselves, in the mirror, as a face, masking a highly developed brain which is capable of speech, introspection, abstract reasoning, puzzling and problem solving. Yet it is the same brain that often finds itself unable to handle what the world, both literally and metaphorically, throws at it.

The non-conceited view is that brain and hand evolved simultaneously, each constitutive of the other, in conjunction with an erect body posture. The net effect meant that the forelimbs were manipulating objects, as tools to make yet other tools. And yet the structural dichotomy between mind (brain) and body (hand), propounded by Descartes still persists. It is evident in judgments such as "She's good with her head but useless with her hands", "He's brilliant with his hands but no good with his head!", "She knows her stuff but can't put it down on paper." None can be true since it is the same brain that 'controls' thinking that 'controls' the hands.

 

It is, therefore, the tools we use and how we handle them, and the toys we play with and the enthusiasm with which we do so that gives the measure of the mind. The label homo faber better captures this aspect of human capability. The labels homo sapiens or homo loquens (talker) entirely fail to capture the tool handling ability of homo faber or the toy handling ability of homo ludens. Homo faber encompasses our ability to write (homo scriptor) and to draw (homo tractus).

We use the tag 'faber' to define three types of fabrication: (a) exploratory tools, (b) picture and word tools and (c) finally Pepper's world-view root metaphor tools. The over-arching tool-making tool, which defines human beings as uniquely different from all other animals, is, however, writing itself.

Writing itself is a doing, enduring and enjoying mind-body tool.
The Anglo-Saxon word 'wright' captures the essence of the Latin 'homo faber'. It is found in many compounds - e.g. arkwright, playwright and wainwright - making clear that 'wright' entails apprenticeship to a craft. This fact is neglected in look-listen-learn 'reading' instructional settings. It is even more neglected in handwriting instruction. Writing is clearly a mind-body tool, uniting speech and action.

 

Privileging speech over action also promotes the idea that proper learning is label learning, where knowing how to label the parts is considered essential. Those having difficulty with label learning are, therefore, said to have various cognitive (visual, auditory or memory processing) deficits. The homo faber view, by contrast, roots our problems to handling what the world throws at us, literally and metaphorically. It also accepts that meaning is gained through action, not by learning words then seeking their meaning.

Privileging speech over wrightmanship leads to the practice of changing old words or labels for new ones when confronted by apparently intractable problems. Amongst the many examples are, in the context of the world-wide financial crisis 'quantitative easing' instead of 'printing money', 'toxic assets' instead of 'bad debts', 'delivering' instead of 'achieving' ; in the context of schooling 'delivering the curriculum' instead of 'teaching'; in psychology, the Latin derived 'cognition' instead of the Germanic derived 'thinking' and in managerial speak 'issues' or 'challenges' instead of 'problems'.

Privileging writing in wrightmanship promotes a dynamic interaction between the contra-lateral cortical hemisphere and the writing hand, monitored by the watchful eye. Common-sense would dictate that such graphing be done with the adept hand. However, there are a number of family and societal reasons why many natural left-handers have been induced or coerced to write with the right hand. Less commonly encountered are those who write with their non-adept left hand! In either case the consequences of writing with the non-adept hand are often pervasive and profoundly negative.

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Politics

Using Pepper's riddle as a practical policy and research framing tool explains why experts in the same field, interpret facts differently: they hold different world-views. As an aside Mary Douglas later (1982) tackled the same topic explicitly in her How Institutions Think. And George Kelly's (1955) Personal Construct Theory is also compatible with Pepper's earlier work. Kelly's reputation has been built on his 'invention' or the repertory grid. In applying Kelly's repertory grid and Pepper's six world-views to professional psychology's disciplinary 'explanations non-normal behaviour we arrive at:

 

TABLE 2 A PEPPERIAN REPERTORY GRID
ElementsAnimismMysticismFormism MechanicismOrganicismTextualism
non-normal bad spirits retribution genetic bad wiring bad environment poor schooling
'psyche' animistic mystical faculty behaviourism cognitivism constructivism

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Professionalism

Unfortunately for left handers many cultures express their core values in terms of the equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon human rights 'software' and not the more wright-oriented and concrete vocabulary of the French 'Liberty, Fraternity and Equality.

Anglo-Saxon (written) English is a self-evidently left-to-right processing, mechanistic, mercantilist and increasingly genderless tool. This presents the tip of a problem for natural left-handers: they have to handle the world with 'right-ware' instead of 'left-ware', or even 'adept-ware'. In less esoteric terms, they have to live in a right (handed) mind-set world thereby complying with 'right-handedness' either by accident or design.

Pepper's world-view metaphors allow us to see why some individuals in their search for certainty find solace in ritual and resist attempts to modernise or change. Other individuals find their certainties in constant change. Neither position can be adequately described in terms of skill-sets: rather are they explained in terms of differing core world-views.

Given the rhetoric on the relation between a nation's economic status and its educational ranking it is illuminating to view Duncan Arne's (the USA Secretary of State for Education) reception of the OECD, PISA report - see the Education for Innovation: A Digital Town Hall website Education. But how can teachers prompt their pupils / students to innovate when they themselves are judged by how well they comply with professional regulatory requirements. The simple answer is they can't. A more pedagogically oriented policy formulation would be "Innovate to Educate".

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Pedagogy

Pepper himself drew a fundamental distinction between grossly inadequate (animism and mysticism) and adequate (formism, mechanicism, organicism and contextualism) world views. However, from a pedagogic perspective all six can more usefully be re-grouped into three categories, as illustrated above in Table 1 under the Tools column, namely:

  • grossly inadequate: animism, mysticism
  • object-driven: formism, mechanicism, organicism
  • verb-driven: textualism - doing, enduring and enjoying

From a pedagogic perspective another consequence of the cognitive conceit is the counter-intuitive practice of placing 'learners' away from their parenting role models to dwell for a large part of each day in institutions called schools, where they are further separated by gender and age. This is done so that they can 'learn' how to later contribute later to the adult community. We might ask why only human animals resort to this non-intuitive practice. The answer probably resides with rise of the hegemony of the book: which in turn arose from the need for a scribal caste to record what belonged to whom and to the rituals of a culture to ensure its prosperity.

 

TABLE 3 ROOT METAPHORS AND THEIR PEDAGOGIC RITUALS
ElementsAnimismMysticismFormism MechanicismOrganicismTextualism
pedagogic mode
joint action
worship lecture
workshop
masterclass
playground

Using the two criteria of scientific veracity, reliability and validity we can expose the incommensurability between disciplines involved in effective teaching-learning: pedagogy and psychology. Pedagogy is predicated on zero test-re-test reliability, since the aim is to get pupils / students who cannot do something to be able to do it. The validity of the enterprise is demonstrated when student and teacher, to quote, Bruner, 'go beyond the information given'.

 

TABLE 4 INVERSE CRITERIA FOR T-L DISCIPLINES
Discipline Reliability Validity
pedagogy zero face: going beyond information given
psychology high construct: theoretical

One consequence of involving professional psychologists, in their adjectivally qualified manifestations, in the diagnosis of 'learning difficulties' is their emphasis on high test-re-test reliability: for this confirms the constancy of the diagnosed condition. The diagnosis is claimed to be valid when the diagnosed condition is consistent with hypothetical entities, such as - dyslexia and / or conditions as listed in the DSM-IV or ICD-10 diagnostic tools. Psychologists' pre-occupation with such inherent hypothetical mechanisms has fuelled the de-professionalisation of teachers and their alienation from the view of children as curious learners.

Teaching as currently practised in the UK is operationally defined as delivering the curriculum; with the need to meet a variety of ever shifting targets. This bureaucratic vocabulary evidences a mind-set designed to constrain teachers into delivering lessons rather than achieving success in educating their pupils / students.

A truer educational pedagogy, by contrast, would conform to Pepper's doing, enduring and enjoying textualist world-view. The use of this Pepperian practical philosophy probably explains the success of many of those countries ranked highly in the PISA tables. His textualist world-view provides the rationale for a fundamentally radical pedagogy.

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