About Children’s Philosophy: A series of articles that will show how small children answer the greatest philosophical questions of humanity. Philosophers need to question everything. And in order to do that, one must think as a child again!
One can find wisdom in crazy persons and in children. So that is what I did: I asked the greatest philosophical questions to a seven years old child. And the answers were amazing.
Some of them you can find in various posts hidden in Harmonia Philosophica (e.g. in the There is no death article). This is an attempt to gather the major answers of the child here.
Humans have been pondering on big questions of philosophy for thousands of years now. And yet, no definitive answers have been found. Harmonia Philosophica tries to guide humans to these questions by promoting non thinking and irrationality, for this is the only way to discard all dogmas and think freely. The child provided great input that helps us enhance our faith in the path we have taken.
A child thinks with no premises, no dogmas, no prior knowledge of things. In that way one can say that a child’s thought is more close to non-thinking than to thinking. This way of thinking can be a true revelation for a grown up who is too used to the things he or she already ‘knows’. True philosophers and scientists alike question everything.
Are you ready to stop thinking in order to think?
Let’s see what the child had to say…
EPISODE 1: Does death exist?
Truth puzzles are an invention of Harmonia Philosophica that helps someone formulate a ‘solution’ to the great philosophical questions of human mind. In these ‘puzzles’ you have all the basic elements of philosophy and all you have to do is connect them with lines or arrows to indicate their relationships. There are no rules on how to do that and that is the basic rule: there are no predefined rules on how to think!
One can read the Truth Puzzles article here to learn more about that method of philosophical investigation.
Details set aside, what is of interest here is that I have a Truth Puzzle to the child to complete.
The instructions were simple: My child, take that page and draw lines or arrows between these words.
An important note is that the child did not have English as its mother tongue so it was difficult for it to understand the words, let alone the fact that the child could not in any case be fully aware of the meaning of the words in the Truth Puzzle anyway due to its age.
After a minute the puzzle was completed. And the result was astounding.
What I saw was that…
The child had connected with lines all elements on the page except one: Death!
Besides the importance of the coincidence that the word Death was the only one omitted (Read the ‘There is no death‘ article for that), another important thing we should always keep in mind: There are no rules on how to think! I had thought that one should connect all elements I had written on the page, but the child showed me that this should not be the case!
Lesson learned: There are no rules on thinking! Question everything! Especially the things that you don’t!
That is how philosophy and science progress!
EPISODE 2: What is Being?
I once asked a child ‘What is Being?’.
I have the question written on a piece of paper and waited to see how this difficult philosophical question will be tackled by a seven-year old brain.
After a minute, the answer was handed back to be.
“What is Being?” – “A word”
To my astonishment the child answered that “Being” is a word. Thinking in a simple manner is and has always been a trait of wise men and women. And children. Yes, Being is a word. Perhaps the best answer to our great philosophical questions cannot be found through Logos but through the experience of life and existence itself.q
Lesson learned: Don’t think too much about questions that you yourself has invented. Question everything. Especially yourself!
By weaving together expectations and information gleaned from the senses, the brain creates a story about the outside world. “The brain is a guessing machine, trying at each moment of time to guess what is out there,” says computational neuroscientist Peggy Seriès.
Guesses just slightly off — like mistaking a smile for a smirk — rarely cause harm. But guessing gone seriously awry may play a part in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, autism and even anxiety disorders, Seriès and other neuroscientists suspect. They say that a mathematical expression known as Bayes’ theorem — which quantifies how prior expectations can be combined with current evidence — may provide novel insights into pernicious mental problems that have so far defied explanation. Evidence based on previous experience, known as a “prior,” is essential to arriving at a good answer, Bayes argued.
People with schizophrenia differ from “normal people” when tying together their expectations with what their senses detect. They often suffer from hallucinations and delusions, debilitating symptoms that arise when lines between reality and imagination blur. These departures from reality could arise from differences in how people integrate new evidence with previous beliefs. People with schizophrenia don’t fall for certain visual illusions that trick most people. To complicate matters, the opposite can be true, too, says neuropsychologist Chris Frith of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London. “In this case, their prior is too weak, but in other cases, their prior is too strong,” he says.
In a recent study, healthy people and those who recently began experiencing psychosis, a symptom of schizophrenia, were shown confusing shadowy black-and-white images. Participants then saw color versions of the images that were easier to interpret. When shown the black-and-white images again, people with early psychosis were better at identifying the images, suggesting that they used their prior knowledge — the color pictures — to truly “see” the images. For people without psychosis, the color images weren’t as much help. That difference suggests that the way people with schizophrenia balance past knowledge and present observations is distinct from the behavior of people without the disorder. Sometimes the balance tips too far — in either direction.
In a talk at the annual Computational and Systems Neuroscience meeting in February in Salt Lake City, Seriès described the results of a different visual test: A small group of people with schizophrenia had to describe which way a series of dots were moving on a screen. The dots moved in some directions more frequently than others — a statistical feature that let the scientists see how well people could learn to predict the dots’ directions. The 11 people with schizophrenia seemed just as good at learning which way the dots were likely to move as the 10 people without, Seriès said. In this situation, people with schizophrenia seemed able to learn priors just fine. But when another trick was added, a split between the two groups emerged. Sometimes, the dots were almost impossible to see, and sometimes, there were no dots at all. People with schizophrenia were less likely to claim that they saw dots when the screen was blank. Perhaps they didn’t hallucinate dots because of the medication they were on, Seriès says. In fact, very early results from unmedicated people with schizophrenia suggest that they actually see dots that aren’t there more than healthy volunteers. (or perhaps the scientists are prejudiced against people tagged as “sick”)
Preliminary results so far on schizophrenia are sparse and occasionally conflicting, Seriès admits. (1)
Seeing what is there.
Seeing what is not there.
The brain this…
The brain that…
More and more often, we fail to understand the actual problem. More and more often we speak about the brain and how it creates issues in understanding the cosmos. More and more often, the brain looks like an obstacle in our attempt to connect with reality rather than a helpful tool…