The blog of Joseph W. Kraft

An Educational Reboot at 25; Beginning a Classical Education after College

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Today is July 4th, Independence Day, the day we celebrate our liberty and it is also the day that I, at nearly 26, having a college degree, and a job as a lumberjack* am starting over with my education. I have always wished I had a liberal classical education, the education meant for a free citizen of a free country and now I am going to do something about it.

I was homeschooled for most of my basic education. Though I did have to study algebra and a few other subjects which were of little or no interest to me at the time, my basic education was very informal. It was this informality which allowed me to develop a love of learning and especially of reading, I only read books which were of interest to me. This informality with its few requirements was a bed of soil in which to spread the roots of the mind and the resources made available to me(lots of books, willing parents, the infantile internet, etc.) proved to be good mental nutrients. However, this informality also had its drawbacks, the greatest of which was that I was not formally educated; a thing is itself and is not not itself, informal education is not formal education.

I have always believed, along with my parents that the end of education is mental, personal, even virtuous, and not economic, nor practical. That is to say that education is about developing the person and especially the mind to its greatest possible extent, not about getting a job. I have a job; I cut down trees. By most current standards I am highly educated having a college degree and I plan to continue this education with a PhD. I recently realized however, that even after earning a PhD, I would feel that there was a hole in my education because I had never studied the trivium, the three basic subjects of a formal classical education; grammar (Latin grammar, that is), logic, and rhetoric. I have been out of college for over a year and I have a year or so before I begin graduate studies; I’m going to fill that hole. I’m going back to high school.

*Technically I am not a lumberjack because the trees I cut down are generally in neighborhoods, dead, and of little value as lumber but, lumberjack is much easier to say and conveys the basic idea.

From: JWKraft.com 


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July 7, 2012 at Saturday 11:00 pm

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Written by J W Kraft

June 8, 2008 at Sunday 1:50 pm

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Moving Day

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Greetings and salutations I’m sure.  I have moved my blog to JWKraft.com.  So, be sure and change your bookmarks!  This new set up will work much better.  I have added many new features including a RSS feed, so you can follow along to your heart’s delight!

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April 17, 2008 at Thursday 6:00 pm

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Huckabee Defeats Romney!

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This just in from CBS, Mitt Romney is ‘suspending’ his campaign for the White house. 

Romney had tried to portray the race for the Republican nomination as a two way race.  He had attempted to sideline Mike Huckabee, and portray himself as the alternative to McCain.  On Super Tuesday however, Huckabee had a very good showing and vowed to stay in the race until the end.  This effectively ended Romney’s hope for beating McCain.  He would have needed 3/4 of the delegates left and cannot afford to split them with Huckabee. 

This now gives Huckabee a fighting chance to top McCain.  Huckabee has polled very well in Texas, by far the biggest prize left.  He is also in good position in Virginia and Mississippi.

Blinking Your Way Through Life

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I recently heard an episode of “Culture Shock” on the BBC in which they were interviewing a Professor Gerd Gigerenzer (I’m not making that up) about his ideas on so called, intuition. His latest book Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious is on that very subject and the man is considered something of a leader in the field. What he claims to have verified through various studies is that decisions made through first reaction responses or gut reactions are often more accurate than those made through careful deliberations. This is something of a new idea though a trendy one, in 2005 another popular book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, was published. It had a very similar premise.

The question then comes up, is this a form of irrational decision making? If so, then the soundness of logic (and math) is bought into question. For, if accurate decisions can be made with out the use of logic, then logic may be faulty. Even if no fault is found with logic per se it could be deemed unuseful, and relegated to a novelty of history in an entirely laissez faire impulse driven society. The future imagined by H. G. Wells in The Time Machine comes to mind.

So then, after this bleak foretelling, you may expect me to be opposed to the whole blink idea. Well, I am more interested with truth, than with what lie will bring a more pleasant future. I happen to believe there is something to this whole idea, which I have taken to calling, blink, after the book. I also happen to believe it is entirely rational. (Crowds cheer: Alas, the future is saved!) But, that doesn’t mean that it will be taken as rational by irrational (postmodern) people. (Crowds stare as deer in headlights: Doom and Gloom.)

I believe the human mind is far more complex than is understood, and this blink speaks to that. I also believe that humans are far more complex than is usually admitted by the experts. Every human is unique. Some may be gifted with far greater instinct than others. Some may have it in certain fields and not in others. I think it can certainly be learned. An example was given in the episode of Culture Shock, I mentioned earlier, of a veteran police officer who knew by instinct that a particular person in an airport had a gun. They could not explain how they knew this, they just had honed their instinct over many years.*

I have several reasons for believing that this instinct is rational. Let me first define what I mean by rational. I do not mean, well thought out. Obviously these gut decisions are not well thought out. I mean logical, I mean that the decision process follows a logical stream. The person making the decision does not need to be conscience of all the intricacies of that logic for it to be a logical decision. That is infact what I believe is happening, I believe that the mind is making logical decisions without the person being conscience of them. They are simply presented with the answer.

It is like a calculator. A calculator takes in data (from the user pushing the keys) and displays the answer. It does not display all the logical steps it had to go through in order to arrive at that answer, but it did go through them. I believe the mind is powerful enough to take in sensory data, in fields that the person is especially gifted in (by nature or by education) and calculate a rational and logical response without the person have to deliberate over it.

Daniel Tammet is one example of this. He was the host and one of the subjects of a Science Channel documentary called Brain Man. He is incredibly gifted in the field of mathematics. He can come up with the answers to highly complex math problems nearly instantly, and to hundreds of decimal places. He claims to not calculate the problems in his head but rather that the answers just come to him.

I have always been a logical person. Some (i.e. my mother) would say that I’m logical to a fault. So when I was a freshman (in college or at university for the Brits) I enrolled in a logic class, thinking it would be a cakewalk. When I would take the tests, I generally knew the answers; they were obvious to me. However in order to get credit for an answer you had to show your work. This I could not do, certainly not in the timeframe of one class period. I ended up dropping the class because of this. Since then I have been more aware of it and have noticed many time when I would hear an argument that I knew was invalid but I could not put my finger on just why. Often if I continued to think about it, I would see the hole in the argument a day or more later.

So is this instinct an advantage? Well, it was certainly a handicap in my logic class, but in certain instances I think it could be very useful. I think it is there to aid us in making decisions when we do not have time for careful deliberations. Think of it as a kind of mental adrenaline. It can be very useful in an emergency but you wouldn’t want to be on an adrenaline high all the time. I believe the reason that the studies that Doctor Gigerenzer cited showed that blink decisions were more accurate than those that were carefully thought out is because most people rarely make rational decisions at all. One of my favorite quotes comes from Blaise Pascal,

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

This must be even more accurate today than when Pascal wrote it. The only explanation for why blink decisions are more accurate is that they are more rational. It is a sad state of affairs when this is the norm rather than the exception.  So for the masses who make irrational descisions when given the chance, blink decisions are their best hope, but for a rational person, given the time, it should be thought out. 

*I am not sure that it was some one with a gun, but it was along those lines. 

MLK Controversy, Cast in Stone

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Now is the time when people the world over reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and a story on CNN caught my attention this morning.  Plans are under way to construct a massive memorial to Dr. King in Washington D.C.  The apex is to be a very large granit statue of MLK himself.  A black sculpture who has done many statues of MLK, was contacted for the project but he only works in bronze and so the commitee decided against him.  The commitee decided on a Chinese sculptor (who works in granite) for the project and this has caused quite a controversy.  Many Americans and blacks especially, have been upset by this.  This set me to thinking, are we judging men by the content of their character or by the color of their skin

Written by J W Kraft

January 20, 2008 at Sunday 10:34 am

A New Ethic? Absolute Uniquanatism?*

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I am generally a moral absolutist.  I believe that there is a right and wrong path to take on moral issues.  However I also believe that decisions must made completly on a case by case basis.  I believe that in the exact situation, defined by the exact parameters X, there is a right and a wrong.  X parameters will never exist again, so you cannot use X as an exact precedent for any future situations.  X can at best be an imperfect analogy to learn from. 

An interesting facet of this is that, two very similar situations in two different times or locations could have opposite correct answers.  This starts to sound allot like relativism but it is not.  I will use an example that most of us are familiar with, getting a job. 

1. You submit your CV to Mr. Z, HR manager for the company you want to work for.

2.  You make a follow up call to make sure Z got your CV, and he did.

3.  You hear nothing from Z.

4.  To get a job you will need to be persistent.

5. Calling again would mean that you believe that (A) Z is incompetent or that (B) he has rejected you and you don’t care.
           (A) is insulting
           (B) is dehumanizing

6.  There is a moral imperative to support yourself and your family.  Unless you have deep pockets or some other means of making a living that, means you need a job. 

In this case, I believe that (6) trumps (5) and you should be persistent.  However in a more Utopian world, where people have progressed mentally and ethically, there would be no (4) and so you should notcall again.  This is because the man on the street and Mr. Z alike, would both be aware of how rude it is to call someone after they have dealt you a de facto rejection.  We do not live in this world and so Mr. Z actually expects you to follow up several times if you really want the job. 

So in a more perfect world there are more exacting standards of right and wrong.  I do believe that society (or humanity) can progress to higher level, where the higher standards would apply.  I also believe that we can regress, and have been doing allot more of that lately.

So I believe there is an absolute right and wrong relative to the exact parameters of the situation.  If there were no absolutes, it would be an amoral world.  If there were absolutes irregardless of the parameters, legalism would determine right and wrong.  This is one reason why Christianity is the only major world religion that is plausibly right.  In Christianity there are absolutes but there is not legalism.  This is because Christianity is a relationship, Christians are to seek council from God on issues, rather than citing case law.

*I know Uniquanatismis not a word.  I also know that it does not mean anything.  The point is that there are absolutes and every situation is absolutely unique. 

Written by J W Kraft

December 14, 2007 at Friday 7:32 pm