with Rich Piscopo
We began class by comparing and contrasting the various mental acts of knowing, realizing, believing, perceiving, and comprehending. After discussing the similarities and differences of each mental act, the class agreed they are all a part of the process of understanding, but none of them alone completes the process. As one student said about learning a foreign language, "I can comprehend part of what I learn, but I don't understand all of it." Another added to this by saying about math, "I can comprehend certain steps, but not understand it in its entirety." And yet another student nicely summed up what the others were discussing by saying, "In order to understand, your knowledge needs to be complete."
The first student then said, "You think you understand, but you don't." Two of the students shared the perception that there is no absolute understanding. The facilitator asked if there was a point in time when one understands everything. Someone said, "Not for humans." Then someone else said, "Understanding applies to the moment, but not for all time." Another then said, "In order to understand, you need to understand all parts."
Then, referring to the earlier comment about thinking we understand but then realizing we don't, the facilitator introduced the idea of thinking we understand a person, but then realizing we don't fully understand them. One student quickly replied, "You can't fully understand a person because we're always changing, learning, growing." Another then asked, "Do you understand yourself the most?" To which another replied, "I have no idea who I am!"
This honest comment led to all expressing themselves with a flood of similar comments. How refreshing to hear that one knows that they do not know! Socrates said wisdom begins with puzzlement. So begins the journey to wisdom.
Let Philosophy guide the way.
We began class according to my plan this week and, in order to give us all a common foundation, I read an overall summary I had written about the connection between lying and inconsistency. Then, we turned to reading the new episode of Lisa, which contains this issue. Usually, I read aloud and the class silently reads along with copies of the episode. This time, however, the group said, "Let's act it out!"
We then moved on to act out the episode with assigned parts for everyone -- but, lest you think we did not accomplish anything academically, or that the students were not paying attention, after acting out the episode, these are the issues that the students brought up for discussion: conflict, confrontation, drama, romance, lying (there it is!), friendship, trust, soap operas, and peer pressure!
We had time left to only begin a discussion on lying, but this is what we covered thus far: One student stated that lying is intentional and deliberate. Another drove this point home by asking if it was possible to lie accidentally. He then suggested that being inconsistent has elements of hypocrisy about it. Picking up on this, someone else stated that we don't completely tell the truth when we're inconsistent. This is an excellent beginning, and we will address these points when we reconvene next week.
The evidence I take away from today's great class is this: this group is creative and innovative and can have tons of fun and laugh a lot, and yet, when the time comes, they quickly focus and become disciplined, serious
thinkers. In my experience, this capability to do both is extremely rare.