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Andrius Kulikauskas

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I am writing a short book for a class that I am teaching at VGTU this Fall, 2016. My goal is for each of my students to formulate and investigate a question they care about. I will teach them how to do that. Officially, the course is called "Philosophy of Technology", but truly it will be a course in my own philosophy, and especially, an introduction to philosophical investigation.

My working title for this book is:

Handbook for Investigators

Aim of Course

To appreciate technical disciplines as sources of philosophical challenges and approaches, to know a variety of ways of figuring things out, and to learn to formulate and investigate one's own profound questions.

Description

We explore how science (the solving of riddles) links philosophy (the collection of unsolved riddles) and technology (the collection of solved riddles). Students will learn to ask a profound question, design an investigation, get help from others, find practical answers, share results and value subsequent questions. They will be introduced to thinkers from a variety of technical fields who developed practical methodologies in response to philosophical questions. Such thinkers include architects Christopher Alexander, Sarah Susanka and Buckminster Fuller, mathematicians George Polya and Paul Zeitz, philosopher Stephen Toulmin, engineer Genrich Altshuller, artist Natalie d'Arbeloff, scientist Stephen Wolfram, analyst Morgan D. Jones and consultants Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo. Students will be exposed to the practical relevance of many areas of philosophy such as phenomenology, aesthetics, metaphysics, existentialism, epistemology, ethics, logic and social philosophy. They will develop their self-knowledge, creativity and critical thinking.

Readings

Lectures

  • The Concepts of Philosophy and Technology
  • Phenomenological, Existential and Metaphysical Approaches
  • Aesthetic and Pragmatic Approaches
  • Logical, Mathematical and Epistemological Approaches
  • Ethical, Cultural and Historical Approaches
  1. Chapter 1 Philosophy (unsolved riddles), technology (solved riddles) and science (solutions). Philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom about life. Existentialism as our situation in life. Do we know ourselves: What is our deepest value in life? Are we growing further: What is a question that we will investigate? Will consider ways of figuring out. Start with Christopher Alexander's practical question: What makes a building alive? Phenomenology: Can we agree on what is "alive"? Go through Alexander's examples.
  2. Chapter 2? Buckminster Fuller's question? Deepest values. Investigatory questions. The method of classifying and organizing.
  3. Chapter 3? Robert Horn: Visual language. Gamestorming. Working together.
  4. Chapter 4? The quality without a name. Structuralism: how to talk about absolutes. Finding a place to start: (Descartes - doubting). Everything. Divisions of everything: twosome, threesome, foursome. Many examples, especially the importance of the three-cycle in investigation (I think therefore I am). Representations.
  5. Chapter 5? Patterns: structure/activity/tensions. How to document them. How they come together in a pattern language.
  6. Natalie d'Arbeloff. Hands-on work. Circle folding. The kinds of opposites.
  7. Beauty as a guide in mathematics. Mandelbrot set vs. Simplex. Twelve topologies (and Kant's twelve categories). Fifteen principles of life. Wholeness transformations.
  8. Six visualizations: Morgan D. Jones. Software tools for Thinking. Unified Modeling Language. Paradoxes.
  9. Truths of the heart and truths of the world. Emotional responses. Counterquestions. Needs, operating principles.
  10. Creativity in Math. The general example of how we figure things out. Overview of a system of the ways of figuring things out. Compare with Descartes' universal problem solving.
  11. Stephen Toulmin: Uses of Argument. Heidegger's world, Aristotle's techne, Plato's know-how. TRIZ. Other examples of the comprehensive system of figuring things out.
  12. Ethics: The Algebra of Copyright. Stating more broadly the whole system of ways of figuring things out.
  13. Context. Plato's Republic: cave. Obstacles by the system we live in (Alexander, Saranka). Plato's microscope. Buckminster Fuller - poet-prophet. Talking to the Universe.
  14. Conceptual revolutions: "The Astronomical Distance Ladder by Terrence Tao" (watch together).
  15. A future revolution? Automata. Stephen Wolfram.

Course requirements:

  • Participation: in class, online, small team, everybody.
    • Small team work: help several other people with their investigations.
  • Report: formulate an investigatory question, design a way to approach it, apply the way, describe the way, and consider the results, and further questions and how they might be pursued.
  • Test: given the questions various students pursued, how would you solve them?
  • Midterm: homework assignments for each class (for example: deepest value, investigatory question) relevant for their report, they have to write up their answers on the midterm.

Typical class

  • 30 minutes lecture
  • 30 minutes discussion
  • 30 minutes working on investigations

Readings

  • The Timeless Way of Building 1-157
    • Contents vii-xv
    • Chapter 1 1-16
    • Chapter 2 The Quality Without a Name 17-40
    • Chapter 4 Patterns of Events 55-74
    • Chapter 6 101-122
  • The Nature of Order II
    • Chapter 2. Structure Preserving Transformation. 51-83.
    • Chapter 7. The Fundamental Differentiating Process. 203-227.
  • The Nature of Order I
    • Prologue 1-4 (about being an "independent thinker")
    • Chapter 2. Degrees of life. Choosing from pairs of photos, which is more alive.
    • Chapter 5. 15 fundamental principles. 143-242
  • A Pattern Language
    • Using This Book ix-xliv
    • some selected patterns... (compare with Susan Saranka)

Handbook


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