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September 12th, 2009

Getting a Move On

The Parmenides Challenge

The Thomist makes the following observation:
Parmenides’s challenge to philosophy is his claim that motion and becoming are opinions as opposed to truths. Motion and becoming, according to him, are no more features of the world than pain is a feature of a dental drill. We are certainly used to challenges like this: for several centuries, for example, people have insisted that colors and tastes and other “secondary qualities” are not features of the world, but some sort of by-product of our looking at it. Parmenides’s claim is more radical than ours, and also more properly metaphysical (regardless of whether it is true or not).

"I cannot be blamed...."

The Passing of the Modern Age

A fellow named Deogolwulf posts elsewhere on the Web, here copied without comment. 
He is writing about the UK. 

Some of our country’s “advanced”-level students of history have been complaining about a question which appeared in an examination: “How far do you agree that Hitler’s role 1933-45 was one of despotic tyranny?”. [1] The phrase “despotic tyranny” has caused some upset:
“[I]t is elitist . . . to assume every history student is going to have come across such a term.” [2]

“The use of the term ‘despotic tyranny’ excludes students of a lower ability.”
[3]
At least it seems that some of our “advanced” students have learnt the egalitarian ideology well, if nothing else.

“I have been offered a place at Cambridge to study English literature and I was not familiar with the word ‘despotic’ at all despite intensive revision and reading around the topic.” [4]

“I understand that to be an A level history student you need to have a wide grasp of specialised vocabulary but can i realy be blamed for never hearing the word despotic before? I have never read it, let alone had it taught to me and i was under the impression that exams should be based on a student’s knowledge of a topic not on their knowedge of a word.” [5]

One unhappy mother summed up the complaint rather well:
“This was an exam on Hitler and history . . . not on swallowing a dictionary.” [6]
Doubtless it is sometimes difficult to determine the meaning of the various usages of words and phrases. I, for instance, have trouble understanding what “advanced” means.

[1] As reported by Alexis Thompson, “History students confused by Hitler ‘despotic tyranny’ exam question”, News Shopper Online, 19th June 2009. (H/T: Laban Tall, “The Best Educated Generation in History”, UK Commentators (weblog), 26th June 2009.)
[2]-[6] “HistoryStudent”, “JohnS”, “Bexleystudent09”, “cmarie”, “Mother Sidcup”, commenting on Alexis Thompson’s report. (I have spared the reader a rash of sic-ness.)

Quote of the Day

Today's Quote, brought to you by Sir Arthur.

“The materialist who is convinced that all phenomena arise from electrons and quanta and the like controlled by mathematical formulae, must presumably hold that his wife is a rather elaborate differential equation; but he is probably tactful enough not to obtrude this opinion in domestic life.”

-- Sir Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1928), p.341.

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