Mind Course - Lecture Topics

  1. Power of Knowledge: Knowledge is power. Power derives from knowledge. The remarkable civilizational achievements of humanity have been the result of equally remarkable advances in our collective capacity for knowledge. This suggests that our persistent problems and incapacities reflect the insufficiency of present knowledge.

    Meta-questions:

    1. Why is knowledge powerful?
    2. What is the relationship between knowledge and human accomplishment?
    3. What do the achievements of modern civilization tell us about the type of knowledge we have attained?
    4. What do the problems confronting modern civilization tell us about the type of knowledge we have yet to acquire? 
  2. Types of Thinking: The way we think determines the kind of knowledge we acquire and the way we comprehend reality. Humanity has developed a variety of ways of thinking, each reflective of a particular capacity of the human mind. This suggests that our persistent problems and incapacities may reflect inherent limitations in the type of thinking on which present knowledge is founded.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What are the major types of thinking we utilize?
    2. What are the characteristics and limitations of each type?
    3. What is the relationship between thinking, definition, categorization, differentiation and organization?
    4. What do the achievements of modern civilization tell us about the effectiveness of the way we think?
    5. What do the problems confronting modern civilization tell us about the limitations in the way we think?
  3. Social & Psychological Construction of Knowledge: All knowledge is shaped and limited by explicit and implicit assumptions, attitudes, values, perspectives, opinions, beliefs of the society in which they are considered and the psychological preferences and biases of the individuals who consider it. Until Copernicus, the prevailing social belief in Europe based on church doctrine was that the earth was the center of the universe. We can only have power over that of which we are conscious. This suggests that the further development of knowledge and effective power depends on our capacity and willingness to make conscious and explicit the underlying premises and foundations on which present knowledge is founded.

    Meta-questions:

    1. In what sense can our present knowledge be considered socially-constructed?
    2. What are the underlying premises for that knowledge and how does it impact on the effectiveness of our present knowledge regarding humanity and its problems?
    3. How is our present knowledge psychologically construed?
    4. By what means can we make conscious the impact of psychological factors on the effectiveness and limitations of present knowledge?
  4. Conceptual Systems: In addition to social and psychological influences, all mental knowledge is also defined and limited by the conceptual framework in which it is viewed. Here too, very often the underlying premises and perspectives that shape a conceptual system and is contents may be implicit or even subconscious. Until Einstein, the prevailing and unquestioned assumption among scientists was that space and time are absolute. This points to the importance of making explicit and critically evaluation even the most fundamental premises on which current knowledge is based.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What are the characteristics of a conceptual system?
    2. Why is it so difficult to look beyond the boundaries of a prevailing conceptual system?
    3. What are the characteristics of the conceptual system in which present scientific knowledge is based?
    4. What fundamental premises of current knowledge may be in need of reconsideration?
  5. Creativity and Scientific Discovery: The scientific method is a methodological process for verification of hypotheses to confirm or falsify existing knowledge. Normal science focuses on the process of understanding, validating and applying existing knowledge and adding to it incrementally. Revolutionary science, as described by Kuhn, is a creative process generative of radically fresh insights and new perspectives, outside the boundaries of the prevailing conceptual framework. According to the testimony of many great scientists, it is non-rational and non-linear. A shift to a new intellectual paradigm will require a huge surge in revolutionary thinking to discover new and more effective knowledge

    Meta-questions:

    1. What is the process of creative scientific discovery?
    2. Can the capacity for creative scientific thinking be taught or consciously acquired?
    3. How does the sociology of science impact on scientific creativity?
    4. In what ways can scientific education and administration promote greater creativity?
  6. Analogy, Metaphor, Symbolism & Humor: Knowledge today is normally associated with the impartial observation and analysis of facts based on rational and logical argument supported by quantitative evidence. Yet in our collective past, most especially in non-Western cultures, the use of analogy, metaphor and symbolism were employed as powerful means for revealing subtle relationships and deeper insights that did not lend themselves to rational analysis and logical discourse. Even today humor is widely used as a means to express significances that defy rational explanation.

    Meta-questions:

    1. How are analogy, metaphor, symbolism and humor used as a means of expressing knowledge?
    2. What is the source of their effectiveness?
    3. What are their limitations?
    4. How might they be utilized to further the advancement of knowledge today?
  7. Objectivity & Subjectivity: Modern science was founded as the quest for impartial, objective knowledge of the external, physical domain of reality, which was gradually extended to the study of living organisms and eventually to the study of the human sciences. By this process, the domain of human psychological perception and experience came to be considered subjective and accessible to scientific inquiry only in terms of its objective external manifestations or merely epiphenomena to be understood solely in objective terms.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What is the meaning of the terms objectivity and subjectivity?
    2. What is the relationship between objective and subjective ways of knowing?
    3. In what way has the emphasis on objective knowledge impacted the development of the human sciences?
    4. Is there a legitimate place for subjective experience in our knowledge of reality?
    5. What are the prevailing scientific assumptions regarding the foundations and limitations of subjective experience?
    6. What are the limitations of objective and subjective ways of knowing?
    7. Is there any way to reconcile and integrate these two dimensions?
  8. Deep Thinking and Paradigm Change: William Byers uses the term deep thinking to refer to creative mental processes that make it possible to transcend the limitations of an existing conceptual framework and discover wider or alternative perspectives that reconcile disparate or contradictory elements.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What do we mean by paradigm change?
    2. By what mental processes can a change in paradigm be achieved?
    3. What is the role of ambiguity, conflict, paradox and contradiction in creative thinking and paradigm change?
  9. Integration of Knowledge: All seeking for knowledge eventually moves toward integration of the component elements within a comprehensive, coherent framework. The greatest conceptual discoveries in science have integrated and unified knowledge regarding phenomena that appeared to be unrelated or even contradictory. Today we witness unprecedented progress in the integration of knowledge in the physical sciences and serious efforts for integration in the biological sciences, but integration in the social sciences remains an exception.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What is the relationship between analytic, synthetic and integrated knowledge?
    2. What faculties and mental processes are involved in the integration of knowledge?
    3. What is the role of inter-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research and education in the integration of knowledge?
    4. Why haven’t the social sciences been able to achieve levels of integration prevalent in the natural sciences?
  10. The Faculties of Mind and their Relationship to the Brain: Thinking is only one of the many faculties that support the acquisition and application of knowledge. This session will explore the full range of mental faculties, their interactions and relationship with each other. The relationship between mind and brain has been a subject of intense debate, philosophical discussion and scientific research.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What are the faculties of mind?
    2. How is the functioning of these faculties organized and integrated?
    3. What is the relationship between mind and ego?
    4. What insights has neuroscience revealed regarding the relationship between mental consciousness and the physical brain?
    5. What is the relationship between thinking and computer algorithms?
  11. Deep Learning: Information can be taught. Thinking can only be learned. This session will explore relationship between education, learning and creative thinking

    Meta-questions:

    1. Is there a difference between the information passively acquired from a teacher and the knowledge acquired by active learning and independent thinking?
    2. What is the role and contribution of education to learning how to think?
    3. How should education deal with uncertainty, ambiguity, unresolved contradictions and paradoxes?
    4. How can our educational system foster the development of creative thinking?
    5. What is deep thinking and how can it be fostered through education?
  12. Limits to Rationality: Rationality is regarded by most as the highest faculty of the thinking mind and the standard for valid knowledge. Yet irrationality is considered a common characteristic of human nature. Often what appears rational to one person or to period of time or from one perspective appears irrational from another.

    Meta-questions:

    1. What is the relationship between rationality, logic and truth?
    2. What are the factors that impede the proper exercise of rationality by the mind?
    3. What are the criteria that distinguish rational thought from other forms of cognition which attempt to mimic?
    4. In what ways does the practice of science fail to meet the criteria for rationality?
    5. Is the mind rational?
    6. Are there inherent limits to rationality as an instrument of knowledge?
  13. Ways of Knowing: Thinking is a faculty involved with the acquisition and organization of facts, information, and ideas. Many great thinkers attribute their most profound discoveries to insight and intuitive ways of knowing. This session will explore other ways of learning involved in the development of habits, skills, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, ethical principles, ideals and spiritual values and the faculties through which they are acquired.

    Meta-questions:

    1. Are there inherent limits to what can be known by mind?
    2. What are the other ways in which we seek to know reality?
    3. Are there more physical, biological, instinctive and emotional ways of knowing?
    4. Are there higher than rational ways of knowing?
    5. Is the mind evolving?

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