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Notes

On Teaching Critical Thinking
I believe that the problem is not what is taught in schools, but how it is taught. It is not enough to simply offer curriculum about the ills of racism, homophobia, or bullying, and then expect lasting results from students who are entrenched in cultural beliefs that are reinforced by society. How can it be a surprise that a number of Americans lean toward authoritarian ideals when, according to Marzano Learning Sciences Center, an educational consulting and research group located in West Palm Beach, Florida, 58 percent of class time in K-12 schools is used for lecture with the teacher delivering content? Or that a number of Americans choose to ignore facts and reason when only 6 percent of class time is used for cognitively complex tasks? In a 2012 Center for American Progress student survey, one third of American 12th-graders said they engaged in class discussions only two times a month or less, suggesting that the majority of 17- and 18-year-old American public-school students (young adults coming upon voting age) rarely spend time engaging in dialogue during the school day. The current state of American politics is not surprising when the country’s youngest citizens are given few opportunities to engage in critical thinking and discussion. In order to counteract these trends, it is essential for educators to provide exploratory opportunities for students to not only think about the experiences of other people, but to also challenge their own inherent belief systems through experiential learning.

"Can Morality Be Taught?" - http://theatln.tc/2cXUKst

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On Lo and Behold
I deeply regret the fact that deep critical thinking and imaginative thinking, creative thinking, is lost. In my opinion computers, and in some sense the internet, are the worst enemy of deep critical thinking. Youth of today are using machines to basically replace their examination of the things they are observing. They don’t understand what they’re looking at or what they’re hearing, or what they’re learning. They depend upon the internet to tell them and decipher it. They look at numbers instead of ideas. They fail to understand concepts and this is a problem... Whether we use science or ancient Greek or philosophy, it’s those tools that are important. Those are the things that people are going to be able to use in the future. The actual information that we learn in school won’t be important. Because it will be dwarfed by the information that’s coming out on the internet every single day.
— Chapter IX. The Internet of Me

Werner Herzog, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World - http://www.loandbeholdfilm.com. This is an interesting commentary on digital life today by a masterful documentary film maker. This chapter in the film focuses on the need to rethink education, shifting it to analytical and critical thinking skills. 

timothywstanley@me.com
On Gutenberg
And so, though he had not invented movable type, if Gutenberg is to be credited with anything it must be that he made it work—that aided by the comparatively economical Latin alphabet he systematically tackled each aspect of a finicky, delicate process until he had perfected it. If calligraphic ink did not meet his needs, he would look elsewhere; if embossed characters were too costly to cut individually, he would find a way to produce them in bulk; and if a firm hand was necessary to get the best impression of the printed page, he would choose tools and materials that could withstand that pressure. Johannes Gutenberg was not the father of printing so much as its midwife.

Keith Houstan, "The Prints and the Pauper" - http://ilovetypography.com/?p=19968

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On Bayle's Tolerance
It is easy to see why many of Bayle’s readers thought that he was only pretending to believe in God. Could such a merciless critic of religious reasoning really have been pious in private, or was he feigning faith? It is impossible to tell. Besides, there is a third possibility. Perhaps sometimes he believed, and sometimes he didn’t. One reason why he was such a peerless dialectician is that he was good at seeing both sides of an argument. Intellectual modesty was the virtue that Bayle preached most often, which is why he was held up as a hero by the 18th-century philosophes... However, if any set of values counts as typical of the Enlightenment, they are tolerance, intellectual caution, the questioning of authority and the disentangling of morality from religion. If anyone deserves credit for promoting these values with unparalleled vigour, it is Pierre Bayle. It is a pity that he turned out not to be immortal, because the battle for them can hardly be described as won.

"The Tolerant Philosopher: Why Pierre Bayle is the Forgotten Figure of the Enlightenment" - http://www.newstatesman.com/node/303786

timothywstanley@me.com
On Occam's Razor
Occam’s razor was never meant for paring nature down to some beautiful, parsimonious core of truth. Because science is so difficult and messy, the allure of a philosophical tool for clearing a path or pruning the thickets is obvious. In their readiness to find spurious applications of Occam’s razor in the history of science, or to enlist, dismiss, or reshape the razor at will to shore up their preferences, scientists reveal their seduction by this vision. But they should resist it. The value of keeping assumptions to a minimum is cognitive, not ontological: It helps you to think. A theory is not ‘better’ if it is simpler—but it might well be more useful, and that counts for much more.

"The Tyranny of Simple Explanations" - http://theatln.tc/2bxsMEi. It is interesting that the closest thing to Occam's razor found in Occam's actual works is cited in this article as follows: “It is futile to do with more what can be done with fewer" (Summa Logicae, 1323).

timothywstanley@me.com
On the Talmud
Clearly, each of these scenarios is more far-fetched than the last. The rabbis are trying to save appearances, to preserve an internally incoherent law, no matter what logical contortions are required. The Gemara never does seem to settle on just one explanation for how an ox could ever become forewarned with regard to people, and the proliferation of arguments from different rabbis is a sign that perhaps no satisfying answer is available. In the attempt to make the biblical law clearer and more useful, the Talmud has instead created a new series of difficulties. This dynamic is one reason the process of interpreting and codifying Jewish law is open-ended: The Talmud is not the end of argument, but the beginning.
timothywstanley@me.com
On Goethe
Robertson’s final chapter turns to religion. Raised a Protestant, Goethe retained a soft spot for Luther’s Bible. At heightened moments he tended to recycle its phrases and imagery. Yet many of the outward manifestations of Christianity filled him with loathing. He abhorred the sight of crucifixes and the sound of church bells. By contrast, he inclined sympathetically towards Judaism and Islam, which refrain from depicting the deity in visual terms... This enduring commitment to striving, so often taken as the key to Faust’s career, is perhaps best viewed as the inevitable legacy of the Enlightenment. Its value is thrown into question by the multiple murders, brute thuggery, land-grabbing and summary evictions in which he was complicit, along with the invention of capitalism through the creation of paper money and the use of slave labour in a colonial context. Readers of The Essential Goethe may judge for themselves to what extent the early Faust foreshadows twentieth-century brutalities. If his trajectory should be followed by purification and transfiguration, that would surely be, as Gandhi is reported to have remarked of European civilization, a good idea.
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On Bonhoeffer's Anti-Judaism
On 2 July 2000, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority, deferred action on the petition to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer named a righteous gentile. My contention is that critics of this decision conceal a more pernicious difficulty that arises in Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran legacy. David Nirenberg’s recent Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, demonstrates the history and development of such categories with particular attention to Luther. What goes unnoticed is the ongoing operations of anti-Judaism in later theologians such as Bonhoeffer. Although Bonhoeffer may not have been anti-Semitic, the degree to which his theology remained bound to centuries old anti-Judaism is another matter.

Timothy Stanley, "Bonhoeffer's Anti-Judaism," Political Theology - http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10773525.2016.1187000. This is the abstract from an article I wrote for Political Theology that is now available in volume 17, issue 3. The premise is focused on Bonhoeffer, but is equally applicable to other Christian thinkers of the time, such as Barth.

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Reading Religion Review
Stanley’s Ricoeurain critique of Habermas sheds light on why this volume itself resists ‘integrating’ the diverse and at times conflicting voices that it includes. The work’s task, as Stanley notes, is neither to ‘settle’ the question of religion and the (post-)secular, nor to predict their futures. Rather, it presents a welcome invitation to wade patiently through the unsettling muddiness of the debate itself, relinquishing any imminent prospect of coming unstuck. The work addresses itself, therefore, not to a bounded ‘postsecular’ but to the uncertain space that comes ‘after secularization’ in academic theory.

Stephanie Wright, "Review of Religion after Secularisation in Australia," New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, September 2015. 256 pages. - http://readingreligion.org/books/religion-after-secularization-australia. This is a new review site hosted by the American Academy of Religion. They very perceptively reviewed this recent edited volume. 

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On Locke's Religious Self
An analytic study of the theory of religion benefits from paying close attention to the concept of the self that emerges from it. This article applies this perspective in order to explore how John Locke, the renowned seventeenth-century British philosopher and a devoted Christian, perceived religion and religiosity. By studying Locke’s prodigious writings I identify the concept of self that Locke - knowingly and unknowingly - employs when trying to untangle the issues of religion. As a result, I introduce an added dimension of inquiry into Locke’s ideas about private and social religious faith and worship.

Vered Sakal, "Two Conceptions of Religious Self in Lockean Religiosity," The Journal of Religion - http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/686565

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