Friday, April 09, 2010


Sometimes I listen idly to the flow of words around me, more often truncated than not. As an educator, I realise that subjects get abbreviated — biology is 'bio', 'geography' is 'geog', chemistry is 'chem', and so on.

But sometimes, this truncation is a state of mind. Some of these young people are actually studying bio, not biology. What is in their heads is more akin to bios, just the things of life itself, without the accompanying logos or conceptual structure.

Sometimes, this happens with the best of intentions. Modern history is taught in part through skill-based learning. Sources are given, the task is to evaluate them and determine their relative credibility and come to some conclusions — acts of an historian. Yet, at the same time, we mustn't neglect the big sweep of things, the river within which these are molecules and droplets.

We all know stuff in different ways. There are things like functional knowledge, technical knowledge, academic knowledge — they serve different needs and fill different cognitive niches. You can know 'how to' (in theory or practice), you can know 'what is' (in the affirmative or negative) — knowledge is an answer to something that needs an answer.

And how to obtain knowledge is one of the knowledge-handling skills, just as 'how to disseminate it', 'how to construct it', an 'how to validate it' also are. We need the knowledge of things we can do with knowledge, and things we can do to knowledge, as well as the knowledge itself.

This whole matrix is joined together by the art of the connection, the weaving of tight connections between parts of knowledge. To make bigger areas of knowledge, something called a logic must be used to connect smaller bits up. When you have connected enough parts up, 'bio' becomes biology.

It's a pity about 'astrology' though. Haha.

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Blogger xylph said...

For the longest time I have been wondering why chemistry and physics don't have the 'logos' element.
Is there something more to it than just etymology? (Like, I know chemistry has Arabic root yada yada)

Friday, April 09, 2010 7:25:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

Yoss: the older disciplines use non-systematic words; technically, the systematic forms of inquiry at that time were 'natural philosophy' and 'natural history'. The former dealt with abstract and logical constructs, the latter dealt with things like zoology and geology. The late 17th to 19th century period (especially the Victorian era that ended in the very early 20th century) saw an upsurge of classical language nomenclature in Greek and Latin roots.

Friday, April 09, 2010 11:46:00 pm  

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