Quora answer: What is an autodidact?

Apr 08 2013

Autodidact = One who teaches themselves and thus learns from themselves on their own. Fundamentally it means self-motivated, self-directed learning and self-organized learning.

Now what I intend to do here is connect Self-Teaching and Self-Learning with Self-organization and especially as related to what I call Special Systems Theory. In effect I have a broader theory that I intend to bring to bear on this subject, and in that why hopefully shed more light on it than might normally be possible if we consider it a topic on its own.

Basically we are going to consider autodidacticism in the light of Reflexive Autopoietic Dissipative Ordering Special Systems theory.

We can do this because Self-Learning and Self-Teaching, i.e. when a person acts as their own teacher and the learner pursuing knowledge under their own steam, has direct links to self-organization and autopoiesis which means self-production. And it is also clearly a reflexive practice where one person is both teacher and learner at the same time or serially.

I have an interest in this because I am mostly self-taught. And the reason one has to be self-taught is that it is easy to get out beyond where anyone else is that might be your teacher, in other words if you are exploring new ground within the tradition then you will end up an autodidact sooner or later.

This does not mean I eschew education, and in fact I have two Ph.Ds to show that I think studying in educational institutions is worth while. But they have severe limitations and basically if you want to learn anything deeply you have to do it yourself.

I have already written answers that talk about Bateson’s meta-levels of learning, and even extended that to the meta-levels of teaching. So we won’t go into that again here but that is an important part of the discussion.

Rather we will apply Special Systems Theory to understand the nature of the autodidacticism and the reflexive relation between self-teaching and self-learning within the context of the broader theory.

If you want to know more about the theory itself see Reflexive Autopoietic Dissipative Special Systems Theory at http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer.

So let us begin as we must looking at the various levels of mirrors that appear in the Hyper Complex Algebras. There is a single mirror, and then two mirrors facing each other, then three mirrors facing each other in a triangular form, and then four mirrors facing each other in a tetrahedral form, these are related to the Real, Complex, Quaternion, and Octonion Hypercomplex algebras. And beyond that there is no more regular combination of mirrors we either have warped mirrors that are joined or we have separated mirrors at various angles in space, but there is no pentahedral mirroring structure that is regular which is in fact quite surprising, but in terms of the Hypercomplex algebras there is the Sedenion and an infinite series expanding like Pascal’s triangle of weak algebras which have lost most of the strong properties we associate with the Hyper complex algebras or the real and complex algebras whose properties are almost the same.

We establish this theoretical system from algebra so that we can climb into it and see what its implications are for autodidacticism. However we must keep in mind at the same time that what is sought in autodidacticism is knowledge, and knowledge is sought because in experience it is like gold, which does not rust but remains pure, in as much as knowledge has perdurance, i.e. it stays with us longer than anything else in our experience. And we must be aware as stated in other recent answers that Aristotle’s kinds of knowledge are nous, sophos, epsteme, techne, phronesis, metis which are equal to the various sections of Plato’s Divided Line which breaks Ration and Doxa each into two parts, and provides us with the limits of the Supra-rational and the Para-doxical. The divided line is the fundamental structure of the Western worldview which we have all inherited and embody in our experience of our world everyday. So the types of knowledge are many, and they span the spectrum of our experience. But knowledge itself is persistent, more persistent than anything else in our everchanging experience of our world.

So first we should talk about Adrian Bijan’s [http://www.mems.duke.edu/fds/pratt/MEMS/faculty/abejan] Constructal Law http://www.constructal.org/  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructal_theory].

The constructal law was stated by Bejan in 1996 as follows: “For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.”

For a more detailed account see  also http://www.constructal.org/en/art/The%20constructal%20law%20and%20the%20thermodynamics%20of%20flow%20systems%20with%20configuration.pdf


Basically what Bejan is saying is that we can rethink thermodynamics and see it in terms of the design configurations produced by flows, and see that flows that remain viable over time produce either greater areas, greater volume, or they increase their performance in some way. The basic message is that viability in flow produces design in materials that maximize efficiency or effectiveness or coverage in terms of surface area or mass of the flow. This usually results in trees and the example that he gives all the time are the bronchia and their effectiveness optimization of area of the lung surface verses blood and air flows verses performance of absorption of oxygen into the blood stream. The Bronchia is an optimized architecture that is the results of flows that just naturally falls out as an optimal design based on the continuing viability of the organism and the optimization of these flows over the organisms development.

So if we take this basic constructal principle and apply it to knowledge acquisition then we can recognize that for a learner to be effective at learning they must also be efficient, which is to say both at the same time, which is called Efficacious. The flow we are dealing with is the processing of suchness, facts, theories, paradigms, epistemes, ontoi, existences and absolutes. In other words there are not just different kinds of knowledge traditionally recognized within our worldview but also different emergent levels of processing of configurations of eventities associated with knowledge at various scopes that are necessary for the flow of knowledge acquisition to remain viable. Thus if we want the flow of knowledge acquisition to remain viable there must be optimization of area, volume, or performance (efficaciousness). When we realize this, then we see that Academia is designed specifically to limit this construcal flow of knowledge in specific ways in the guise of increasing it. For instance specialization cuts up knowledge in to patches and demands depth in the specialty instead of breadth. So Academia limits surface area covered by a given scholar. Academia sets up blocks to the productivity of scholars, by giving them service, administration, grading, office hours, and other non-scholarly tasks and thus limits volume that they can produce. Academia has a model that the lowest common denominator rules and thus has peer-reviewed journals publication in which is essential for promotion, but by this means they make scholars rewrite papers over and over until they are acceptable to anonymous reviewers, and thus cuts down on performance of researchers. Or another ruse is to hamstring scholars in departmental politics, which if they do not play properly has extremely adverse consequences, and thus deflects a lot of energy into the political realm from scholarship. All these and more are the ways that Academia is set up to hinder the spread, or volume, or performance of scholars. Part of that inefficiency is that scholars are thought primarily of as teachers and must spend a lot of their time teaching others, which is good for both the teacher and student but does not contribute much to scholarly output. However, if some in academia did not take teaching seriously there would be no future scholars, and so this particular drag on productivity is actually a boon in other ways. Another Boon is in teaching you learn things you did not know you knew, or you get new insights explaining things to others that you would not have had on your own. So there are many positive side effects to teaching, but I am not sure that it compensates for the time spent reading and grading student papers. Academia acts as a vast filtering system for society, and establishes educational rank that may have ramifications in the careers  of students who do or do not pass their courses and get degrees. We are all aware of the limitations and the benefits of educational institutions so it is not worthwhile to dwell on that here beyond what we have mentioned.

But if we were to follow Bijan’s constructal law to its utmost we would instead of putting roadblocks in the way of scholars instead we would attempt to increase volume, area, or performance of the scholar’s work of transforming raw materials produced by the tradition such as those already mentioned by thinking of them as being transformed along the spectrum from givens, data, information, knowledge, wisdom, insight, to realization and beyond. The first set of emergent levels are those associated with society, and this second set of transforms are those associated with the comprehension of the individual. The individual must take what is available in the tradition and transform it into something that makes sense to them and hopefully in the process create new knowledge. The individual sets up this flow by identifying a problematic, and then pursuing the exploration of that problematic as an intellectual adventure via their own dialectical engagement with the materials offered by the tradition. In that process the scholar is remaking the tradition and himself at the same time.

Now it just so happened that I by accident in my career as a postgraduate had the opportunity to experience the full articulation of the constructal flow in scholarship, which I think is actually fairly rare. I went to England and did a Ph.D. there is sociology. Not thinking I had a chance of finishing the degree I decided to make the absolute most of the opportunity I had to study in Senate House and the British Museum any book or subject that caught my fancy. And so I applied a simple rule, after establishing a wide topic that could be interpreted broadly to cover where ever I ended up but which at the same time gave me a very good problematic. My problematic was the nature of Emergence in the Western Scientific tradition. My Ph.D. title was The Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence. Once this basic direction was set I applied my rule which was read the most fascinating book I could find on the most interesting subject to me at the moment, and then use what I learned from that to find the next most fascinating book regardless of its subject area. So I set about reading everything I could within the tradition that impinged on my subject, and that basically took me to almost every relevant subject at one time or another. And this resulted in an almost pure application of the Bijan constructal theory. First of all in terms of area I covered many many different subjects delving into each as deeply as need be for the necessary understanding and over time returning to the same subjects over and over again deepening my understanding continually of various subjects. In terms of Flow that was measured by the number of books and articles read, the number of diagrams, notes and working papers done. However, in those nine years most of it was spent reading, and only at the end did I immerse myself in writing. So volume was measured first by the amount of books digested and then later the number of working papers produced. Performance in terms of efficiency or effectiveness was low in the sense that since I did not think it was possible for me to pass the course, I took my time and did a lot of thinking, discussing with colleagues, and pursuing the academic life of the student to the fullest extent, which in the middle of London included participation in as many cultural and aesthetic events as possible. So I went to museums over and over, for instance walking though the British museum by a different path almost every day. Long walks on the  Hampstead Heath in parks all throughout London. You can walk from Highgate all the way to Kew Gardens almost completely though parks, and I would do that regularly. I sat in on classes and lectures at the various colleges in London. I went to Cambridge and Oxford to explore on a regular basis. And generally I took my intellectual and cultural life afforded by living in London and going to University of London very seriously. I would say that I was not particularly trying to be effective or efficient but considered this a time of playfulness in the intellectual and cultural arena. For instance, I watched hundreds of movies from all over the world. With the National Film theater across the bridge from LSE this was fairly easy.

In the end I was encouraged to bring my studies to an end and so I stopped reading and started writing and in that time I produced more than 1000 pages of working papers, and finally a four hundred or so 488 page Dissertation including bibliography that had about 800 relevant books in it. Eventually I passed my orals with this dissertation and was awarded the degree. When I finished my advisor said “Now you have a general education, and you can go on to your real academic work.” If seven or so years reading in the British museum is a general education, then I wonder what kind of education others are getting. But regardless I found that there was no call for sociologists of any kind on my return home because the discipline had collapsed while I was away, and so I became a software and systems engineer in industry instead of an academic. But I continued my research vigorously and eventually did another Ph.D. in Systems Engineering this time at an Australian school, which I also enjoyed greatly. And because their system is similar to that of England I basically did the same thing again, only this time I started writing from the beginning, and wrote working papers throughout my studies so as to capture my ideas and their development better along the way. The second time around I was more interested in production of working papers and read to support my writing rather than the other way around. I also was more efficient and effective because I had been through it before, and also I could afford to buy the books that were important for my studies now, and also I was more focused on the goal of finishing, rather than taking it as an endless summer as I had previously.

Overtime I extended my bibliography many times what it was after the LSE experience, and I also wrote many books long and short as well as many working papers as I did my research, and much of this is available on my various websites.

But in this whole process I think I learned a lot about the Constructal nature of being an autodidact. I think of my life as an intellectual adventure, which has been very fruitful in the depth of the speculative theories I have ended up producing. The intellectual adventure is the flow. I am a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary researcher and thus the area of my studies being extremely wide expresses the optimization of the flow across the intellectual and cultural landscape. In terms of volume the number of books I have read and the papers I have written is quite large, and so volume is very great over thirty years or so. But we are here actually to talk about autodidactic performance. What is it that enhances autodidactic performance? Because by my own standards my performance is quite good, even though others are sometimes critical. I view performance by only one measure which is the number of ideas produced or processed and comprehended. And by that measure my notebooks over the years show this performance as well as my papers, and for that matter my answers to diverse questions on Quora that are advertisements for my other quasi-academic works but also contributes to my further intellectual growth by confronting topics that I would not normally write about in academic or working papers because I consider my expertise as limited in some of these areas. I tend to write my actual papers in subjects where my research has been such that I consider that I have mastered the literature and have something to contribute that is not seen in the literature as yet. But here I pontificate on all sorts of things I would never presume to write articles about.

Be that as it may, lets get back to the main subject with which we started this particular excursion. And that is the application of Special Systems Theory to the teacher/taught self-learning self-organizing relations that I have learned in my quest for understanding the depths of my problematic.

When the student learns or the teacher teaches and they look out on the face of the other they are looking into a mirror, because teachers were once students, and students in the future most likely to some degree will be teachers. And so there is the Lacanian mirror stage in which the infant sees and recognizes themselves in a mirror and that leads to the explicit understanding of the self, which until them was as Demasio says implicit in every experience. But there is a higher order mirror stage in which the teacher looks out at his class and sees himself as a student long ago, or conversely when a student looks at the teacher and sees themselves as a future teacher. But it is time that separates these roles and a great deal of learning and experience in the interim.

But no matter how good your teachers are, the best thing they can do is lead you to the cutting edge of your discipline and then bade you good voyaging. But they can give you tools to help you along your way, and basically that is what good education is about, providing good tools to support scholarship. Now the tools that I learned that I think were out of the ordinary were basically two. From C.K. Warriner I learned to write working papers, and from Alfonso Verdu I learned to express complex sets of ideas of a thinker in diagrams. So with these lessons learned as an undergraduate I went off the tackle learning the Western Scientific and Philosophical Tradition as best I could, which by the way is an endless task and which I am still struggling with.

Working papers allow you to express what you know and do not know, you write them and put them away, and then when you know more you get them back out and rewrite them, and they allow you to work out the meaning of your diagrams, and extend them into learning things from writing you would not have known otherwise.

Diagrams allow you to synthesize systems of thought so that they can be taken in at a glance, analyzed, transformed, transfigured, and remembered, and communicated.

These two techniques together with a lot of hard work trying to understand difficult books that are the canon of our tradition yields the first glimmers of understanding.

Another principle I would like to state is that when one is studying a thinker one must put away ones own thought and that of other thinkers and attempt to understand the given focus of ones study in their own terms attempting to understand what they have written as they meant it to be understood. In other words we want to learn to think like the thinker we are studying as much as possible while studying them, comparison with others or critique from ones own point of view comes later. And the measure of understanding is to be able to go beyond the information, or knowledge, or wisdom, or insights or realizations given by the thinker himself.

Another principle is to read the thinker themselves first before reading the commentaries. But for primary thinkers one should read as much of the commentarial literature as possible, or as feasible given what one is trying to achieve in ones study of that thinker. For the fundamental thinkers one should read the entire commentarial literature if possible. For instance a few years ago I did that for Blake so I could understand his Four Zoas. So when I say something about Blake I do so in the context of having read almost every major commentator on his work. If thinker is key to ones thought one must pay them and the tradition that respect.

So my key teachers Warriner and Verdu gave me some very specific tools of my trade, and I took those tools and applied them to the agreed upon cannon of the Continental Philosophical Tradition with minor forays into the Analytic tradition. So basically I spent my time reading difficult and long books, diagramming them and writing working papers about their interrelations with each other that I learned as I went along. And this was very effective over time in allowing me to come to terms with the Western tradition generally. Basically I wanted to know why the phenomena of Emergence existed in the Western tradition and what it meant within that context.

So I went from a student who learned some unique techniques of scholarship from my teachers, to someone who knew the tradition based on the use of those techniques, and thus could teach others, as I am attempting to do in my written works, and in these answers on Quroa. My teaching is based on my own synthesis and synopsis of the tradition forged over many years of struggle with it. My teaching is about how to go deeply within the Western tradition to understand what is at its structural core which surprisingly is nonduality. Thus the one tradition that has pursued duality to the utmost and killed off or fought to a standoff anyone who tried to introduce the nondual for consideration turns out to have an inner kernel which is nondual that most people in the tradition do not realize is there and that is because it this kernel is covered by a radical nihilism as has been said by Nietzsche and Heidegger.

But this is only considering the mirror that the teacher is for the student and the student is for the teacher. But there are other levels that we will enumerate as follows:

Learning to Learn to Learn to Learn to Learn – Ultra Knowledge
·   Meta-system
Learning to Learn to Learn to Learn – Wild Knowledge
·   Reflexive Social Special System – four mirrors
Learning to Learn to Learn – Hyper Knowledge
Autopoietic Symbiotic Special System – three mirrors
·   Learning to Learn – Process Knowledge
Dissipative Ordering Special System – two mirrors
·   Learning – Pure Knowledge
System – one mirror seen by student or teacher but not both at the same time.
·       Experience in the lifeworld with what one knows at a given time.

Here we consider the learning to be striated and the teaching to be unstriated. So teaching is unified while learning is discontinuously emergent.

So lets start walking up this ladder to nowhere, i.e. to existence as empty or void.

The Academic System gives the teacher a mirror in his students and the students a mirror in their teacher, but not at the same time. Each looking into their separate mirrors, in the other, allows learning to take place and gives us pure knowledge. That is to say the students think that the knowledge derived from what is taught was some how written in stone merely to be memorized by earlier generations of scholars via an objective method that yielded perfect knowledge such as you find synthesized in any text-book. The teacher teaches from the text-book containing the knowledge pre-digested, and the students memorize what is in the textbook augmented by the lectures, and then the teacher tests the student, because the knowledge thus attained is an objective measure of the student’s performance and intrinsic worth. Good students do not question what is being taught, and good teachers teach by the book and do not deviate from the established curriculum. And so it goes on each generation testing the next generation and acting as a living filter for excellence in the students for learning matched by the excellence in teaching by the teacher. OK, all this is a fantasy, but it is based on this fantasy that each generation is tested and filtered by the previous generation as if any of that actually mattered. Learning by rote, teaching by the book – these do not really yield knowledge except of the most superficial type.

Next we enter the Dissipative Ordering Special System described by Prigogine. In this situation we have Progress, apparent or real where Knowledge is advanced. A dissipative structure re-orders its environment with an expanding wave of negative entropy. Here we get schools of thought articulated and vying with each other for dominance. But from the point of view of the student it is as if they were caught between two mirrors and the knowledge were seen as the infinitely ramifying series of representations that appear in the mirrors. Here suddenly teacher and taught become unified, and the roots of auto-didacticism begins. Here we find learning to learn to be the rule, i.e. we continually are learning new ways of learning as Bateson says. Sitting in ones Barber chair one sees an infinitely ramifying set of images unfold in a virtual space within the mirroring in which representations give rise to other representations endlessly. Each generation of scholars writes books that are read and these lead to new books being written. Earlier scholars have ideas that are picked up transformed into new ideas, and among these are “memes” that are the equivalent of mini-ideologies that serve as the basis of schools of thought all with their adherents. What ideologies you pick up is based on the prejudices and insights of ones teachers, and ones own proclivities. Knowledge itself is ever expanding as scholars look in greater detail at ever so small subject matters, and experimental evidence piles up, is interpreted, and conclusions are drawn. New facts emerge, and new theories are proposed, new paradigms are embraced with their inherent assumptions that make some things more clear and other things more obscure. Epistemes are established that are fundamental sources of categorization, and occasionally we get a new interpretation of the absurdity of Being, or new glimpses at the underlying substrata of existence beyond our illusions, or hints of other absolutes to be pursued.

Man as the one who teaches himself and is taught by himself stands between the mirror of the future and the mirror of the past, and all the representations that ramify between future and past as progress occurs are images of man himself who inhabits the interstice which is the current period within the evolution of the scientific community. The scholar realizes that knowledge evolves and is somewhat fragile, and takes on some of the characteristics of a witch hunt, i.e. of self-fulfilling prophecies which drive the evolution of thought. Suddenly there is old knowledge and new knowledge and god help anyone who embraces new knowledge too soon, or creates it, or who hangs on to old knowledge too late. Here the negative image of the auto-didact is realized where everything is the image of oneself, and one merely feeds the expansion of that image of Man himself who is the teacher of himself and the one who learns from himself, and everything is a closed circulation of the same information merely reprocessed over and over again. The illusion of progress is very strong, but the reality of progress is even stronger. The winners write the history. Those who pass the test, in turn make up the next set of tests. Everywhere we look all we see is ourselves in various guises.

The image of this level from Plato is the Republic, i.e. hell on earth. Socrates has gone down to Piraeus to see the advent of a new goddess entering the city. Emergent events are self generated and then we see them as coming from the outside and as something new replacing the old Gods as objects of veneration.

At the next level is where the true auto-didact appears along the analogy of the autopoietic system, i.e. the system that is self-producing and thus self-organizing. The image of self-organization is knots that are organized against themselves, provide resistance to themselves by their self-interference. All the various ideas that are generated in the tradition interlock at a structural level once you see that they are all recapitulations of the same underlying pattern that creates a network of influences and counter influences. The Auto-didact is the one who teaches themselves the underlying patterns that are ramified throughout the various disciplines but is actually variations on the same themes. Once one realizes that the same basic ideas form the groundwork of all disciplines then stability is reached and structural models appear that allow the translation between all the disciplines, and the tradition becomes a single web, whose weaver is not the individual self-made scholar, but rather the community of scholars who make each other by their mutual recognition. Disciplines merely borrow from each other and build up the same pictures with the content of their various subject areas informed by similar ways of thinking such that all knowledge interlocks and becomes a single fabric, the motifs of which repeat endlessly.

And here the focus is on not just new techniques of learning that the student can employ, such as working papers or diagramming, but rather on the creation of those new techniques oneself. This is the level where the tools of the trade transform in our hands and new tools emerge and this forging of new tools out of old tools based on their application to the materials of our study yield genuinely new results.

In Plato this is the City of the Laws. It is inland away from the coast of foreign influences. Here the city of the tradition stabilizes, because there are only so many permutations of basic structural patterns of thought that underlie the web of the tradition. Suddenly instead of everything ramifying out of control the tradition becomes one set of repeated underlying patterns, and if you teach yourself those patterns then you have the keys by which all the doors of the labyrinth of the tradition can be unlocked. The true auto-didact is the one who can teach himself and learn these underlying patterns of thought by which the tradition itself is woven becoming at the same time the master of that tradition, and its weaver. But this is done by continually learning new techniques of learning what one has learned. The tradition is one web or network of fundamental ideas and approaches seems everywhere, but that is based on ones own continuing to sharpen ones tools of scholarship and the creation of new ones that delve deeper into the underpinnings of the tradition itself. That tradition is wracked by emergent events of various scales and scopes, but even these emergent events are merely the same thing occurring again and again, which is what is happening here, that is the combination of the kinds of Being in a new face of the world. The teacher who teaches themselves new tricks in order to keep up with the emergence within the worldview of new theories, paradigms, epistemes, ontoi, existences, and absolutes, and who sees the same process occurring everywhere, i.e. emergence appearing as too light on the too dark of nihilism within the tradition, has obtained the keys to the kingdom so to speak, and those keys and their locks are constantly changing, but in that change there is an abiding and perdurance that is unexpected given the drastic differences produced by emergence, and the unbearable sameness produced by nihilism. At this level the number of real differences that make a difference are few and extremely few, but they are genuine differences that give the tradition new life from within itself. To step into that tradition completely is to know its cutting edge, to go beyond that edge and to bring back what is genuinely new contributing to the genuine advance of the tradition, rather than the apparent advances that merely turn out to be new versions of the same thing, that only appear different.

Hyper-knowledge is of course what Heidegger calls de-construction which was taken up by Derrida. It is knowledge of the changes to knowledge that in the very act of knowing changes knowledge, because change changes change within the tradition. From the time of Plato this was called the third kind of knowledge which is the type of knowledge that the Demiurge knew that allowed him to give rise to the world. And it is that kind of knowledge that Plato calls the Worldsoul which is a moving image of eternity within the tradition itself, which remains the same despite continuous radical emergent change within the tradition. The deconstruction of the tradition of itself by itself is real. In that reconstruction the Phoenix arises from its own ashes. In the city of the Laws (NOMOS) the seemingly random emergences of new gods and foreign influences turns out to be in fact a meta-stability, and the city prospers because it has self-imposed laws, that are right, and maintain the good, and establish that the city has a shared fate. This is a vision of the city of knowledge similar to that created by Herman Hesse in his Glass Bead Game, in which understanding the tradition of the history of culture and ideas was a great game in which there were only so many moves available because actually the genuine emergences were few, and the structural underpinnings of the whole tradition were understood so that one might play a sort of intellectual chess by manipulating the structural permutations of the ideas within that history. This is the view that the intellectual tradition of the West is much like the Catholic church in which a few structural permutations play out in the dialectic between heresy and dogma. Even though there is a teleonomy (Monod) to the development of dogma in the face of heresy there is still only one universal church who is the body of Christ and that holds within it the holy spirit embodied on earth doing the will of God the Father. What the Catholic Church and its protestant images are to ungrounded belief, science is to representations and empirically grounded opinion, i.e. the central parts of the Divided line. What they both share is the impossibility of reaching the non-representable intelligibles that they share and what makes them two faces of the same tradition. Hesse’s academic monks studying the history of the western tradition and playing their game was giving a picture of the absolute reason working itself out in the tradition. Given Aristotle’s metaphysics that affirms non-contradiction and the excluded middle, there are only so many permutations of the basic structural concepts underlying the tradition, and when those are exhausted in their combinatorics then only genuine emergence can reset nihilism and start the cycle over again by contributing something genuinely new, which is really merely as Dreyfus says taking something marginal and making it central and taking what is central and making it marginal. Once the game has played out we merely change the rules, and as Anthony Wilden says The Rules are no Game.

Auto-didacticism in this context is merely understanding the basic game being played within the tradition and the mechanism by which the rules change. This is not a rote understanding but a realization of how to create new tools for learning and new techniques for comprehending the tradition so that one may stay in tune with the self-transformations of the tradition itself, out of its own structural underpinnings. At this point one realizes that there are only a few books in the whole tradition that matter and they are the canonized books because in their time they were the fundamental game changers. The ideas they brought merely spread though the tradition establishing the new norm before the next fundamental change occurs that takes the tradition by storm, but in this transformation the fundamental structures of the tradition do not change because it is those structures like the dialectic of emergence and nihilism itself that make those radical changes possible.

The triangular configuration of mirrors produces in the virtual realm a series of hexagonal cells, like the cells of a beehive. That is a stable standing wave pattern within which all the changes within those virtual realms occur.

The true auto-didact is learning what the tradition itself has to teach. The Tradition is self-organizing and re-organizing itself based on basic principles, it is establishing for itself principles and then breaking those principles to establish new ones on a continuing basis. The Tradition is teaching itself by learning about itself at deeper and deeper levels of comprehension and profundity, and the true auto-didact is merely learning from that fundamental transformative movement at the structural level within the tradition. The tradition learns from the auto-didact as new techniques for learning are created. The auto-didact learns from the tradition as it structurally transforms itself though emergent events on the background of nihilism it produces thus producing radically new contexts for learning while at the same time remaining fundamentally the same.

At the next level one is moving into the reflexive level where the auto-didact must recognize the Other in order to be self-conscious and know himself. At each meta-level of learning we approach more closely to absolute emergence. Here we reach the place where the auto-didact cannot go any further without recognizing the other as Other, in order to know himself. We suddenly leave the realm of Kant and enter the realm of Hegel which is a fundamental transformation within the tradition. Here the auto-didact becomes reflexively aware of himself, as one of the Names that the tradition revolves around. There is a community of the canonical names within the tradition, and there is a conversation over time between these names of the fathers (and mothers) of the Tradition. And at the reflexive level one becomes oneself one of those Names that father the tradition. Of course, there is a lot of Lacanian Ink to be spilled over this in true Zizekian style as we reduce Lacan and all the other Continental Philosophers of recent vintage to Hegel and ultimately to the Kant of the third critique, at least as far as Bernstein is concerned. Note the “Names” in the last sentence. We are assuming one has read and knows what these figures have said and we are allowing them speculatively in our mind to converse with each other and we are taking up that conversation ourselves and playing  key role of bringing the conversants across time together to discuss in our dialectical investigation the nature of the worldview itself. We are not merely mimicking their positions, or twisting them to our own ends but hearing their own voices within the ultimate conversation that is taking place in the tradition and we are participating in that conversation ourselves.

The image of this emergent level of the tradition knowing itself is that of Atlantis, the great sea power that fought ancient Athens (which looks very much like the Republic). At this level we are part of a tradition that is a dominant world power and whose language everyone wants to know in order to be heard themselves. But this is also the level at which language is no longer a barrier because they are all Indo-European languages in which the tradition was forged. At the reflexive level we are having a genuine conversation across time and space and language barriers with other thinkers from the past and perhaps from the future. This is because in Old English there are only two tenses Complete (Peterite) and Incomplete, and past and future are both images of the Peterite these one projected backward and the other projected forward, but representing in both cases the OrLog, the sedimentation of the tradition which is based on its fatedness. At this level the Auto-Didact takes up the conversation between the Canonical names of the Fathers himself and participates in it actively. And so there is a sense in which they animate him, and another sense in which they are animated by him. And this conversation informs the conversation with the contemporaries, while the conversation with the contemporaries informs the conversation among the Canonical Figures which stand in as the Names of the Father. In a sense we are that self-conscious conversation of spirit across history and nothing else. But if we do not know what the others would say based on their canonical writings then we cannot participate in that conversation, nor can we contribute ourselves. So we have to know the tradition in order to truly be a part of it. And how many of us have gotten into that situation. Very few. Mostly those who have gotten into that position are those who have completely in their own way internalized the conversation of the tradition, and attempted to advance the agenda of that dialogue by bringing back from the cutting edge what is genuinely emergent for our tradition. Atlantis is the fantasy empire in the midst of the sea, at war with the Republic (ancient Athens). Today we belong to this fantasy empire set in the Atlantic Ocean beyond the pillars of Hercules called America whose empire supports the neo-colonial policies of corporatist globalization. But because of this sustained Imperialism of the European powers and the shift of economic if not cultural power to America the internal conversation among the canonical names within the tradition becomes a global conversation of interest to everyone as Absolute Reason plays itself out globally and Absolute Spirit encompasses all the people of the earth as our Manifest Destiny to bring Corporatism to the whole earth and its inhabitants (now shareholders, customers, and employees) and its resources to be exploited.

As Zizek explains parodying Lacan and at the same time making him comprehensible perhaps for the first time as the anti-Derrida, the names of the Father are signifers of empty placeholders within the series of signifiers. So when we refer to the name we are referring to the displaced (differing and deferring) signification of the works of those thinkers within the tradition, and what has become infinite are the interpretations of the terms used by those canonical figures. But all the interpretations taken together as the set of existing commentaries merely work out the structural possibilities for interpreting each name within the successive contexts of the history of the tradition. So the works plus the commentaries, plus the biography and the history of the times of the canonical figure together constitute the voice of that figure, but still it remains an empty floating signifier, a name of the father, by which we communicate by bringing these figures into dialog with each other virtually via our own internal conversation in our thoughts. At the reflexive level which is social this group of canonical figures form their own community which is the tip of the iceberg of the work of myriad scholars over the centuries that has served to focus the problematic to be addressed in this dialectical discourse. We stage the Platonic discourses in our own thought-stream and the discussion across time and into the future is lively and engaging, and at this level the auto-didact has found his true peers. He appears with them in their symposium. He gets his own name as the facilitator of their continuing conversation. And thus we find our home within our tradition and our own voice among the canonical voices.

Wild knowledge is not to think outside of the box but to think where there were no boxes in the first place prior to the imposition of all our conceptual boxes.

But there is a final layer, which is the meta-system within which the Western Tradition as dominant operates. That is the environment of world intellectual history. It turns out that the most sophisticated thoughts were had elsewhere already and that we are still striving to attain what others in other traditions have already attained previously. When we put the Western tradition into the context of India and China and their traditions and we understand our tradition in relation to those then we begin the true dialogue with the Other, not just as another voice within our own tradition, but in a higher order conversation between intellectual traditions. This does not really occur as long as we are embroiled in Orientalism, i.e. as long as we are projecting our ideas on the other cultures and civilizations and their intellectual traditions. At this highest-level conversation is where we find the themes of nonduality verses duality and we recognize that different civilizations have encountered and responded to the nondual in various different ways. How we handle dualism in relation to nonduality within our tradition is the future of this conversation among civilizations. If we can overcome the clash of cavitation’s then we have a lot to learn from other civilizations that were more sophisticated than ours in the past. We are barbarians and newcomers to dominance, and many have held that position before only to lose it. Our fate as a civilization and the fate of the earth and all the species on the earth hinge on our self-understanding and we cannot understand ourselves without an other, and our other must be other unrelated global civilizations. The conversation among civilizations over ultimates holds the fate of our species and all other species in the balance. And the auto-didact at this point has entered the sea itself from which Atlantis claims power prior to the cataclysm. The sea of the ebb and flow of civilization and intellectual traditions across the globe is vast. Our dominance has lasted for such a short time. Yet if Earth ends up like Venus then there may not be any other civilization after the first global empire. So it behooves us to listen carefully what those other civilizations have to teach us. The auto-didact at this level is taught by the conversation among thinkers from diverse civilizations some way more sophisticated than our own. This auto-didact speaks these voices of the other and indicates the Homeward path. It is the path by which the most virulent of destructive civilization in the slumber of dualism and nihilism can wake up and make non-nihilistic distinctions necessary to avoid global destruction and save itself and all others from its own environmental suicidal terrorism. It is the path by which the most ardent and vehement of the dualistic civilizations recognizes the necessity of the nondual kernel of its own tradition beyond the generative core that produces the meta-nihilism of the duality of nihilism (too dark) and emergence (too bright). Meta-emergence is the advent of the novum of nonduality out of the kernel of the Western worldview itself. The voices of the other worldviews are their sages that speak with a nondual voice and teach how to make non-nihilistic distinctions. We have put to death those in our tradition that spoke to us with such a voice which is not tied to the permutation of structural opposites underlying the tradition and out of whom the tradition is built-in a random walk though the combinatorics. Those speaking from that unexpected direction that has no from or to in our own tradition are few but we will mention Meister Eckhart as a rare exception to the rule of the Inquisition (he died before they could reach him).

Ultra Knowledge is the knowledge of the singularity of the arising of nonduality within the Western tradition, which will be the most radical change yet to this tradition, which other traditions have undergone and survived. The problem is that if we do not undergo this meta-emergent event we may not survive as a civilization, let alone as a species, let alone helping other species to survive, let alone letting the earth survive its heat death and its transformation into a sister planet with Venus. Methane stores at the bottom of the Arctic ocean are already starting to vent.

 

http://www.quora.com/What-is-an-autodidact

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