Thursday, May 08, 2008

Signet Rings and Testing

I meant to write a bit yesterday but got caught up in other things. So I’m timestamping it for yesterday, Wednesday, though actually writing on Thursday.

Wednesday was an “at-home” day, which was nice. We did casual academics in the morning. We spent the afternoon dragging old bikes from the basement — the bikes the older set had when they were little, ten or more years ago — festooned with webs, inner tubes flat, some of them missing wheels or chains.

I spent a long time with the kids down by what Aidan calls “the sewer” . We live on an incline, so the best place to ride bikes is in this flat area where there is a manhole with the word “Sewer” marked on it. Aidan thinks it is very amusing to sing, “We went down to the sewer, and into the sewer we dived,” — hmm, if you don’t recognize the lyrics it’s OK. Just, I imagine the change of word probably pretty much reverses Bruce Springsteen’s meaning in the song. He also likes to sing “Sewer in the rain…. sometimes you look like a long, white train.” We are eclectic here.

I am still trying to puzzle out Kant. Why is it important that the real world be different than what we perceive with our minds? That’s the part I don’t get. I can relate to Descartes’ process of starting with what can be known, the “skeptical” project, because I went through almost exactly the same mental process just after I graduated from high school. I am finally grasping a bit the “a priori” concept — or whatever you could call it. Aristotle talks about the signet ring leaving an impress on the mind — though I don’t get quite how he gets there in the first place. So those are the two puzzling parts for me — how does Aristotle get to the objective nature of reality from where he starts; and how does Kant get to where he posits that objective reality is very different from what we make of it by our minds. I am sure these are silly questions, and besides, they are totally irrelevant to this post, except that I can’t solve it and it BOTHERS me. Poor Liam may think he is done with philosophy once the final is over, but I’m afraid not. What bothers me most is that it does not seem like a key question to Kant — why the actual things as they are, are impossible to perceive by humans. That makes me think I am just not getting what the philosophical endeavor is about. It makes more sense to me Aristotle’s presumption, if it is a presumption, that we can come to know reality by means of our senses. Sorry. But actually this is the sort of thing I spend probably too much mental energy upon, when I should be trying to figure out how to organize all these books in boxes that Kieron carried upstairs for me yesterday at a quarter per.

Paddy went down to play with his cousin yesterday, while Sean worked out with his uncle.

Aidan spent about half an hour “testing” me. First he would ask questions like, “Does Sean fall down and break his leg when he gets too close to the road, or NOT??” The other questions were even more abstruse, many were extremely long, and some of them were actually incoherent. Most had some negative element like the one I tried to paraphrase. Then he would say in a sort of aggressive voice, “Do you want to skip that one, then? All right, next one….” I finally figured out that the incoherence of the questions was actually a commentary, from his perspective. “Do you want to skip that one?” is one of the things that the school testers would say when he was puzzled by a test question. Resolve: we will never again let this drag on as long as it has this time. Memo to self: Testing does not show what it purports to show, but it reveals a lot to the testee about many things that aren’t on the test. Aidan has not tested “well” but he is no fool, judging from this dialogue yesterday. He gets what is going on behind the courtesy and offering of choices and accommodations, and his response is quite insightful.