Here are some comments I left, on 9Jan2023, to the YouTube video of the episode “Autism, Academics, and Animals | Dr. Temple Grandin | EP 318.“
I liked hearing about how Dr. Grandin would investigate the problem in the power grid. It reminded me of what Dr. Richard Feynman did in his Challenger Disaster Investigation: he was neither lost in words nor confused by disconnected facts; he used abstractions to understand a plethora of facts in the world and to unite them in a long cause-effect sequence.
As Kevin Cook says in “How Legendary Physicist Richard Feynman Helped Crack the Case on the Challenger Disaster:”
“Richard Feynman’s phone rang. The caller was William Graham, a former student of his at Caltech, now acting director of NASA. Feynman didn’t remember Graham and didn’t like the sound of what he was calling to offer: a seat on the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. Feynman said, ‘You’re ruining my life!’
“After Graham’s call he asked his wife, Gweneth, ‘How am I gonna get out of this?’
“She urged him to join the commission. ‘If you don’t, there will be 12 people all going around from place to place.’ If he joined, there would be 11 people following an itinerary like normal bureaucrats ‘while the 12th one runs around all over the place, checking all kinds of unusual things. There isn’t anyone who can do that like you can.’ ”
I think Feynman discussed it in his writings somewhere, but I don’t recall the place nor did I find it in a brief search I did on the Internet. He discussed how his method was to ignore what others said, and start talking to everyone and investigating everything; he’s start from ground zero and figure it all out independently, all in theory and in practice.
Dr. Grandin said everyone needs more of the practical in education. Amen! Thank you! I agree! And I think Dr. Gundula Bosch and Dr. Arturo Cassadevall at Johns Hopkins, among other people, would agree.
The cause of some “abstract” thinkers being clueless about reality is, I think, in how they use words and concepts, not in “abstraction” as such. Some are corrupted by Plato, et. al., hence they have “abstractions” detached from reality and experience.
Abstractions properly speaking are just that: mental products of “separating away” a commonality amongst some things, i.e., of finding the classic Greek “the one in the many.” We cannot have an abstraction proper unless we grasp the things from which we can abstract. If we don’t have examples of an idea, then, as I like to say for emphasis and rhetorical presentation (not as an insult), “we don’t know what the hell we are talking about.” Knowledge, after all, is an awareness of reality. That’s basic logic (as opposed to all sorts of complexities that come up afterward!!). No thing that we are aware of –> no knowledge. Abstraction is a process; it has a nature. We cannot have the output of it unless we have the input. We cannot have the product unless we have the materials to put it together.
Some people, however — for a variety of reasons, one of which being aspects of how we are educated (i.e., how we are trained to think and how reasoning is presented) — ditch reality. After all, through no fault of our own, when did we really learn that the earth goes around the sun? When in “vocabulary” did we do anything more than look up a word in a dictionary and copy down some visual symbols after the word, which we then turned in to our teachers? Etc. That’s what most of us were made to do for years. I learned that the earth goes around the sun only later in life, when, among other things, I studied and understood a section on astronomy in Physics for the Inquiring Mind by Dr. Eric Rogers. I learned concepts instead of “vocabulary” later in life, when I collected examples of ideas and I thought through where an idea came from (asking myself “how, logically, did I get this idea from when I was a baby till now? What were the logical, not chronological, steps?”).
Thank god for learning from others and “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Damn I’ve learned so much I could never figure out on my own!
What we see in some people’s “verbal intelligence” is not inherent in “verbal intelligence” as such, but reflects learning, culture, education, a view of logic, a view of epistemology, and some explicit or implicit philosophic point of view.
With a good philosophy and a good epistemology, I think, our abstractions are tightly connected to a range of examples, as was the case, I think, with Aristotle, Darwin, Galileo, Richard Feynman, Maria Montessori, Marie Curie, and others.