Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Big meeting at HQ for all KI tutors. The Ministry people arranged for a formal presentation to us from 3 uni profs speaking about concepts of knowledge as viewed primarily through eastern and western perspectives. Our speakers were profs in math, soci-sci and philo. High octane brains there!

I realized how western-centric we are in the way we think and view the world. Math, for example, as we understand it, seems to have come from a Euclidean tradition (Greek mathematician, Euclid, wrote the book on it, describing the work of mathematicians before him) in all its abstract purity. It's all clinical in its conceptulizations of points and vectors and angles and other numerical relationships, all logically presented in ascending order of complexity. It's just like the way we teach it!

Whereas Eastern mathematics has more to do with practical and pragmatic problem-solving (refer to the jiuzhang suanshu) in which the problems have more to do with human relationships and transactions rather than just pure numbers alone. This seems like a very strange way to go about trying to count things, particularly (as Prof Pang explained) since the solutions to the problems were simply provided in the book without a working.

And yet, while the Eastern tradition appears so alien in nature, the way we calculate today has more to do with Eastern counting frames (later bastardized into the venerable abacus), than the way the Greeks did it using algorithmic tables (like our modern log tables) to count 1+1=2. Whoa. There's a revelation!

Also fascinating was the presentation of an ancient Indian philosopher, Sankara whose ideas of reality as a tripartite notion (mind-body-atman) seems to me to parallel Plato's cave analogy and even the Judaeo-Christian belief in a triune God, though the parallel is more convenient than it is accurate.

The mind boggles.

Well, JC2s taking the GP exam tomorrow, this is what you've worked on for nearly 2 years now. 05S7D, 05A6, 05S6A, I've only taught each of your groups for 1 year, perhaps less, but I hope it's enough.

And if you're reading this entry at this late hour, maybe it's time to switch off your comp and get some sleep. Don't forget to wake up with a fresh mind tomorrow! For what it's worth, have a good paper, y'all!

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