Stephen Seminar Number 5: Modes of Mind: Does Society have an IQ?

This past Wednesday felt like an episode of Fringe playing out before my eyes with the Speaker showing similarities with Walter Bishop. The speaker (Shannon) played with the idea of a shared intellect within society.

He started of by stating that in knowing the general skill you have access to advance in that skill because the general is central to understanding the specific. He said that development should happen first and then later direction would follow. In this he pointed out a few case studies of obscure people that think extremely different and out of the norm. He talked about one person that perceives mathematics in a complete different way than the accepted norm. This person doesn’t see numbers but rather shapes where the numbers are and in solving the equation he tries to align the different shapes.

He went on to say that intelligence has two aspects. One is the ability to learn, and the other the ability to solve problems. In this he points out a hierarchy, that learning precedes over problem solving.

He also went into great detail on neuroscience that the brain is not static as was thought. In an experiment with a Chimpanzee scientist stroked the chimps fingers only repeatedly and over some time they saw that the part of the brain that is processing this touch sensation grew larger than normal because of this touch sensation.

Then he proposed that society functions like the individual in that it is extremely complex and when you change one thing allot of other factors needs to be accounted for because not just that one thing changes. The thing that changes puts into motion another set of changes, like moving the blocks of a Rubrics cube.

An interesting question that was asked by someone was: “Can the brain understand itself?”

This question, with what has been mentioned, overshadowed the whole seminar for me.  

Stephen Seminar Number 4: Political Authority

William Brewster Signing Mayflower Compact

Today the fourth Stephen Seminar kicked of with a bit of confusion. The expected speaker could not attend, but still we went forth to talk about political stability in light of modern problems.


Political stability does not come from itself, it stems from political authority. But political authority has different ways of manifesting. Previously authority would come from the outside. With two distinct modes coming to light, either a god entity or tradition. 


God entity can be anything of person who applies the rules and then there just has to adhered to or else one would be exiled. Tradition would be anything that has to do with repetition, repeating the same thing over and over again later forms a formal structure that governs. 


A modern development taking root in the Mayflower Compact is that governing bodies come to life on the basis of a promise. This promise would exist between people with the same set of ideals and would then promise each other to adhere to this specific set of norms. 


Rejecting that authority should come from outside like that of the monarchy or god, but that authority should come from within. Outside authority presupposes violence according to the speaker. Inner authority eliminates violence, because when there is violence from within the body it will inevitable self destruct. 


Complexity theory also comes to play in this ‘promise structure’. Like the brain, relationships are very complex. Neural patterns form structure over time through repetition. That is why it is important to repeat this promise to each other to keep the body united. This can be done through discourse in discussion of situations at hand or simply stating a credo. 


Thus was proposed that political authority should be coming from the outside in order to be effective for the people

Stephen Seminar Number 3: Pessimism of the diagnosis and optimism of prescription.

Timbuktu manuscripts of an old Astronomy Table

Today the Stephen Seminar was hosted by two speakers on African Philosophy. The first speaker went on to talk about truth and that an important part of truth-value is situated in the self. 


He mentioned Timbuktu as an example of just advanced Africa was in a sense. Timbuktu a small place that sits in the void away from everything and everybody, associated with nothingness, is busy compiling a library with text dating back as far as 8900BC. 


This just goes to show that the intelligence of Africa should not be underrated as it now has from in the form of ancient Arabic texts that it has in fact got an academic background. This also places Timbuktu in a sphere of universality in the sense that it now engages with the world on academic level from its individual level of truth. 


The second speaker talked about perception and how it can really blind a person if he does not explore the situation for himself. He mentioned Ethiopia as an example and went on to say that when Ethiopia comes up in any conversation that the first thoughts running through our minds are of starving kids famine stricken. 


This is again a perception because very little people with an academic background have been in Ethiopia and are aware of a 40-year plan to relief the situation. This plan is on the scale of HIV/AIDS and is getting allot of attention. This action plan has in mind to develop new ideas for energy efficiency, creating jobs, and land reform. 


In essence the speakers both had one forthcoming message; that opinion should not be made public unless it is an informed opinion.