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Education Extended writing Linguistics Writing

How to actually write a sentence: The building blocks of written language

Some time ago, Thomas Basbøll followed up his excellent post on how to write a paragraph with a much more daring endeavour on how to write a sentence. And while the post is a pleasure to read, I think it did not quite overcome the challenge the author stated at the start: “it is substantially more […]

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Extended writing Knowledge Metaphor Philosophy

Potemkin wisdoms, phronesis and Pixar: How wise sayings protect us from meaning

TL;DR This is an exploration of the difference between wisdom and practical wisdom (phronesis) triggered by this quote from a talk by Ed Catmull: “Once one can articulate an important idea into a concise statement, then one can use this statement, and not have to have the fear of changing behavior.” The main lesson is: if […]

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Extended writing History Scholarship

So you think you have a historical analogy? Revisionist history and anthropology reading list

What is this about How badly we’re getting history While the world of history and anthropology of the last 30-40 years has completely redrawn the picture of our past, the common perception of the overall shape of history and the development of humanity is still firmly rooted in the view that took hold in the […]

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AI Extended writing Linguistics

Turing tests in Chinese rooms: What does it mean for AI to outperform humans

TLDR; Reports that AI beat humans on certain benchmarks or very specialised tasks don’t mean that AI is actually better at those tasks than any individual human. They certainly don’t mean that AI is approaching the task with any of the same understanding of the world people do. People actually perform 100% on the tasks […]

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Extended writing Linguistics Metaphor

Fruit loops and metaphors: Metaphors are not about explaining the abstract through concrete but about the dynamic process of negotiated sensemaking

Note: This is a slightly edited version of a post that first appeared on Medium. It elaborates and exemplifies examples I gave in the more recent posts on metaphor and explanation and understanding. One of the less fortunate consequences of the popularity of the conceptual metaphor paradigm (which is also the one I by and large work […]

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Education Extended writing Framing Knowledge Philosophy of Science

5 books on knowledge and expertise: Reading list for exploring the role of knowledge and deliberate practice in the development of expert performance

Recently, I’ve been exploring the notion of explanation and understanding. I was (partly implicitly) relying on the notion of ‘mental representations’ as built through deliberate practice. My plan was to write next about how I think we can reconceptualize deliberate practice in such a way that it draws on a richer conception of ‘mental representations’. […]

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Education Extended writing Linguistics Metaphor

Writing as translation and translation as commitment: Why is (academic) writing so hard?

This book will perhaps only be understood by those who have themselves already thought the thoughts which are expressed in it—or similar thoughts. It is therefore not a text-book. Its object would be attained if there were one person who read it with understanding and to whom it afforded pleasure. (opening sentence of the preface […]

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Education Extended writing Knowledge Metaphor

5 kinds of understanding and metaphors: Missing pieces in pedagogical taxonomies

TL;DR This post outlines 5 levels or types of understanding to help us better to think about the role of metaphor in explanation: Associative understanding: Place a concept in context without any understanding. Dictionary understanding: Repeat definitions, give examples, and make basic connections. Inferential understanding: Make useful inferences based on knowledge about – but without […]

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Education Extended writing Framing Knowledge Metaphor

Explanation is an event, understanding is a process: How (not) to explain anything with metaphor

TL;DR There are at least 3 uses of metaphor in the educational process: 1. Invitation to enter; 2. An instrument to grasp knowledge with; 3. Catalyst to transform understanding. Many educators assume that 1 is enough but it rarely leads to any useful understanding. Explanation is a salient part of the educational process to such […]

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Extended writing Linguistics Philosophy of Science Scholarship

What would make linguistics a better science? Science as a metaphor

Background This is a lightly edited version of a comment posted on Martin Haspelmath’s blog post “Against traditional grammar – and for normal science in linguistics“.  In it he offers a critique of the current linguistic scene as being unclear as to its goals and in need of better definitions. He proposes ‘normal science’ as […]