By George Allan
Argues for a practical canon continuously short of protection.
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Additional resources for Higher education in the making: pragmatism, Whitehead, and the canon
The particular facts are elements of systems, and these systems are elements of wider or more complex systems governed by general laws, perhaps even by universal ones. The natural order is not the bewildering ﬂux of novel realities it often seems to be. There are underlying uniformities that these supposed novelties illustrate. The apples are ripening in the orchard, the leaves are turning a brilliant red; the fog rolls in at dusk, obscuring the bright sparkle of the evening star. When the apple falls it will plummet to the ground whereas the leaf will drift down slowly, but they are both constrained by the same gravitational force, described by Newton’s three general laws of motion—which laws also govern the behavior of the water molecules in the fog and the orbital and rotational motions of Earth and Venus.
For instance, Aristotle’s prejudices run deep. His views regarding who has the capacity to reason can easily be corrected by ascribing to all human beings the rational capacity he ascribes only to Greek males. But his claim that the highest end this reason serves is the contemplation of timeless immaterialities is rife with the implicit denigration of temporal change that justiﬁes Dewey’s drumbeat of criticism against both him and Plato for turning people away from the concrete ﬁxable “problems of men” and toward ethereal chimeras.
The Great Chain of Being, interpreted naturalistically as a chain of ever more complex systems of physical phenomena, is the objective world that our knowledge mirrors. Foundationalism so construed deﬁnes unmistakably the task of pedagogy. There is at minimum a best approximation to a fully adequate picture of reality. The consensus of scientists and humanists, their theories and interpretations having withstood the test of time, of endless conﬁrmation and attempts at refutation, circumscribes that best approximation.