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Is it possible to teach something you don't know?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Keelan, James Kingsbery, Nick R, Swami Vishwananda, Joseph Weissman Mar 4 '16 at 20:59

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    Question: Does a computer learning system teach? (An interactive program that walks you through a body of material, testing you as you go, explaining and retesting the parts you don't understand, etc.) Presumably does teach; since after your encounter you have learned. Then that's an example of an entity that teaches; but (assuming computers aren't self-aware), that does not "know" anything at all. So it comes down to your definition of teaching. – user4894 Feb 19 '16 at 4:04
  • Can you expand a bit, since it is unclear exactly what you are asking? "To know" something isn't a binary thing (except maybe for single facts), at least not if we are talking about theories or other complex forms of knowledge. Teaching can also be done at several levels, e.g. familiarity of concepts, basic understanding, practical use or deeper understanding with the ability to recreate or prove concepts. – fileunderwater Feb 19 '16 at 9:46
  • @fileunderwater The focus is on the learning outcome. Can we successfully learn concepts, models, theories, etc even if the teaching entity doesn't "know" what it is teaching? What is "know" here? Imagine a teacher is just reading from well prepared slides of a subject he doesn't know to students. (Obviously there are more aspects involved, depending on how you define knowing, teaching etc, I am more interested in the situation I tried to describe here). – Derb Feb 19 '16 at 10:14
  • @Derb You should add what you wrote to the question, which should be self-contained and not depend too much on comment replies that some might not read. You also need to define what you mean with 'teach'. To me, merely saying what is written by others on slides is not teaching, but rather reproducing something in a new medium (spoken word) - compare to e.g. voice emulation by computers to read the contents of a web page (which to me is not "teaching"). Related; do you consider it "teaching" to hand somebody a stack of books or other reading materials? – fileunderwater Feb 19 '16 at 10:20
  • @fileunderwater I understand your concern, but it was for purpose. If I start defining and formalizing my question about a very vague process ("learning, teaching"), the answer will auto-emerge. I won't get the benefit on different perspectives on this philosophical question. However, I appreciate very much your comments and suggestions. – Derb Feb 19 '16 at 10:36
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A great formula-1 driver, like Senna, can drive a car much better than your average physicist who knows all there is to know about mechanics and forces ...

In the plato's dialogues, Socrates describes himself as a mid-wife; for example in the Theaetetus:

my art of mid-wifery, is in general like theirs [real mid-wives]; the only difference is that my patients are men, not women; and that my concern is not with the body, but with the soul that is in travail of birth.

And the highest part of my art is to prove by every test whether the offspring of a young mans thought is a false phantom, or instinct with life and truth.

Actually, this is inline with Badious picture of philosophy, which is not a truth-procedure; but is allied with them.

It's one reason, why, Zizek calls B, perhaps a mite hyperbolically, a new Plato...

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    Interesting point and very much what fits with our experience. Thanks. – Derb Feb 19 '16 at 10:16
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Sounds a bit like Searle's Chinese Room.

Certainly one can convey information without understanding it, for more than half of the "teaching" process is in the pupil. It is, according to Plato, coaxed out of memory.... or biology, deep grammar, the synthetic a priori, etc.

Similarly, one may teach by negative example. People simply observe me, whether I am aware of it or not, and learn any number of valuable lessons about what not to do.

In a like manner, the learning process in a Platonic dialogue progresses by means of what sequential interlocutors don't know.

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