Education, Consciousness and Negative Feedback: Towards the Renewal of Modern Philosophy of Education

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Eetu Pikkarainen

Subject: Arts & Humanities, Anthropology & Ethnography Keywords: Theory of Education; Consciousness; Responsibility; Lesley Dewart; Perceptual Control Theory (PCT); William T. Powers; Semiotics of Education

Among the biggest challenges facing the contemporary human condition, and therefore also education, is responding to the climate crisis. The source of the crisis is assumed to be absent-mindedness, presented by Leslie Dewart as a distortion of the development of human consciousness. Dewart's poorly-known philosophical consciousness study is presented in this paper in broad outline. The problems in the study of consciousness, the most important of which are the qualitative representations – qualia – and the question of free will, are also briefly discussed. These problems are then examined transcendental analytically, with the question of what one must assume in order to allow the emergence of these phenomena. From the resulting conception of causal relationship, we proceed to the circular causality as a prerequisite for life, namely the homeostatic systems and negative feedback. An organization of action that is essential to animals and humans is presented, using William Powers’ perceptual control theory (PCT), and the role of consciousness in this organization is drafted according to the studies of Martin Taylor. Action is seen as continuous problem solving, in which negative feedback is used to bring perceptions into line with the goals. The fundamental function of consciousness is revealed as the direction and enhancement of learning. Based on PCT, it can be shown that the main practical problems in animal and, especially, human action, are related to adverse side effects of action and the resulting various conflicts. The climate crisis is a typical example of the problematic side effects of collective action. Dewart's concept of absent-mindedness can therefore be defined as an inability to responsibly account for the side effects of action. Thus, the main task of education is to forestall, through negative feedback and in cooperation with learner consciousness, absent-mindedness and the problems it causes.

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