Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

The idea of 'levels of description' is intuitively appealing. "For example, fundamental physics speaks of particles, fields, and forces; biology speaks of cells, organisms, and ecosystems; psychology speaks of mental states, intentionality, and cognition; and the social sciences speak of institutions, norms, and conventions." But how should we understand what we're doing when we use these levels? Are they just more or less coarse descriptions of the same reality, or does each level correspond to a complete linguistic category? Do lower-level descriptions refer to parts of the same entities, or to different entities entirely? Do facts at higher levels stand on their own, or are they determined by facts at lower levels? Even if you aren't interested in the proposed unifying framework of levels (that starts on page 9) the description of the different perspectives is important and needs to be kept in mind when we talk about learning and cognition.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Nov 30, 2023 3:32 p.m.

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