Philosopher's Critique of Online Learning Cites Existentialists (Mostly Dead)CRLF

Michael Arnone, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Mar 28, 2002
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I missed this one when it came out. Just as well (speaking as a philospher). The cynicism aside, the article does a good job of placing Dreyfus's critiques of online learning into the wider context of Dreyfus's thought generally: "Dreyfus also draws on 20th-century existentialists such as Martin Heidegger and especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who argues that the body plays a crucial role in all elements of life, from perception to politics. Without physical bodies, people can attain only intellectual competence in skills." This is the gist of Dreyfus's criticism of artificial intelligence generally, but I believe it is misplaced, not because the knowledge Dreyfus talks about can be acquired by cognition alone (I am not (and never will be) a rationalist), but because we need to think of of the computer and computer networks in an important sense as an extension of the body. I can take actions via the internet that entail real risk, not merely virtual risk, but risk to my financial, emotional, professional and even physical well being. Through the internet I interact with (remote) physical systems, and that has a physical consequence. Thus, at least, is the point (paraphrased and interpreted) of Marshall McLuhan (also dead).
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