When is an ism useful?

I responded to a tweet by Simon yesterday like this:

I did this basically to challenge the thought that subjectivity is the opposite of objectivism. Actually, with more space, I’d suggest that these things are all contrary points of view, and binary polarities is maybe not the way to go, but 140 characters and all that.

Anyway, Maha objected to there being a name for this:

Then Simon said:

And Maha replied:

So – no you don’t. And, as Maha said later, she was making fun. But sometimes it is useful to give something a name.

For example – I think that a lot of meaningful learning occurs by students putting things together for themselves, and not by learning by rote. I could call that “the theory that learning occurs by students putting things together for themselves, and not by learning by rote”, or “put-things-together-ism” but that’s kind of longwinded (and in the case of the former, not tweetable), or we could agree to call it constructivism. Well, actually we have agreed to call something like this constructivism already. I think it’s obvious that folk learn like this, but that doesn’t mean that giving it a label is wrong, or bad, or odd. In fact, it is helpful to have some shorthand to use – as long as you also remember to unpack it for those who do not come from a shared understanding. And likewise for social constructivism, or connectivism – they are words for things that I think are obvious – but that does not stop us wanting to name them.

I don’t see why perspectivism is any different from any of this.

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5 Responses to When is an ism useful?

  1. sensor63 says:

    I’m all for words.
    I am a sucker for isms.
    I don’t think objectivity and subjectivity are opposites.
    Cf. http://tachesdesens.blogspot.fr/2016/02/before-our-maker-space.html

  2. scottx5 says:

    The Singer Formerly Known as Prince was able to pursue reinvention from the foundation of his “known” self. A larger sub-set of possibilities that nudge at polarities but remain bound to each other. This might be the way we know of differences and break habitual thinking?

    Anyway, there might be something in the peculiarities of table-tripping that manifest un-thought thoughts? Sexism didn’t always have its own name–I believe it went unspoken because of it.

  3. Maha Bali says:

    I just read this now, Sarah. Apologies and I see your point here. This makes sense. I think in a lot of instances (not usually you), philosophers don’t stop to unpack things for the rest of us and reading them feels like reading another language (as reading Jargon often does – applies to most disciplines. I don’t remember the context of that convo, but I am apologizing that my flippant response hurt you. I don’t think anyone can say philosophy is irrelevant as much as people sometimes say it baffles them. Does that make sense? Apologies again.

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