Explaining everything!: in more depth: 1

 
9780903275064: Explaining everything!: in more depth: 1
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Explaining Everything ! in more depth does not attempt to explain everything. It is about what is necessary to explain anything. It shows how a method of explanation controls your beliefs. It shows we have ten abilities that combine in different ways to form the basis of different beliefs including academic beliefs, scientific beliefs, religious beliefs, our culture and your values. Many apparently conflicting explanations, in reality do not do so because they use different methods. It is the wealth of examples that makes this book come alive. Some of the conclusions are astonishing.

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Review:

"Donald Bligh's book, "Explaining Everything!" makes a huge claim. Explaining everything? As the exclamation mark makes clear this is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek title, since by the questions at the end of each chapter it is apparent that the author is by no means dogmatic, but anxious to develop discussion about his ideas. Having said that, the book really does give us an opening framework for explaining whatever we want to explain, in whatever discipline. As the author points out in the introduction, the book is intended for those who want to think more deeply about their ideas and beliefs and how they relate to others.
The book is divided into twenty-one chapters, each helpfully introduced by a summary of what has gone before, and concluded by a summary of what was in the chapter, followed by questions for discussion. For this reader, those summaries were essential, for this is not an easy book.
Part one is about the hidden contexts within which explanations tend to nestle. Why do explanations matter? Because they are the means by which we explain our world to ourselves and others, and those explanations influence our behaviour.
Chapter one looks at the importance of different methods of explanation. Different disciplines are in different contexts and therefore tend to use different methods of explanation, thus often leading to unnecessary conflicts which perhaps could be resolved if the explanatory methods were understood.
Chapter two considers how explanations work, pointing out that for all of us, new ideas must fit into our existing context.
Chapter three introduces basic contexts, drawing the conclusion that whatever we may think, our convictions are not based upon some fundamental beliefs such as a sacred creed, or the laws of science, but upon inborn (brain) processes, and our abilities to organise information into a basic context.
Chapter four asks how understanding gets started, and introduces us to the idea of a nexus. We develop our abilities which underlie our particular methods of explaining, around the time of our birth. All our explanations are based on those abilities.
These four chapters underpin the whole book. They are full of new concepts and new language developed by the author and thus not easy to understand, but fully repay the effort involved.
Chapter five is a welcome respite since it is purely practical, dealing with the neurology of the brain, and chapter six discusses different types of explanations.
Chapter seven is an illuminating chapter which discusses explanatory shifts - the way in which a shift occurs in the type of explanation used, when that explanation is stripped right back to its basics.
Part two begins with the encouraging statement: If you have read this far you have mastered most of what is difficult in this book. Again, it starts with a helpful summary of part one, then goes on to discuss ways of explaining in more detail. Using the elements already set out in part one, it explores examples of different types of explanation and combinations of types, and, based on these types, raises serious theological and philosophical questions.
This book makes fascinating reading for the serious scholar and would provoke much debate in theological colleges. It is beautifully illustrated throughout both in words and pictures, using everyday examples which help to make the text clear, and an excellent glossary enables the reader to understand all the terms used.
For this reader, perhaps the best aspect of this book is its open-minded approach. Although the author is an atheist (and makes that clear, especially in chapter twenty, dealing with spiritual values), he is encourages a genuine search for truth. --Janice Scott Hon Rector Norwich Cathedral

I have read the Preface and Part I of this carefully and it seems to me to make very good sense. I particularly like the idea of homing in right away on the question of explanation - what it is, how it works and how we shift from one kind of it to another. I am sure that an awful lot of our confusions do result from grabbing one kind of explanation for something and therefore not being able to see the need for other kinds (e.g. DNA explains everything.) The fact that we think in many different ways, needing distinct approaches, is terribly important and far too little known. And it seems to me that you lay out the necessary apparatus for avoiding this one-sidedness very well, using the different colours and diagrams to good effect and writing in uncommonly clear, everyday language. I am quite ignorant about what other people may have done in this kind of way, so I can't say anything about the possibility that someone else might have got there first. But I'd be surprised if they have! I mustn't go on and read the whole of it, because I am a slow reader and there are other things I ought to be doing. I have glanced through the headings and some of the end part and it all looks to me very convincing. --Mary Midgley's (Philosopher) comment on draft

Donald Bligh's basic argument in his new book, Explaining Everything ! is that any explanation when seeking the truth, whether in research or teaching, depends upon the method used. That s because the method controls what is relevant. That in turn is because the question being asked sets the context, what he calls the preformed context , in the enquirer s mind. The preformed context does not consist of concepts, but of the abilities he calls elements that are necessary to form concepts. They are potential brain processes. Just as chemical elements combine, and may be repeated many times, to form chemical molecules, so abilities combine in infinite ways to form contexts. Much of the book consists of analysing eleven of these abilities and how they form different kinds of explanation. (See www.explainingeverything.com/contents.html) The book is rich in coloured illustrations of each of the explanatory types. (See www.explainingeverything.com/illustrations.html) Some clarify old philosophical problems such as the freewill-determinism debate and the relation between body and mind. In one of the most interesting chapters Bligh shows that in explanations and arguments we tend to shift from one type of explanation to another. The more rational of these explanatory shifts conform to a pattern that implies a certain structure of human knowledge. The foundation of that structure is four abilities he calls the coherent network because they are each dependent upon the other three. The book uses over 100 illustrations that make difficult ideas easy to understand. Most of the book is spent giving examples of different types of explanation. Analytical explanations are based on the ability of the brain to see the differences. Mathematics and logic strongly depend on things being the same in some way. Clearly historical explanations and many more depend upon arranging experiences on a time dimension. Others depend upon space. Explanations that something has moved assume it is a substance. Causal explanations assume that forces achieve change. More subjectively there are explanations that rely upon awareness of objects, whilst others use awareness of oneself. Values, feelings of obligation and purposeful intention provide other kinds of explanation. Each chapter closes with questions for reflection and discussion. These could be very mind broadening. Bligh sees these as compensating for students specialising too much at school. For this purpose Explaining Everything ! could be used as a course book with teacher guidance to be supplemented by researches on the internet for further information. The 21 chapters, one per week, are each kept short so that there is little excuse for students who don t read them before they come to class. That said, it must be admitted that some of the chapters do need to be taken slowly. Bligh looks at explanations in science, the arts and in morals. He is an atheist and wants to argue that spiritual explanations don t fit into the main structure of knowledge, not least because it is hard to explain how a non-material thing can influence material things. More than a philosopher or psychologist, he is internationally known as an authority on teaching techniques and here they are all applied to ease a difficult subject: short and succinct sentences; resumes at the beginning of each chapter, conclusions to each are clearly stated; numerous easy examples; diagrams simply explaining complex relationships how words never could --An anonymous referee

From the Author:

Who this book is for
It is for people who want to think more deeply about their ideas and beliefs, and how they relate to others. They may be students who will soon study a subject at a university, or those in middle life with knowledge associated with their work, or retired people who want to look at the basis of what they already know, or any adult with natural curiosity. To those on a religious quest, this book considers basic methods of explaining the world and their experience. It is also for those people ignored by the philosophical establishment - those whose thoughts are assisted visually as well as verbally.
The book can be read at three levels. (1)You can look at the pictures and diagrams and the comments attached to them. (2) You can read a chapter at a time and think about the issues raised. Don't read more than one chapter at a time unless you are a practiced philosopher. (3) A teacher could recommend students to read one question at a time; and when they come to class, recommend they discuss the questions in groups not larger than 4.

The book has been forming in my mind for nearly 60 years. I have been a visual thinker. That is why there are over 100 coloured illustrations. They explain relationships better than words.

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