Learning From Self-Observation

Updated: Dec 2, 2020


Learning from Self-Observation


An authentic inquiry causes the inquirer to live by the conclusions of an inquiry. It is evidence of intelligence and learning based on observations that cause changes in the behavior of the observer on the basis of learning from the experience. That the learning is applied directly to life, in real-time, is what makes it an authentic inquiry.


One might say that every innovation is first created by thought and actually became real in the world when the innovator brought what they learned into practice.  We only create through actions that are the result of realizing the call to take action.


On the road to implementing anything that we set out to do, there is always trial and error. These are processes of postulating, acting, observing, and testing to validate what happened on the basis of the action. This is certainly true for results that happen in the world.  But what about results that happen inside of us in our first-person experience?  We also experience trial and error in life. Sometimes what we learn is not just about the world, but instead about us.  We must distinguish between self-observation, and also observations about facts that exist in the world.  They are not the same thing. There is nothing in the psyche of a person that exists in the same way that observable facts exist in the world. A subjective inquiry is a process of self-observation that includes the experience of the observer. It is of necessity grounded in self-reference and self-reflection.


The Empowerment of Learning And The Disempowerment of Deception


If we do not include the way we observe while we are observing,  we fail to recognize our role in making assessments.  This is the source of much mischief in life.  We often fail to distinguish our opinions from facts when we declare that something is true, or false.  We actually dis-empower our learning when we make assessments from the certainty of what we already know, without regard for the fact that we cannot know everything.   Assessments made in this way are often untrue, and not provable.  Within the physical world, we can test outcomes against our predictions. But much of what we consider to be real, in our thinking or reasoning, is actually subjective, especially with regard to what we say about our own self, and others, or in our speculations about the way things are.  We need to take into account the fact that we are the source of our own interpretations.


We become empowered by the practice of self-observation.  This is especially true if we can be conscious of the distinction between our beliefs and facts.  We become disempowered when we treat abstractions that we create in language as if they are 'like' tangible objects.  This creates illusions.  At times it seems that the world operates on the persistence of certain illusions, and especially opinions about what is true. If we could listen from what we know about language, we might suddenly see that what we say is not always factual. Though we do not necessarily lie on purpose with our assertions, they are nevertheless, false statements if our opinions are stated as facts.


The Shared Social reality created by Language.


Our thinking is often invisible to us. We don't see the automatic structure of language that is at work and making use of us.   Our language actually determines what we can think. It is all about objects and what happens to them.  Remember,  nouns and verbs?  We need to think, speak, and especially listen to our own words from an understanding of basic grammar.  There is a structure to language and it determines what and how we think. It works automatically and it is not obvious to us that this the case. We when hear or think something, we need to ask the question,' is this statement factual', rather than ask, 'is this same statement true'.  This is because the truth is interpreted and facts are self-evident.


There is a consensus of meaning in language. It is socially created in our culture and it is also often distorted and biased by our culture.  Reality is a social construction, and we often are blind to this fact. In a social context of shared meaning and shared resources which we call language, we live in a shared discourse about what is true and what is false. However, it is difficult to understand how society can reflect upon its own processes in the same way that we as individuals can.  This consensus we share about reality is a pluralistic phenomenon and its creating in our common language.


As a society, we also need to understand the constraints and structures that languaging processes have on our shared culture and consensus about reality.   Ironically, almost all people have collapsed what they know about language into functional invisibility, and lack the grammatical tools for real inquiry. What is need is to rediscover the structure of their own native language, and understand the subjectivity that is at the root of all of our assessments, especially in the way in which we collaborate in the world, where misconception and deception are more common that reflective and considered thinking.


© Copyright 2014 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved

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