Subject: Re: How to get a wider audience for CL From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: 30 Aug 2002 00:09:12 +0000 Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Kaz Kylheku | I think that intelligent people can understand a specification without | requiring rationale. Rationale is for those who question the design | decisions described by the specification. * Pascal Costanza | I totally disagree. My working style in learning a new language is to | absorb its rationale first. I usually invest a lot of time there before | I begin to program in a new language. I don't think that I'm not | intelligent. ;-) I think you two are using "rationale" very differently. Kaz's usage is very close to mine as I understand his last sentence, but it occurs to me that Pascal uses it to mean something like the conceptual models of the language, which is also a "rationale" but in a much broader sense. It is like those two deeply intelligent questions "who are you" and "what do you want" in Babylon 5, to which the answer is not your name and your dinner menu choice. | No, the case is different. When I am reading a textbook about ANSI Common | Lisp I expect it to be correct, and each deviation from the standard to be a | bug. When I am reading CLtL2 I know that I expect it to be about a slightly | different language. I think your first expectation is faulty. I have come to believe, after a long discussion tonight over Apple's invocation of the DMCA to prevent its customers from burning DVDs on external drives, that many people discuss things mainly to determine which "side" of an issue people are on, and seek to learn who they agree and disagree with, long before any party understands the issues involved. Some people on the Net seem to read what others write with the express purpose to believe it rather than think about it. I write mostly about what I think about and not what I believe. I read what others write to think about it, not to believe it. Those who inject falsehoods into the information flow, however, poison the well of thinking and reasoning. However, that which is not false is not necessarily true. Many things can be true at the same time depending on context, so it is hard to determine that something is The Truth, but we can fairly easily determine that something is false. If we limit the discussions to what has not already been determined to be false, I believe the chance of finding more truth increases dramatically compared to a forum where people either post falsehoods or limit their discussion to what is already determined to be true. The latter occurs when people are mainly concerned with believing (in) what others say. So, if you expect what people write to be correct, you will tend to believe them before you have thought about what they say. This is bad for your critical thinking ability. You should, however, expect what they say not to be known (at the time it was written) to be false and that they wrote it because they thought was valuable in some sense or another. The economy of writing dictates that people do not both blabber endlessly and get published. However, the situation that something was true but has become false over time is so common in technical writing that I have some philosophical problems understanding your position. You are not reading CLtL2 in order to believe it to be useful, but to understand some of the historical record. For the same reason, it is actually useful to read CLtL1 or the older Lisp manuals. If your desire is to understand and not to believe, you will not be derailed by historic information any more than you are derailed by past knowledge that you have had to expire. It should still be valuable to you. | No, I don't learn that way, I learn languages by looking at their specs. | Sorry. Sorry to correct you, but you have learned this way up until now. If your past successes also determine your future options, you are likely to limit yourself needlessly. My experience has been similar to yours, but then I discovered that I had chosen to learn things that came easy to me. This became quietly self-fulfilling. I decided to learn new things from the most technical source available based on the assumption that it would be easy to learn and lost interest in things that did not yield to this successful mode of learning. Then I realized that I had happened on this mode of learning by accident and that I had probably been exposed to a number of other modes of learning that had not yielded results as quickly or as consistently and had simply taken the path of least resistance. I decided to seek out paths of significant resistance and actively to search out counter-information to what I already believed to be true. I read things that I had previously thought to be false, invested a lot of time in reading political theories that I believed to be wrong and evil for the sole purpose of delaying the impulse to agree or believe and to hone my critical thinking by learning to listen to arguments before I decided on their truth status. It has helped me /tremendously/ in dealing with issues that did not come easy to me, to find that I, too, need to work hard to understand certain topics and most topics beyond a certain level. I had dismissed a number of topics because what people were talking about as if it were difficult were in fact trivial and hence not worth my time. It turned out that the entry-level to these areas of human knowledge was indeed trivial and boring beyond belief, but that there was lots of interesting thinking going on among those who had plowed through the tons of trivialties that had shaped their mode of thinking and made them able to discuss topics based on massive background information. Instead of reading the specification for the English language, I read poetry and literature and found that literary criticism is not trivial at all (despite the best efforts of my teachers to make it appear worse than pedestrian, unrewarding, and dilettantish). I found, in brief, that the kinds of things for which I /could/ read the specification and the highly condensed formal presentations were limited and thus limited me instead of making it possible for me to learn interesting things. I came to believe that too much success too early in life in certain fundamentally simple approaches could be a curse and not the gift it was touted to be at the time. Sometimes, more information is passed to the reader in a tutorial than in the reference for the same material. It therefore behooves the conscientious student to read more than one tutorial to learn of more ways to approach the same topic as seen by experts in both the field and in pedagogy. A critical student should also study pedagogy in order to learn how to distinguish bad teachers and textbooks from good. To understand pedagogical presentations and their desired effect on readers is no small task. Most of us learn in ways that are hard to communicate to others and the expectation that others learn in the same way we do, given that we have chosen how to learn through a series of accidentally positive feedback, not through deliberate selection among the available learning modes. Since learning and thinking are not taught in our schools, good methodology is largely unavailable until people enter college or university, a decade later than it should have been taught. I think this should be of value to the Feyerabend project. Comments? | In this example, the section about #, provides essential information that is | relevant for understanding #. So you cannot just skip it. At least not the | first time. There is something I do not quite understand about #,. The recommended way to accomplish very similar results today is to use `load-time-value´. There are some cases where #, and `load-time-value´would differ in semantics, but I think it is such a verbose way to request this behavior that people are unlikely to want to use it I think #, should have been made to expand to a `load-time-value´ form. -- Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder. Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.