This morning is what I call a ‘sun theory day’.
Back in 2005 / 2006, when I was in my final year of my undergraduate Psychology degree I did a course called ‘Epistemology and Developing Theories’.
Each week, we had to read 2-3 papers and write an essay about what we had read, describing our ‘reaction’ to them. The essay could be in any format, although it had to written from a given title. The aim was to encourage us to think about what we had read and get practice in writing essays.
We would then meet the following week for a ‘seminar’, to discuss our reactions to the papers we had read and the essays we had written. There were only about 10 of us in the group, so it was easy to have a discussion.
In the first week (October 2005), I was delighted to have my essay read out, the lecturer/tutor loved what I had written. For someone back then, who had struggled through school and University, I lacked confidence in my academic and writing abilities. So I was absolutely thrilled that what I had written was held at such a high regard 🙂
I’ve dug the essay out and thought I would share it with you here and then you will know what I mean by a “sun theory day”.
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I have put ******* around the ‘sun theory” part.
THEORIES: HOW DO THEY GUIDE KNOWLEDGE?
What are theories? What is Knowledge? There are many theories of what both these are and so probably (and hopefully) there will be many different responses in this seminar to how theories guide knowledge. There are three points that I want to make to my ‘reaction’ to the papers I have read, which are, the problems with definitions; the views of theories; and how do theories guide knowledge. The main conclusion that I want to make is that the whole thing is very complicated and confusing, but I take the view of Thomas (1992) that theories do organise and make knowledge more coherent.
The first main point is the problems with definitions. The Oxford English Dictionary defines knowledge as “the fact of knowing a thing, state or person” and theory as “a system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts”. However, if one looks at another dictionary, a slightly different definition would be given, and so to get a clear definition we would be here for ages. But if we consider the definitions given, one needs to know what a fact is or at least the relationship between fact and theory. Different writers suggest different relationships, some concentrating on the fact, others the theory and some on both. For example Thomas (1992), suggests a theory is what makes sense out of facts and so gives facts their meaning, thus if there is no theory, then the facts are disorganised and un-meaningful.
So perhaps instead of looking at the actual definitions, one could look at what are “good” and “bad” theories. Again, this comes down to what the certain person believes, and perhaps a “good” theory to one person is not a “good” theory to another. However, perhaps if the “norm” sees the theory as “good” then it is acceptable?
I will illustrate this with a theory I came up with last week, which to most people (the ‘norm’) seems completely crazy. I decided to wear shorts and t-shirt for the day for the day and from my experiences, I concluded that the sun comes out when it “sees” people in shorts and t-shirt. So if everyone continues to wear ‘summer clothes’ all year round the sun would be out all the time.
The problem I think with the sun is even at this time of the year, the sky can be clear and the sun will be out, but it can still be freezing cold. So gradually more people wear ‘winter’ clothes (to stay warm) and the sun ‘thinks “no one is appreciating me I will go somewhere, where I am appreciated”. So due to lack of self-confidence the sun goes away and so it becomes winter.
Most people I told this to, thought I was completely mad (and you probable think that too), but I told it to a few Geography lecturers and they quotes some Geography jargon and said it sounded feasible. So just because it is not the ‘norm’ it could still be a “good” theory.
Just like the theorists of Skinner or Piaget, were seen “good” during their time, because that was the ‘norm’, now they are seen less “good” and others have taken their place. But I suppose without opposing views and theories, Psychology would not be such an interesting subject.
The second point I want to make is the view of theorists. Every theory looks at facts in a different way, and thus focuses on one area or another, and so organises the knowledge in a different way, creating different theories. Piaget, Freud and Skinner would all give different explanations / theories to my behaviour of wearing shorts, just like I did. Piaget would probably say that I had not reached a stage of caring for my wellbeing, Freud that my shorts allowed me to satisfy my sexual drive, Skinner that I had more enjoyment previously to wearing shorts than to wearing trousers, and mine about the sun. All of which makes sense. Thus any theory will give a different viewpoint to an explanation of facts and all are “correct” and “incorrect”.
The third and final point I want to make is how do theories guide knowledge? As I have tried to show, defining knowledge, varies from person to person and creating a theory is just as hard. Using the previous example again, the knowledge that every time I was inside, when I was waring my shorts, it went cloudy and started to rain and when I went outside it stopped, meant I organised these experiences of knowledge into an explanation/theory to why this actually happened. Therefore instead of just considering this knowledge as random facts, the theory puts it in some sort of order, providing an explanation for it. Therefore I belief theories help us to see the knowledge we have in an organised explanation, instead of just a mess.
In conclusion, one can see that theories are important in guiding knowledge, so one is able to consider the knowledge in a clear, coherent way. However, endless theories can be made for the same knowledge, and it just varies with the person’s beliefs and values. Similarly, defining what a theory is or what knowledge is, varies from person to person. For example in this seminar, everyone has read and written a review of these papers, and everyone will have probably written something different about it.
Thomas, R.M (1992) Theories, models, paradigms and such. Chapter 1 in Comparing Theories of Child Development. Third Edition. Belmont. Wadsworth Publishing.
And so we have it!
I wore my t-shirt and shorts in October, when it was a clear blue sky, sun shining, but cold. So when autumn is approaching and there is a clear sky and the sun is shining, I remember this essay and say to myself “it’s a sun theory day”. Just like today.
I now remember the actual reason I decided to wear shorts and t-shirt. I was trying to harden myself to the Scottish weather and coldness – coming up with the theory that if I wore t-shirt and shorts even when it was cold I would get used to it.!! It didn’t last 😉
I also came up with a further explanation of the three theories I quoted – Piaget, Freud and Skinner. Piaget would say I had not reached the Scottish developmental stage where I could bear the cold well. Skinner would say that I had been conditioned that shorts had happier memories, which is true as I associated shorts and t-shirt as the summer, not the winter. Finally, Freud would say I was gaining some kind of sexual gratification, which was also true, as lots of women commented on how I had nice legs!!
Just reading my essay again, made me realise, that what I wrote has acted as a foundation for the whole of my life in relation to my views and work in mental health. How amazing is that! Little did I know that the 1000 words I wrote would have such a massive influence on me for the next 25 years!
My morning walk was the highlight of my day!
I met so many people I knew, stopping and chatting to them. Although, it wasn’t until the third person I met that I thought to take a photo of my blog. This is Poppy, Alex and Betsy (the dog) enjoying a coffee outside a café – definitively not a restaurant 😉
There were so many beautiful colours on the autumn trees, which made me think that autumn is a time that we can let things go. Just like trees have to let go of their leaves which they have nurtured and helped grow from spring, we can use this time to let go off things of the past.
I found this great wee article describing this – Let the Leaves Fall
Here’s a quote from it.
“As the trees learn to let go, we can release our grip….
It’s unnecessary for trees to hoard the dead leaves, trying to save up for next year. Nature provides the nutrients it needs to create new and abundant foliage in the spring, and in fact it is by releasing the old leaves to the earth that provides the compost for nourishing the soil.
Hanging on to what is dead and no longer serves us hinders the ability for the new, stronger buds to open.”.
This section is to create a library of the many different types of face-masks that everyone has. It is also a place to promote the business where you bought your face-mask. So if you want to help a small face-mask business grow or just show everyone your favourite face-mask / face-covering, please send photos over to me and I can include in this section.
Another bumper Readers Corner, with 13 posts/comments from 11 people. It’s great to receive so many lovely messages and comments 🙂
Glenn left a comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“its a lovely, and creative thing to change the story you are living in … good luck … G”.
Thanks Glenn! I like that way of looking at it 🙂
Graham left two Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Jim you mentioned you had an engine on your canal boat. Have you started it yet and what make is it.”.
Yes, I have started the engine, when I was looking at it with Rach who was the previous owner. She showed me how to start it, but I didn’t take it out.
The survey states the engine is a BMC 1.5 litre diesel, provided by JG Meakes Ltd, couple to PRM 160 reversing reduction gearbox, if that makes any sense to you 😉 Although, I also read somewhere that it is a tractor engine!
Graham’s second Facebook comment:
“Jim, like your comments on old railways around Edinburgh being used as walkways. Have attached an old railway map of 1898 which shows how many railways were about in Edinburgh and district. May be useful for your exploring.”.
Wow – that’s awesome!! Thanks Graham 🙂
Ian left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Always an enjoyable and knowledgeable read Jim. It’s a lovely spot you are moving to. If I am cycling the canal route to town I love that area.”.
Glad you enjoyed the blog Ian! Yes the boat is a great spot, once I’ve moved in, you will have to drop by if you are cycling by!
Kevin left a comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Brilliant Jim….this situation is forcing a massive amount of change on everyone’s life. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected in one way or another. Your blog shows just how we’re having to deal with this. I miss the ceilidhs soooo much”.
Thanks for the comment Kevin! I agree that Covid is leading to many people making changes to their lives. I have been reflecting over the last week or so on why that is. Any thoughts? When we return to ceilidhs at some point in the future, we will enjoy it even more than before!
Kevin later left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Sounds like a great adventure Jim! “.
Lisa left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Hope you’ll be happy in your new home and outside area. It looks really nice and peaceful. X”.
Thanks Lisa 🙂
Matt left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Great read, Jim – exciting times! xx”.
You will be glad to see that today you are no way near the bottom of ‘Readers Corner’ 😉
Pat left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Happy For You Mate In Your New Adventure U Can Feel Your Excitement In Your Writing.. Stay Safe and Stay Well Mate…“.
Thanks Pat, yes I am starting to get more excited as the reality sinks in 🙂
Robin left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) in relation to my question of what “10+10=20″ meant, saying:
“(10+10=20 relates to yesterday’s date! Just a amateur numerologist’s whim with my sister)”.
Thanks for clearing that up Robin 🙂
Ryan left a Facebook comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Best of luck luck with your new adventure and good to see it seems to have energised you ( maybe that was the break away? ). Anyway, good luck.”.
Thanks Ryan! Yes I am feeling a lighter energy within me, I have been musing over why that is for the last couple of days!
Sam sent me a message this morning after reading yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Hey Jim. Enjoyed your blog today. Although, I believe it’s Towpath, not “toll path”. Tow path because the horses would “tow” the boats by pulling them along “
Thanks Sam 🙂
Thanks for the correction – I clearly have lots to learn in my new boat life 😉
Tommy left a comment on yesterdays blog (Day 201) saying:
“Pera is a very special wee place, and has always been BYOB as far as I know. My favourite Edinburgh restaurant. Or café. Whatever it is.
Congrats on the boat.”.
Thanks Tommy 🙂
I’ve never been to Pera, will check it out sometime soon.
Please share your favourite songs, tunes, albums for this section. Could be in the format of Spotify, YouTube, Vimeo or any music platform, or even just the sound file which I can embed straight into the blog.
As I come to the end of today’s blog, it feels more like lots of writing about life rather than lockdown, but it feels right for where I am at.
I hope you enjoyed my explanation of the ‘sunshine theory’ and the next time there is a crisp clear blue sky this autumn, you remember and like me think “it’s a sun theory day” 🙂
When you notice the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves I invite you to reflect of last 6 months or so of this year, the many hard ups and downs that we have all experienced and ponder what you can let go of.
This pandemic has completely turned our lives upside down and there are certainly more hard months ahead, so reflecting what you have learnt, how you have changed and what you could let go, will help us through the winter.