Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Learning what is not...

The Jainist metaphysics has in it the notion that reality is multifaceted and that it has several parts. And each object or reality has two distinct elements which help one recognise and distinguish one from the other. They are the positive elements (what it is) and the negative elements (what it is not). Naturally the list of what a thing is not is longer than what it is. But I was wondering which of these elements would be ideal for teaching, especially children. I have a feeling it is much more enriching (though need not be speedy) to teach children what things are by sharing with them what it is not than directly and plainly telling them what it is. Why so? In the process children pick up several other things and learn about new things and not just the one thing before them. Furthermore, distinguishing one from the other also is a game by itself.
The Indian philosophical method of neti-neti rings a bell here!

Perhaps this process of negating what a thing is not, is a very intuitive process. Of course, we can just say that a fan is not a tree, but to be able to say that it is not a helicopter is something more formative than the former. Or to say that it is not a living thing... by saying so we have negated all living beings. The search is now narrowed down and further intensified...

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