Consider This Q

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    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11154

      I’m about 3/4 of the way through the book and wondering if anyone can give me further insight into what the author means by analytical thinking and it’s relation to synthetic thinking. They seem to me to both be very natural ways of thinking, complementary and mutually enriching, like two lungs. Certainly you could teach (live?) in a way that deadens synthetic thinking and in a way thatweakens analytical thinking and either or both would be disastrous. But I just can’t imagine separating them like she seems to. How can you figure out how something relates to anything else without taking it apart a bit? How can you understand the pieces unless you relate it to other things? Perhaps this is a side note, but her illustration in chapter six about the difference between reading statistics on poverty vs. reading a first hand account that makes us care really rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps because this very situation is abused so often in our time — people with an agenda shoving hard cases in our faces making us feel like monsters if we even ask about what is the best way to help others. But love means seeking the good of the other, not feelings. And we cannot we cannot take the abstract concept of “the good” and figure out what our duty in any particular moment is without asking a lot of questions, breaking e problem down, and sometimes even resorting to those numbers.
      I am wondering too whether this might be the effects of some implicit Protestant theology on the part of CM and Glass that I’m not picking up on because I am Catholic. I mean, yes, we are all subject to the temptation to rationalize our desires, but ultimately, I do believe God is reasonable –He is Logos — and His natural law is written on our hearts and accessible to men of good will through reason. Faith, even though it is a supernatural gift, is also reasonable; it’s in accord with reason, stands up to reason.
      Anyway, thoughts?

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11293

      I have been wondering something like this too…especially as it relates to Bible study. I understand the need for seeing the world in context, and in relationship. But my personal experience has been that my synthetic understanding doesn’t really come to life until I have thought through a passage analytically. Growing up, I was taught the Bible in “story” fashion at church, with very little attempt at analysis. I knew all the “stories” and even had a pretty good idea of how they fit together, but it wasn’t until I went to college and learned how to do inductive study (which is very analytical!) that I really began to grasp the depth and richness of the Word. Then my synthetic understanding took on so much more meaning. I’m not sure it’s exactly a Catholic v. Protestant issue because I am Protestant and I know exactly what you’re talking about 🙂

      In regards to the poverty issue…I don’t think breaking an issue down and asking lots of questions necessarily needs to be in opposition to synthetic thinking. When we look at any issue synthetically, we should be looking at the issue in the context of the entire situation…there is a flip side to every coin. We can ask tough questions and examine every side of the issue. Facts and statistics could be one factor of that equation, as well as personal stories and examples. I don’t remember exactly where she was going with that example in the book…I will have to go back and look at that again…

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11297

      Yes, I think I even scribbled something in the margin about Bible reading! Many times in prayer something that I’ve read in study really opens it up for me and provides a lot of fruitful meditation. One of my favorite types of lectio divina is the church fathers commentaries on Scripture, and they use a LOT of analysis. Come to think of it, they are very good examples of using both analytical and synthetic thinking simultaneously.

      I agree with what you said re the poverty, my problem was that I agree we should be using both, whereas the passage in the book seemed to be opposing them and saying synthetic was better because it made people care more. My point was that we should be using both types of thinking so that we do not only care, we love, because we are grounded in truth.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11312

      It’s been a year since I read the book, but I would venture to guess that Glass is encouraging a return to a partnership between synthesis and analysis. Since our culture is so bent on analysis, she has to emphasize the synthesis. She’s also pointing out that a lot of educators calling themselves classical are in fact very modern and exclusively analytical in this way, breaking things down first and then teaching them.

      Also, isn’t she coming at this from the angle of educating children? If we agree with her angle, that Charlotte Mason was a beautiful manifestation of classical education, we’ll also agree that the education of children should move from fully synthetic to partnership with analytic overtime. We want their hearts engaged with the world (maybe not with the problem of poverty exactly, but I think that was meant as an illustration), before they begin to break something down to study it more in depth or specialize in it.

      I think mature adults will use both modes in tandem and probably without noticing they’re switching back and forth. A very good and very difficult chapter in Norms and Nobility called “The Word is Truth” covers this as well, though he uses “logos” for analytic and “mythos” for synthetic. Hicks says, “The apparent quarrel between logos and mythos resolves itself in a dialectical unity of opposites. The one cannot maintain its identity and purposes without the other–no more than a wrestler can pursue his sport in a world of one.”

      I’m also Protestant, and I personally love intensive Bible study, but I am also very critical of the way a lot of Protestant seminaries and churches teach Scripture. It can be very utilitarian, almost as if we read the Bible so we can learn the fancy names of things that occur. It puffs up and disconnects us from the mystery of Scripture. Without a reverence for the mythos, the life-change that is available becomes difficult to tap into.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11313

      On second thought, I’m not sure you can make an exact correlation between synthetic/analytic and mythos/logos. Mythos is akin to story and logos is akin to philosophy/theology. I think it fits well when we’re talking about Bible study, but maybe not perfect for the rest of the convo.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11319

      Yes, I definitely agree with her that we ought to start with synthetic (I think she also connected it to poetic knowledge). It would be very interesting to delve into how the analytical type begins to grow alongside the synthetic as children age.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11324

      we are all subject to the temptation to rationalize our desires, but ultimately, I do believe God is reasonable –He is Logos — and His natural law is written on our hearts and accessible to men of good will through reason. Faith, even though it is a supernatural gift, is also reasonable; it’s in accord with reason, stands up to reason.
      Anyway, thoughts?

      Yes, reason is a good thing. After all, it was given to us by God. But I think that Reason has been elevated so much that it has become a god these days and that’s why Ms Glass is overemphasising the synthetic side of the coin. Knowledge through wholistic experience as something that matters is not valued by many art this point in time.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11325

      I don’t know, it doesn’t seem to me that our society is burdened with an overabundance of reason 😉 not that we’ve got an overabundance of synthetic knowledge, either. Rejecting God and setting Reason up as an idol may have set us on this path, but we passed Reason by a long time ago. Now Self is the god, and Self demands the bloody sacrifice of Reason whenever it becomes inconvenient. It demands relativism, appeasement, distraction, and only dabbles in the life of the mind for its own vanity, e.g. Scientism. Of course, CM was further back down that path, so some of the things she says make more sense in that context. But in our day?

      • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11361

        I think we *might* have an overabundance of analysis, which isn’t the same thing as Reason. 🙂

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11352

      You’re right – Self is most definitely an idol for our culture in general. But since this is the case then, in my opinion, when it comes to the traditional educational approach these days it makes sense that the analytical approach is valued over the synthetic in that one’s own mind is elevated to the place of Ultimate Authority. So the book takes great pains to expose this and convince readers that synthetic understanding has value too and ought to play a significant role in education.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11354

      Good point. Loving this discussion!

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11362

      Have you ever read the book Poetic Knowledge? For me, this really helped me understand why Charlotte Mason was hesitant to have children analyzing — taking apart — at young ages. I really think it happens naturally — with my oldest child, around age 12, analysis began to be part of our days without any deliberate decision on my part. But I was glad that we didn’t make it a focus in the younger years.

      I just listened to Karen speak on this subject over the weekend. One thing that really helped me was the idea that narration is synthetic and comprehension questions are analysis. So, for example, we did two versions of picture study. In both, we spent time studying the same image (a painting by Mary Cassatt). But the synthesis group had to narrate — tell back everything they could remember about the painting. The analysis group (my group) had to answer comprehension questions — how many boats were there, how many sleeves were showing on the girls, what color was the hair, etc. So, long term the result would be that a student in the synthesis group would be looking at the whole, while the analysis student would probably skip the whole and start jumping to details and counting. It’s an interesting result, I think.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11368

      That’s a very helpful illustration, Brandy.

      I liked the quote at the beginning of this article from Circe regarding analysis of Scripture: https://www.circeinstitute.org/blog/we-murder-dissect-0

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11417

      Great link! So would you say analysis is reductive– reducing things to the parts that can be named and classified? And would synthetic reasoning allow you to look at the individual parts as long as they retain their relationship to the whole and relationality to other things?
      Hope that made sense, very interrupted sleep last night. 🙂

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11717

      Yes, I would agree with that Angelique, and I think that explanation especially helps reconcile the issue you took with Karen’s poverty example. If you start with statistics and demographics, you won’t get very far because your heart is not engaged. But if you start with a story of a real person AND seek counsel AND do research (including statistics) AND pray and read Scripture, you might actually discover the right action that is required, and true virtue begins to form. (???)

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #11719

      Yes, and I think that’s an excellent example of the kind of adult that is my end goal of education.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13336

      I am still plugging away at Norms and Nobility and came across an explicit discussion of synthesis vs. analysis. Couldn’t help but share it here, because uhhh I don’t totally get it. It’s kind of long but I thought it would be more confusing without some context.

      Although the ancients possessed a scientific method of sorts and such scientific instruments as the dioptra and the astrolabe, they are often criticized for failing to set up controlled experiments and for not observing nature closely and critically. Hipparchus’ work in observational astronomy, Archimedes’ experiments in mechanics, and Herophilus’ scrupulous human dissections might argue with this criticism, but they do not belie the ancients’ preference for abstract thought over empirical research. Their reasons for distrusting empirical research all stemmed from philosophy. First, the apparent irregularity and instability of nature, not the inadequacy of their methods or instruments, led the ancients to question the reliability of experiment and observation, especially as methods of proof. Second, having recently acquired a compelling system of logic, they preferred to concentrate on abstract, deductive methods of proof (synthesis) rather than on concrete, inductive methods of discovery (analysis). Finally, they looked upon the natural world as a representation of an impalpable, unchanging reality full of meaning and truth–not as something existing in its own right apart from either the will of God or the vagaries of human perception.

      So synthesis is deductive (using logic or reason to form a conclusion), and analysis is inductive (using particular examples to reach a general conclusion about something). I had to look up the definitions and I still don’t totally get how this applies to the parts versus the whole. Thoughts?

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13421

      Hm, that’s a juicy quote. 🙂

      How about this:

      Deductive/abstract/synthesis reasoning requires connections to be made – it’s analogical, not precise. It is the world of metaphors, stories, spirituality.
      Inductive/concrete/analytical reasoning requires absolute and exclusive attention to details & physical reality – it’s precise, material, and actual.

      Our modern world denies the spiritual and allows only analytic – only material – observation. The ancient world was on the opposite side of the ditch. The ideal is a fusion of them both.

      • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13579

        Thanks, Mystie, that is helpful. I like hearing several different people put it into their own words. My confusion about N&N is related to the use of the words logic and proof, so…emphasis on reason?. It is hard for me not to equate reason and analysis (as we discussed above). Further into that chapter, as you probably know, Hicks discusses how the ancient scientists were more concerned with maintaining a simple, logical and beautiful model of the universe, as opposed to one that was able to be backed up by exact calculations. They just didn’t care, not because they were ignorant, it just wasn’t part of their value system.

        It must be the effect of the Enlightenment or something on me that I can’t seem to separate reason from analysis.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13433

      That is a great summary.
      I’m still not sure that is what I see in the way people are taught to think in our society, though. Sometimes it seems that the materialism of our society is only a means to an end…we love studies and statistics, but the second the facts get in the way of what the self wants they are denounced as bigotry. I guess it makes me sound like a religious nut, but there seems to be a rebellion against reality itself building in our popular culture that is, well, diabolical, and not in the loose sense of the word.
      I wonder what CM thought of the existentialists, but maybe they weren’t really popular yet in her day.

      • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13580

        It is crazy how fast our world is changing. Sometimes I think when we read books written 20 years ago, we’re not even talking about the same place as our current society! Don’t you think that we’re beyond modern, we’re beyond post-modern and on to something new? I am seeing clear corrections and return to certain types of “norms” in some spheres, and then in others, it’s further and further degeneration.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13700

      I agree, we are entering into new territory. The rate of information overload has increased exponentially even since I was in college 15 years ago. The relativism of post-modernism assumes that people have beliefs and opinions. But it seems in some ways that the natural consequences of this “believe whatever you want” culture created such division and conflict that people are afraid to believe in anything. Combine that with a constant flow of information right before the eyes and our minds become so overwhelmed that we can’t discern who to listen to or even what is worth knowing. There seems to be a growing disdain for knowledge and learning in general; like being an intelligent, thinking person with real thoughts and opinions is a threat to society (or at least relationships). I have been really surprised in the last few years by how hard it is to have theological discussions with other people. It seems they either don’t really have an opinion (because knowing God is a personal issue of the “heart”, not the “mind”), or they get so offended that you might think something different than them that the conversation just shuts down. There is no sense of “that was a great conversation; we can agree to disagree” (which in my mind is the essence of relativism); only, “we cannot discuss anything of weight because you might not agree with me and that is threatening.” It is, like you said Angelique, a sort of “diabolical rebellion against reality,” now that I think about it (I love that phrase!) The moment any thought, statistic, opinion, etc conflicts with our own “feelings,” we are free to just dismiss it and move on.

      This got me thinking…so how DO we reach a culture that has fallen to the point where the skills of rhetoric and reason have no meaning? And I end up right back with Charlotte at synthetic thinking! If we can bypass the “hard facts” (at least at first) and appeal to the heart with stories that speak to the whole person, help them to experience something outside of their personal realm of experience, perhaps we can break down enough walls to eventually speak to the mind through analysis, reason, etc…? I know, synthetic v. analytic learning doesn’t necessarily split neatly into heart v. mind…just trying to process some thoughts here 🙂

      Have you ladies experienced the same thing with trying to have meaningful conversation?

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13789

      I think it’s impossible to engage the culture at large, but it is very much possible engage individual persons. And you’re right – it must be done through appeal to the heart, the whole person, rather than through the mind. The reasoning part can come later. I think it’s vital for those of us who are not relativistic to understand this and to understand what synthetic learning is so that by actively seeking to share a common experience with those around us we can engage the mind in a more fruitful way instead of just talking past one another.

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #13900

      Yes, sorry if that wasn’t clear! I was definitely referring to engaging individuals:)

    • May 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm #14384

      Yeah, I think it’s usually moral beauty backed up by logical consistency that really makes me want to listen to someone. That’s what first drew me to homeschooling, actually. I met a lot of homeschoolers in college and I was so impressed with how close they were to their families and how secure they were in themselves (weird homeschoolers was a draw for me, lol). The exceptions I can think of in my life have been parts if my faith that I really wasn’t drawn to at all, but became convinced if their value/validity, started doing them out of obedience, then grew to see their beauty as grace worked on me.
      I do think we need to remember that reaching people through their hearts doesn’t mean being soppy and watered down — sometimes people are aching for a challenge to give some real meaning to their lives. We ought to be real about things, too, or people can feel betrayed (ahem, everyone who ever told me it was downhill after three kids).

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