Grand Paradigms

Completely contrasting the classical paradigm which described a clear purpose of life and placed god (or gods at the top of  the hierarchy of importance and power. The postmodern paradigm removes the connections to god and fate from our perception of the world. The uncertainty and ambiguity that are the basis of the thinking of this paradigm is simultaneously freeing and horrifically daunting: for many, the idea that their life is not predetermined or constantly judged by a greater force is liberating, to others, amputating the idea that we all hold divine duty within the bigger picture makes them feel lost. The postmodern paradigm rejects the idea that we are capable of producing objective knowledge. It is interesting to contemplate when, or why the postmodern paradigm will begin to collapse, and some suggest it’s already in the process of. The term coined a ‘fake news’ highlights a major issue currently experienced worldwide: with such a large flow in of information, we often cannot determine what is true and what is not. With such a large outpour of incorrect information it is not uncommon for people’s conclusions to be made of incorrect premise. To make matters worse, we have become aware of the increase in fake news leaving us sometimes in situations of radical uncertainty. In these instances where our theories and personal experiences cannot even guide us (as we don’t know which fact or alternative fact to believe or not believe), we do nothing. A clear example of this phenomenon is the climate change crisis, where many don’t know what to do or who to believe, so they make no change.

CU: Paradigms

#1 CU: The ability to identify and understand multiple paradigms, does not challenge the paradigm we hold if it doesn’t align with our individual values, or call for reason.  

At the end of last year’s softball season, the team was informed that we would be retracting our participation from the annual SEASAC event as it was hosted at an international school in Yangon, Myanmar. The country, packed with a myriad of different ethnic groups, has been under international attention since late 2017 for the ongoing atrocities committed against the Rohingya minority group through the local military’s large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing. The climate in Myanmar opened up discussion and debate within the College over whether it was appropriate for staff, students and supporting parents to visit Myanmar. Looking back at the situation, I am able to highlight certain paradigms that arose. The values that outline the culture and attitudes of the UWC movement were interpreted various ways, lending itself as closely to remaining engaged as it does to standing up against atrocity. In short, there was not one standing definition as what was the ‘correct’ thing to do.The first is a very egocentric paradigm which showcased a sense of close mindedness towards the other perspectives simply because their own desires were jeopardized. This paradigm was concerned with the short term, individual consequences and believed that participating in the trip would not affect or help the Rohingya crisis diminish. The individual’s background and cultural upbringing may have influenced them to develop a paradigm which reasoned for personal gain over communal or societal gain. Personally I interpreted this paradigm as saying “no matter what we do our actions won’t make a difference to the greater issue.” The second Paradigm held was one that believed to see change we must set the example, and was more of a utilitarian perspective (the desire to withhold from travelling to Myanmar was the more favourable perspective within the international UWC community). Individuals with this second paradigm were still able to understand and empathise with those who held the first, but were not challenged to switch paradigms as the basis of which that paradigm was justified on was not aligned to what they valued. 

#2 CU: Not all paradigms are equally valid, as it a paradigm requires logical consistency even when challenged with new arguments. 

Conceptual Understanding on Perception

Selective Attention my alters different people’s truths, though they’re observing the same experience. 

Selective attention is the cognitive process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time, whilst ignoring the other inputs that our brain deems unimportant in the same immediate environment. Attention is a limited resource and our as humans we biologically cannot process all the information around us at all the time, so selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what matters. This influences our ability to perceive the world accurately as it means we will often miss out on information that we may specifically be looking out for. But once we are told what to look for and expect, we subconsciously erase all that does not fit. This theory can be seen when we did the famous Harvard study, where we were instructed to count the number of balls thrown by a certain group – white or black. As we are so focused on counting the number of passes, many participants simply miss the gorilla that enters the scene, or the fact that the curtains change colour. This pushes us to question how if our  truths that we construct through our senses are fully accurate, did we miss something part of the bigger picture? When people devote their attention to a particular object or factor, the unexpected tends to go unnoticed even when those unexpected objects are potentially important, most noticeable or right in front of them. Because subconsciously we all individually choose what we believes is important to remember, it sometimes leads us to garnering different variations of reality where some people ‘saw more’ than others. 


The human brain’s need of sense-making subconsciously organises our observations to optimize our survival, hence making certainty challenging to attain. 

The human brain has evolved to become particularly skilled at sense-making: creating patterns out of our observations, finding human faces from inanimate objects, allocating persona’s to moving dots based on their speed and distance from each other. These few examples highlight the shortcut that our subconscious mind often takes, its ability to sense make allows us to learn and absorb information easier, though possibly warping the truth in the process. When Mr.Alchin showed the dots moving on screen, our perception of the persona created from these dots changed alongside the speed and distance the dots vibrated – the audience recognised both a female walking and a male walking simply through the alteration of the dots movement. But nonetheless, though our brain perceived the dots as walking figgures, the truth stands that they were merely dots, but our pre-existing notions of what male and female’s walk like, allowed us to extrapolate a false truth. This leads us to question, what particular types of knowledge, or areas of knowledge are most affected by the potential flaws presented in perception. Areas of Knowledge such as science and history, where knowledge is (either heavily or partially) created through people’s perception of events. It can argue that as they are greatly based on perception they can only operate within the idea of Plato’s cave, where our senses only provide us with an obscured reality, a reality constructed in our own brains, shadows on the cave wall. Only when reason to operate on the perceptions, we can get glimpses of the noumenal. When looking through this lens, then we can also assume that Maths is one of the areas of knowledge that operates within a noumenal space. This is because the methods of obtaining knowledge does not rely on perception and senses, but instead blossom off of pre-existing axioms.