Mediating Thought: Minding the Dissemination & Destination of Thought in Systems of Knowledge

By David J. Roof.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

"Languages are made to be spoken, writing serves only as a supplement to speech, …Speech represents thought by conventional signs, and writing represents the same with regard to speech. Thus the art of writing is nothing but a mediated representation of thought." –Rousseau

"Education is imposed against a backdrop of errors, distortions, bad habits and dependencies which have been reified since the start of life. So that it is not even a matter of returning to a state of youth or infancy where there would still have been the human being; but rather of a referring to a “nature” …which has never had the opportunity to emerge in a life immediately seized by a defective system of education and belief. The objective of the practice of the self is to free the self, by making it coincide with a nature which has never had the opportunity to manifest itself in it." --Foucault


This work investigates intelligence as a way of thinking about thought, and seeks to reconsider the organizational principles and ethos incorporated in this way of thinking specifically in relation to the didactics of new media where questions regarding reality, representation, and imitation are compounded by theoretical concerns over pedagogy and learning. The fundamental issues raised within this context relates to a phenomenology of mind, and a context in which perception, thought, and experience became known or reduced to a measurable object of knowledge manifested in a number of techniques and instruments.

As a concept enmeshed in a complex fabric of beliefs, notions, representations, images, attitudes --intelligence functions-- as an ideology of norms within and through which people live and relate to the world. Furthermore, the concept of intelligence operates as a type of cybernetic system by validating modes of thought and assembling feedback individually, but external in the sense of derived from the level of a collective conscious of the social body. This contemporary paradigm as a human/mental teleology is derived from a historical notion of ‘discovery’ or scientific advancement illuminating the nature of intellectual ability. This work, however, centers on the epistemological orientation of intelligence and attempts to reconsider the concept of intelligence, in the context of questions the interplay of convention and nature, language and reality, and the relationship between representation and thought. The specific contexts in which these aspects are interrelated are the didactic demands of new media and education. To facilitate this study, the focus is centered on two intersecting historical and analytical points of reference.

The western development of knowledge and the position of the subject in relation to meaning is drawn from Derrida’s critique of Rousseau and the function of supplement and presence compared with the representational function of writing, in which education is organized as the substitution for the destiny of Nature’s edifice, and pedagogy shaped around the problematic and inherent evil in the function of supplementation or substitution of an transcendent essence. In comparison the relationship between a supposed teleology of human thought and educational practice (merit, ability, and so forth) has been naturalized directly by the concept of intelligence, and has shaped education and pedagogy around a naturalized set of norms and social conventions.

The second point of reference stems from Foucault’s examination of ethics, pedagogy, and the culture of the self during antiquity. This framework offers an alternative perspective for evaluating the significance of self-directed learning, evaluative thought, and a self-reflexive education that critiques underlying assumptions of nature, reality, representation, and thought, as they relate to notions of self. This framework, also suggests, the relevance of examining and reconsidering an ethos stemming from notions of thought in which meaning and knowledge is abstracted from the self, because its reference is always to an exteriority, but an exterior reflected back at the very essence of our being. In the contemporary modes used to transmit information, representation, and meaning thought is a constituent aspect of knowledge, but not situated or located in the development of the self. Again, the didactics and potential of technology and new media suggest a pedagogic system that incorporates individuals within the formation and evaluation of meaning and knowledge, as opposed isolating and abstracting them from it.

Keywords: Human Intelligence, Representation, Education, New Media

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 8, pp.167-174. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 514.678KB).

David J. Roof

Graduate student, Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

David J. Roof Educational Policy Studies University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign

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