Archetypes LO26459

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/01/01

Replying to LO26411 --

Dear Organlearners,

Richard Holloway <> writes:

>I'm enjoying your conversation, Gavin and Winfried.

Greetings dear Doc,

And so am I, including yours!

>Plato (through the words of Socrates) would
>have us believe that archetypes have a real
>nature and exist independently of the phenomena
>which are merely their shadows. It's interesting
>to note that both Plato and Augustine believed that
>our ideas (logos) are illuminated by archetypes;
>and Aristotle and Aquinas believed that we must
>know the concrete things before we can see the
>universal form. It seems to me that Senge's archetypes
>are more similar to the latter than the former.

Yes, it does seem to be the case.

But I wonder whether Socrates himself thought of ideas as empty containers
waiting to be filled by content. We have nothing which Socrates wrote
himself and the most we know about him was written by Plato. Socrates was
too much aware of wholeness to assume that from could exist independent of
content. But on the other hand, he was always ready to question
everything, even the absurd.

Most people think that science progress by "filling empty containers". The
"empty containers" are theories which then have to be filled by facts as
the content. Far too many scientists also think the same. They usually
know little, if anything, of the scientific method (observation,
speculation, falsification). They rather use an existing theory and
generate data with scientific instrumentation to fill the theory. Thus
they create at most information (data arranged according to the theory).

Most people even think that knowledge progress by "filling empty
containers". Here the "empty containers" are the brains (organic memory
devices) which then have to be filled with information through the process
of learning or training. Far too many teachers also think the same. They
know little, if any, of authentic learning (experiences, tacit knowledge,
articulation). They rather use an existing textbook and generate with
training instrumentation (like multiple choice questions and behavioural
outcomes) information from it to fill the learner's brain. Thus they build
a CV of rote training successes as long as a person's arm.

It saddens me deeply when this "filling up the empty container" happens
even in the higher levels of spirituality. For example, consider the level
to which believing, faith and religion apply. Usually only one specific
"book" (like the Bible, Koran or Veda) is prescribed. This book then has
to be fitted with rigid dogma into that spritual level so that the person
can faithfully reproduce its religious content. However, the Bible for
example, tells that faith has knowledge as part of its basis, but never
tells that this knowledge has to be aquired through rote learning!

What has happened to the two great lessons which Socrates taught? For the
learner -- to question the inner mind by opening up to the outer world
using all the sensory organs, to seek noble meaning on the experiences
thus gained and to build a trustworthy character on these understandings.
For the teacher -- to walk the path first so as to know how to act as
midwife for the learner. Or were these lessons and their outcomes really
so corrupt that the poisoned beaker which Socrates had to drink was the
correct judgement?

In my fifth year (MSc Physics) at university, I made a definite choice to
get rid of this "fill the empty container" in my mental progress. Nobody
had a particular influence on my choice. I just had enough of this "fill
the empty container" and became disgusted with it. Thus began a long, slow
and fractal process of learning on "forming filled containers further".
Today I think of "fill the empty container" as a Mental Model.

Doc, I have to admit that "fill the empty container" may not be the Mental
Model, but rather that "forming filled containers further" may be the
Mental Model. When I observe how predominant the "fill the empty
container" occur in the mentality of billions of other people, there is no
reason for me to say that it is a Mental Model. Hence it is better to
question my own mentality and the "forming filled containers further" as a
Mental Model which constrains rather than benefits.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.