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Eisenberg's Heisenberg: The Indeterminacies of Rationality

Leroi B. Daniels
Curriculum Inquiry
Vol. 26, No. 2 (Summer, 1996), pp. 181-192
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
DOI: 10.2307/1180043
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1180043
Page Count: 12
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Eisenberg's Heisenberg: The Indeterminacies of Rationality
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Abstract

I try to place John Eisenberg's arguments in the context of the current debate on the death of foundationalism to reveal what seem to me to be the risks he runs-chiefly, the risks of presenting a distorted picture of rationality and of sliding into relativism. These risks are present because Eisenberg in part sets up a straw person by defining "the rational planner" as holding extreme views and then writing as if the rational planner exemplifies the rational person. He also fails, along with Donald Schön, to understand how "noticing" verbs work in ordinary language. In addition, he makes an unwarranted leap from Heisenberg to Eisenberg-a leap less radically formulated as a recognition that much of what we do in education we do under what has become known as the INUS condition. I conclude that the strength of Eisenberg's argument is his critique of the arrogance of the rational planners and his essentially cautious recommendations for practice. This is classic Eisenberg-intense, brimming with social concern and energy, and interesting. A western Canadian like me would easily see the eastern bias-no mention, for example, of the views of British Columbia's Royal Commission on Education (Chant 1960)-politically and pedagogically in sharp contrast to the reports he cites. It is also externally quintessentially Canadian to define ourselves as "not Americans." It includes a number of breathtaking historical leaps/claims. For example, the "Connections" paragraph starting, materially speaking, with the mechanical clock. I shall mostly ignore the "this is my recollection" talk. I have my own recollections, but his recollections are, after all, his. He offers two qualities of argument-the cautious and the extreme. I generally ignore all but the extreme claims and arguments. These I believe are potentially misleading-especially as a systematic attack on reason. I shall try to place his article in a larger context and then comment on it under four questions: What is Eisenberg against? What is his account of indeterminacy? What are his methods and evidence? What should we think of what he says?

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