25 August 2008

Back to Classes

ISU's fall semester started today. I've taught two classes, and been to both of the ones I'm taking. Chinese is going to be fun. I like the teacher's style, and the general atmosphere. I've found one bit of pronunciation that's going to give me fits (and we haven't even gotten to tones yet). 'z' in the pinyin (peen-een) transliteration of Mandarin Chinese is pronounced "dz". 'c' is pronounced 'ts' (a very quick, sharp sound: like the end of 'cats'). However, as I've taken German, I can pretty much guarantee that I will try to pronounce 'z' as 'ts', which is what it is in German.

Theory of Knowledge (aka Epistemology) will be interesting. It's supposed to be Dr. Wahl's specialty. There are some things about his lecturing style that bug me, but it sounds like it's due to become a discussion course once we have things to discuss, so that should be better. The text we're using starts with classical sources. I've skimmed through most of the Plato excerpts. One thing puzzles me. Well, one thing in particular. Plato insists that, for instance, a flower is beautiful to the extent that it reflects (or maybe contains) 'Beauty': an external 'form' that is the source of all beauty. So why is 'knowledge' not treated the same way? Why isn't there some abstract 'form' of 'Knowledge' and people only have knowledge to the degree that they reflect this form? I should admit that I haven't read a lot of Plato, so perhaps there are places where this is dealt with, but at the moment it seems inconsistent to me that he tries to define knowledge while he merely points at 'Beauty'.

I should also point out that the whole 'ideal form' bit makes little sense to me, and has less appeal. Particularly in the case of 'Beauty.' If you talk to most people who drive across Wyoming, they'll tell you how awful it is. How boring and dry and...and so on. I, on the other hand, think it's absolutely beautiful. Stunning, sometimes. I love the topography, and the colors, and the way the wind has shaped the rocks. They say "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." That doesn't leave much room for a universal, unchanging, eternal 'ideal form' of 'Beauty'.


James F. McGrath said...

If you're just starting with Mandarin, can I recommend getting the beginning Pimsleur tapes or CDs for Mandarin and putting them on in your car, your IPOD or wherever else you might listen to them? They are so helpful...

Qalmlea said...

Thanks for the tip. I'll have to look for them. ^/^