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Beyond Words

Pictures, Parables, Paradoxes


Edited By András Benedek and Kristóf Nyíri

Human thinking depends not only on words but also on visual imagery. Visual argumentation directly exploits the logic of the pictorial, while verbal arguments, too, draw on figurative language, and thus ultimately on images. In the centuries of handwritten documents and the printed book, our educational culture has been a predominantly verbal one. Today the challenge of the pictorial is explicit and conspicuous. In the digital world, we are experiencing an unprecedented wealth of images, animations and videos. But how should visual content be combined with traditional texts? This volume strives to present a broad humanities background showing how going beyond the word was always an issue in, and by now has become an inevitable challenge to, pedagogy and philosophy.
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Pictures, Experiential Learning and Phenomenology



A “retention pyramid”, presented in Ronald Sousa’s How the Brain Learns,1 circulates widely among educational professionals. It suggests we learn most by teaching others, second through practice by doing and least through lecture, with audiovisual in the middle. Many repeat this as if gospel. However, the pyramid was first devised in the 1960s, and one suspects it is more accepted than demonstrated, a little like the popular yet false belief that we only use 10% of our brain, now propagated in the movie Lucy. One further worries that it is wise to be wary of anything so tightly summing up learning; and, moreover, that students should learn to listen better, this being crucial in life. Then there are also differences between retaining and learning, a distinction frequently lost in Egypt where I teach, and where, like so many other places, studying often means memorizing. In fact, one of the Arabic verbs for “I study” (athakar) has the same root of a verb for “I remember” (atathakar).

Having said this, learning obviously involves memory, and the retention pyramid has merits. After all, many of us in the educational field come to our best understanding by teaching. We also better learn tasks when walked through while doing them, as opposed to merely hearing instructions. Further, presentations with visual aids, even when only tangentially related to subject matter, engage us more than ones without, although this is not the sort of image I wish to...

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