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Extra info for Imitation and Education: A Philosophical Inquiry into Learning by Example (S U N Y Series in Philosophy of Education)
So what is it that makes something communicate a trait so as to exemplify it? She writes, “[A telling example] presents those features in a context contrived to render them salient. ” She continues, “Stage setting can also involve introduction of additional factors. Thus a biologist stains a slide to bring out a contrast, and a composer elaborates a theme to disclose hidden harmonies” (1991, p. 199). When examples are telling, she reminds us, they provide “epistemic access” to the features exemplified.
For instance, a human example can function educationally as being not me (“that action is not what I want to do”) or it can have nothing to do with me at all, but with us (“that person is how we all should be”). Additionally, an educational human example can be an example of a past me, a representation of what I once was, but no longer am. This type of exemplary structure can be particularly instructive (“that person is an example of how I used to be, and I now see how ridiculous I looked”). But human examples exert much of their power when they appear as a possible future self—a telos adopted for a possible developmental process to come.
Imitative action, he came to conclude, meant nothing if it was not tied to the true inclinations of the individual self. He writes in Some Thoughts Concerning Education that some students “endeavour to make shew of dispositions of mind, which they have not, but to express those they have by a carriage not suited to them” (§66). ” For Locke, imitative behavior can superficially mask a defect or mistake within the true self; the self becomes a forgery. For this reason, Locke says that imitation should only exist when paired with a certain discernment; namely, the ability to see “what is graceful” or “what is peculiar” in the exemplars.