Philosophers of Testing

Do you know what a philosopher is? I think a philosopher is someone who develops philosophy, as opposed to someone who accepts philosophy strictly ready-made from a trusted authority. By philosophy I mean an account of what the world is (Ontology) or how I can know about the world (Epistemology) or what matters about the world (Axiology).

I’m a philosopher. Yes, I’m also other things. I call myself a tester on my immigration paperwork. But a good tester is just a particular kind of philosopher, it seems to me. If you read any of my stuff on a regular basis, you are probably also a philosopher. Otherwise, how could you stand it?

I practice philosophy because I want to understand my status and my worth in this cosmos, and I don’t trust the obvious or traditional answers. I practice testing because my clients want to understand the status and worth of their products, and they don’t trust the obvious or traditional answers. See the connection?

In these pursuits, it is easy to be fooled. Self-deception is particularly common. Rene Descartes once worried that a mischievous demon might be systematically fooling him by clouding and manipulating his senses. Whereas, I once reported to a programmer that his program had frozen my system, whereupon the programmer pointed out that I was looking at a screenshot, not a live program. See the connection?

Philosophy doesn’t find bugs for me, but it improves my ability to search for them. I have more patience for the search because philosophy has taught me tolerance for ambiguity, an appreciation for complexity, and a mistrust of appearances. Jerry Weinberg once told me “A tester is someone who knows that things can be different.”

Philosophy doesn’t read specifications, but to study philosophy involves a lot of reading and criticizing of obscure texts. I have to work through the logic of arguments and notice fallacies whether I’m finding the flaws in one of Ayn Rand’s rants against skepticism, or puzzling through a state model for a timing application.

Philosophy doesn’t evaluate or report my bugs, but it does make my evaluations and reports better. This is because a big part of philosophy is rhetoric: the art of persuasion, including real-time reasoning under pressure, for an audience.

I do hope you see the connection. Few people do, but those are pretty much the few people I find talented and fascinating in this industry. So, I guess it works out.

Everyone is a Philosopher in Context-Driven Testing

As I periodically remind my readers and clients, I am a context-driven tester. That requires me to examine the relationship between my practices and the context in which I should use those practices. I don’t know how anyone could be truly context-driven without also being comfortable with philosophy.

Today, while arguing on the software-testing forum at Yahoogroups, I thought of making a list of the philosophers who strike me as the patron thinkers of the context-driven way. I invite you to suggest your own favorites. Here’s my list:

  • Protagoras, the original humanist. Protagoras understood that arguments can be constructed for any purpose, and that only humans construct them. It was Protagoras who said “man is the measure of all things.”
  • Socrates, the original tester. He describes himself in Theaetetus like so: “The triumph of my art is in thoroughly examining whether the thought which the mind of the young man brings forth is a false idol or a noble and true birth. And like the mid-wives, I am barren, and the reproach which is often made against me, that I ask questions of others and have not the wit to answer them myself, is very just – the reason is, that the god compels me to be a midwife, but does not allow me to bring forth. And therefore I am not myself at all wise, nor have I anything to show which is the invention or birth of my own soul, but those who converse with me profit.”
  • Pyrrho, the original skeptic. A Pyrrhonian skeptic is a person who believes that, since we cannot be certain of anything, inquiry must continue in all things and all respects.
  • Miyamoto Musashi, the context-driven warrior. In his Book of Five Rings, Musashi complains about other fighting schools (which he also calls schools) just as I do. He complains about attachments to particular weapons and strategies “In my doctrine,” he says, “I dislike preconceived, narrow spirit.” Musashi advises “You should not have a favourite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well. You should not copy others, but use weapons which you can handle properly.”
  • David Hume, the great skeptic. He struck the first great blows against conventional reasoning and unexamined assumptions of the then-brand-new idea of modern science.
  • C.S. Peirce, the pragmatist. Peirce is one of the founders of semiotics, which is the study of signs, symbols, signals (the testing of user interfaces benefits from that study). He questioned scientific method and coined the term “abductive inference” to describe reasoning to the best explanation for the circumstances.
  • Karl Popper, the fallibilist. Popper finished a lot of what Hume started, demonstrating a critical method for the advancement of knowledge that embraced fallibility, criticism, and problem-solving as its pillars.
  • George Polya, the modern father of heuristics. Polya wrote extensively about plausible reasoning processes for solving mathematical and engineering problems. Polya influenced computer science and also another philosopher of science, Imre Lakatos, who is famous for showing how scientific theories and terminology evolves through an often messy dialectical and heuristic process.
  • Thomas Kuhn, the father of paradigms. Kuhn argued that social factors often outweigh rational factors in guiding the development of ideas.
  • Paul Feyerabend, the philosophical iconoclast. He wrote Against Method, and its sequel Science in a Free Society. The first sentence of Against Method is (attempting to quote from memory) “Anarchy, while perhaps not a good political philosophy, is nonetheless excellent medicine for Science.” Feyerabend was arguing against “best practices” in Science. I read Feyerabend when I was 17. His zeal for questioning things that most thinkers think should not be questioned has deeply influenced my career.
  • Joseph Campbell, the syncretist. Campbell applied general systems thinking to the religions and myths of the world, drawing out commonalities and differences. Campbell’s book The Hero with A Thousand Faces helped me begin to understand how to learn from cultures that I do not belong to.
  • Richard Feynman, the practical iconoclast. Feynman’s life and work embodies the restless curiosity of a great tester.
  • Virginia Satir, the mother of family therapy. Virginia Satir’s idea of treating a family as a system strongly influenced Jerry Weinberg, who applied and expanded her ideas into a comprehensive approach to technical problem-solving.
  • Herbert Simon, the “good enough” guy. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on bounded rationality and heuristic reasoning in organizations. His book, The Sciences of the Artificial, is the foundation for a lot of my ideas on heuristic process improvement.
  • Richard Bach, the individualist. Richard Bach wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a novel about someone trying to do something to perfection, and who formed his own community to pursue that dream. Richard Bach is my father, and I was raised on his philosophy that each individual must “find his or her true family” instead of going along with the crowd just because it pleases the crowd.

Richard was influenced by Ayn Rand, but in general he has little regard for the ideas of other philosophers. He believes our happiness requires that we each be our own philosopher.

That’s how I became a philosopher: My father believes that I must think for myself, and I always agree with my father.

26 thoughts on “Philosophers of Testing

  1. As your student, I am encouraged to think on my own and I too agree with your father 🙂

    [James’ Reply: Not encouraged, Pradeep, required. Repeat after me: “I will not repeat after anybody.” Repeat that one million times or until you can practice that principle instead of just saying it.]

  2. Oh my.

    I was reading your post doing a lot of head nodding and pausing for reflection during the “see the connection” statements, then I came to your closing two paragraphs. Wow.

    I’m finding and making up my personal philosophy with great bits of help from several of the philosophers you mentioned, but most prominently your father and Ayn Rand. They are certainly the ones I identify with the most right now.

    In thinking about the pathways that led me to subscribing to your writing I can now easily say: “see the connection”.

    Thank you for this one. It was very inspiring and I now have some more reading to do on the philosophers I didn’t recognize above.

    [James’ Reply: I read The Fountainhead when I was a kid, because I wanted to understand Dad, better. That led to Atlas Shrugged, in 10th grade. During my most rebellious teen years, I was an objectivist. Then I encountered the fallibilists, and started seeing the limitations of Objectivism. But, I still have a strong appreciation for Objectivism, in terms of its exhultation of human spirit (the most touching novel I’ve ever read is We The Living).] 

  3. In some ways I think of philosphy as a way to understand the nature of truth, and to uncover the truth and the reality. Therefore, philosophers to me, are truth seekers. Just as testers, who must peel away the facade of an appliation and uncover the reality underneath.

    In other ways philosophy to me is someone’s worldview or paradigm – his/her holistic understanding of the system. Competent testers (or any professionals) should have developed a worldview somewhere during their careers.

  4. I might add Eric Hoffer to your list. Hoffer is a modern philosopher who did a lot of work on the nature of mass movements, truth, and belief. I find that I can find a lot of parallels to his work and the trends within our industry.

  5. From Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

    Brian: You are all individuals!
    Brian: You are all different!
    Lone Voice: I’m not.
    Person next to him: SHH!

  6. I’d like to add Etienne Vermeeersch to the list.
    I was very fortunate to have professor Vermeeersch as my philosphy professor during my ‘mathematics’ years at the University of Ghent, Belgium.

    Prof. Vermeersch is one of the most renowned sceptici in Belgium.
    He as been very influential to me as he focused on critical thinking. During his classes he motivated us to challenge whatever he said. He would accept any theory from his students as long as we had a well documented rationale.

  7. It is nice to see you back. You haven’t written in a while. I always look forward to your posts.

    I am confused. As with most teachings in philosophy, it leaves my head spinning with more questions. As I finished reading the post, I also found myself ‘nodding my head’ until I read your last sentence:

    “That’s how I became a philosopher: My father believes that I must think for myself, and I always agree with my father.�

    Is this an obvious contradiction and joke that I am not getting? Thinking for yourself and always agreeing with someone does not really seem to go together. Please forgive me for being slow, if that is in fact the case here.

    [James’ Reply: It’s a philosophy joke! I wrote it to be a paradox, but it is a paradox, actually, that I’ve had to live with in real life, to some extent.]

  8. Thanks for this post James, I enjoyed reading it. Although I have not read any of the philosophers I particularly enjoyed the Socrates section. I see a real mirror in my testing experience where it’s my questioning rather than my knowledge that ousts defects.

    I think a key attribute for a successful tester is the self confidence and determination to keep questioning until a satisfactory explanation for “interesting” behaviour is achieved, often in an environment where the people being questioned have a greater technical or specialist knowledge and doubt the need to delver any deeper.

  9. An excellent post, I truly enjoyed it. It occured to me that with this list of individual philosophers, it would be an interesting exercise to assemble some sort of “Philosophy of Testing” book with specific works and essays by these authors that exemplify the philosophy of testing. Something similar to Joel Spotsky’s “The Best Software Writing”, but geared toward those who are inclined to break software :).

    [James’ Reply: Cool idea. I already found a great essay from C.S. Peirce on how thinking logically is hard, yet everyone thinks they are good at it. Much like testing.] 

  10. Interesting read, like others I found myself nodding and smiling throughout the read. I personally have avoided the subject labelled ‘philosophy’, but perhaps this post has made me want to do an investigation.

    I personally like the idea of being our own philosophers. Imagine someone who had the same thoughts as yourself? Spooky!

    Any good tester, I believe, will ask ‘why’. This is my favourite question. The reaction I have gotten from this in the past can range from funny looks, to ‘are you daft?’ or on the positive side -‘ahhh, I see what you mean!’

    My three year old son asks why. He asks it alot sometimes and it can get very annoying. However, it does make me think about the ‘simple things’. Why as ‘grown ups’ do we stop asking why? Do people lose curiosity to develop further knowledge of the world?

    I like Ryan’s idea of creating a central resource on this topic. With many resources on the web, it is entirely feasable to do a web based version, or going to a more personal level, there is nothing stopping people creating their own personal resource and sharing it with the world…

  11. James,

    Another Gem from James .. thanks for this. Bringing out the character of “philosopher” in a tester is really highly motivating thing for all testers.

    How about Indian philosophers like Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Raj Ram mohan Roy, Mahatma Gandhi (Father of Nation and great freedom fighter), Gautama buddha, Mahaveer, Kabir and host of other saints and thinkers of ancient and modern times in Indian civilization, culture and history ….

    It will be an interesting encounter to see how Indian philosophers approached philosophy and in what way they differed with respect to their Western counter parts ….


    [James’ Reply: To be a candidate, a philosopher must teach something vital about context-driven methodology, in particular. Preferrably context-driven testing. Can you write a paragraph about each of the men on your list describing how they do that?]

  12. Impressive. My favorite analysis of Ayn Rand comes from Ron Jeffries. Trying to recite it from memory, it is something like “Individual Excellence is the heartbeat of team performance. Rand is an excellent place to start, just don’t stop there.”

    As for philosophy, I’ve recently been saying that “Every practitioner should be a methodologist with a small m”, and applying that to the entire development process – from requirements to dev to manager. No everyone agrees with me, of course, but I have yet to see a -detailed- process document that acurately reflects what we actually do is software development. XP probably comes the closest.

  13. I would not go further than “context-driven” expression; I understand by context-driven testing a solution for testing a software product based on the project data (software product, client, development process, project team) – which is always particular. Now, to practice context-driven testing you need to be able to collect the amount of project data just enough for an optimal testing solution. One only can only do that if he/she knows HOW testing is done, understands WHAT testing is and knows how to use these to determine a testing solution through communication and analysis. Here is where philosophy shows its value: questioning/ criticizing and analysis are the two main philosophic practices – these compound the philosophic method.

  14. Strange how the world goes round!

    When I was 16 and studying world history in school, the topic of the time was philosophy. Our teacher, trying to impress things upon our naive and fragile minds, read us Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Now here I am, nearly 40, practicing software testing as a vocation and philosophy has come back to the limelight, by none other than the son of the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

    I have never thought of myself as a philosopher. Nor have I thought of what I practice as having a direct tie to that art.
    However, like some of your other readers, I found myself nodding and “digesting” your tidbits, and saying “Ah, that’s why I see things as I do.”

    Thanks for helping me to make the connection.


  15. The Upanishads and the Vedas played a strong role in my early thinking. If the world as we perceive it is illusory, a mental construct, then what is the reality behind the construct and how can we explore it?

    What does it mean to say that a process is under control? That some aspects of the behavior of the process conform to a model? What reality underlies the model? What measurements provide the lens through which we examine this apparent conformance? Why should we accept them and how comprehensively should we interpret them? Models can be useful and they can suggest useful actions, but what more (or what instead) should we be paying attention to?

    Another influence from India was rejection of the law of the excluded middle (the assertion that either X is true or not-X is true, but not both). My father studied nuclear physics; I studied a lot of mathematics. I’m not sure that I fully comprehend the rejection or that I could agree with it. But in practice, it has often served me well to ask the questions, “How could X be both, true and false?” and “How is this dichotomy between X and not-X misleading us or misdirecting us?”

    The work of Georg Hegel had a pretty significant influence too, though I found Kant’s and Hegel’s original writings frustratingly difficult to read. I had the privilege of taking several courses with J.N. Deck at the University of Windsor and much of how I understand dialectic reasoning is through Deck’s eyes. The core insight for me was the idea that conflicts of ideas are natural, that growth comes from embracing and studying the conflicts rather than from glossing them over.

    Hegel’s work is starting to influence the context-driven school through another vector, Lev Vygotsky’s cultural-historical approach to psychology, which in turn led to Yrjo Engestrom’s cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) ( ). Rebecca Fiedler ( ) has begun to apply CHAT as an interpretive lens for studying the inherent tensions associated with adopting a new technology (one of her papers, “Applying Cultural Historical Activity Theory to Software Testing Research” is at Her dissertation, “In transition: An activity theoretical analysis examining electronic portfolio tools’ mediation of the preservice teacher’s authoring experience” is not yet available on the web.)

    I studied Popper and Kuhn as a graduate student in psychology. Both of them rejected simplistic worldviews and embraced an intellectual humility. We aren’t going to learn the ultimate truth about the universe, but we can refine our models, and our understanding of our models, by putting them through creative testing and by understanding their social context.

    Philosophy isn’t only about epistemology.

    Occasionally people confuse context-driven thinking with ethical relativism. They are not the same.

    The Talmud played a significant role in my thinking. Not that I’m a Talmudic scholar–I’ve read more of the Mahabaratha than the Talmud and no one would call me a scholar of Hindu thought. But I grew up in a culture in which Talmudic reasoning and Jewish fiction created a framework for evaluating interactions among people. As an adult, puzzling through issues in commercial law, the Talmud has offered an affirmation of the critical importance of integrity, of the responsibility of people to each other, with strong threads of compassion.

    Many folks in computing praise Ayn Rand. I could never understand the appeal of someone who seemed happy to take advantage of the benefits of a rich societal infrastructure without a notion of accountability to that structure or responsibility to provide benefits back. As an adult, I respect such writing far less.

    People do live by different ethical systems. I’m not going to ever be able to change that, so I accept it. Your values are your values and mine are mine.

    Context-driven testing is about providing appropriate and effective technical and managerial support services to a client. Some people have suggested that context provides a reason for them to shade what they see as the truth. To say things they don’t believe, or don’t have a basis for believing, because that’s what the client expects or wants to hear. I just don’t see that as an option. My reputation for integrity is one of my greatest assets, easy to lose, and hard to recapture. It’s not up for sale or sacrifice. It is, and should be, one of the things my client is paying for rather than something they suffer from.

    Some consultants apply this beyond their scope, pushing a view of development (or business ethics or whatever) at a client who is looking for a far narrower set of guidance. I often work with people whose view of quality, staff relations, customer relations, honest advertising, political sanity, racial purity, or religious viewpoint are different from mine, sometimes annoyingly so. Sometimes, it is impossible to work with some of these people. But in many cases, I can realize that they didn’t invite me into their lives, for a fee, for guidance on any of those issues. They have a narrower problem and there are ways that I can help that don’t require me to lie, to hold back relevant observations, or to mislead anyone else or hurt anyone else in the process. Understanding the scope is part of context-driven consulting, I suppose. But changing who I am to fit within in it is not.

    [James’ Reply: Thanks for dropping by, Cem.]

  16. Agreed – another Gem from James…

    And also a lot of head nodding on my part – this post made me realize that I had explored the writings of only a few of the philosophers James mentioned. “so many books, so little time…” Well – if something is this important, make time for it!

    We tend to be magnetized to the learning we need. I see that others who have embraced James’ writings and teachings learned about him because of his father. In my case, I visited a blog where students of Richard Bach gather to share their thoughts. (I use the word ‘students’ because ‘fans’ sounds way too shallow).

    Richard Bach changed my life .- his writings are fascinating, poetic, and consciousness-expanding. Millions of people count him as a true friend and mentor.

    He is largely responsible for my imagination…

    I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two of Richard’s sons had chosen Quality as their calling. So this led me to Satisfice. (and yes, I had to run to a dictionary about Epistemology 🙂 ).

    And a new journey began. I knew that I needed to be a much better tester. Ethically we are called upon to do our best. But life can be overwhelming and we can fall into fatigue and negativity. With only so much energy and time and knowledge, and in an arena of constant change and chaos – what to do? I had sometimes considered leaving testing as a career. I wanted to write and teach and “do science”. I’m interested in consciousness and how stuff works. Yet my resume says “here’s a tester with development experience – plug him in and use him”.

    Now, I’m sharing just the beginning of a realization that testing really is science, and philosophy, and creative writing. An ongoing School of the Mind. Sharing the encouragement that my lot in life is not just tedious, weary scrabbling for food – but an opportunity to soar. (Someone wrote a book about that 🙂 )

    I think that my enthusiasm is a good thing, but it must be backed up with study and work. It needs to be channeled in directions that make sense and add value.

    How does a tester take a fascination for learning and best utilize it to become the best they can be at their craft? Join a community of seekers who share this goal sounds like a plan. Stay fired up with the dream, and commit to the hard thinking. Yet it is a paradox. The “hard thinking” is refreshing fun. Richard Bach wrote of life consisting of Fun and Learning. When Fun and Learning meet, this feels like the right path to take.

    Carl Sagan (I believe it was in his Cosmos TV series) once stood in front of a bookcase. The bookcase contained, more or less, the number of books a human being can read in a lifetime. That’s all. Scary. He said that the trick was to pick the right books.

    Boy do I ever have some reading to do!

  17. Mahatma Gandhi’s overriding principle was to speak truth to power; that is of the essence of good testing. Gautama Buddha’s overriding principle was that we have foolishly separated ourselves from the rest of the universe; that is of the essence of bad software development. Shrini Kulkarni, come forward with the rest of them!

    —Michael B.

  18. If a philosopher is someone that creates their own philosophy, and by inspection everyone lives by their own particular set of rules or philosophy, then is it not true that everyone is (in the simplest sense) a philosopher. Hence when we read anothers opinion, we read their philosophy (or portion thereof), and if it suits share that philosophy, adding it to our own. Thus do I challenge that accepting a philosophy (ready made) does not exclude being a philosopher, but instead blindly accepting a philosophy as one’s own, without thought or introspection puts one in danger of losing the esteemed title.

    This is to say that I love your work(The last comment was brilliant), and expect you to correct me on my flawed argument.

    – Bevan

    [James’ Reply: Hi Bevan. I’m happy to meet you online. I think you’re right. I feel that we are all philosophers, in that sense. In that same sense, everyone in the world is an athlete– since they have bodies and have a non-zero level of fitness (or else the heart would stop). But if I were to use the word in that sense, I’m afraid I would need another word for people who are assertively self-determined in their philosophy, instead of feeling as if they are just “living” or “being sensible”.

    Maybe a “philosopher” is a philosopher who, when accused of being a philosopher, says “thank you!” instead of denying it.]

  19. Hmm… I found your blog as I was searching for some book on Testing along the lines of “How to Solve it” by Polya and “How to Solve it By Computer” by Dromey.

    Do you know of any such book(s)?
    Do let me know… or better write a blog on it!! and drop me a link…
    I’m thinking of writing a blog on this topic myself so maybe we could cross-link?!! 😉

    Good blog!! Keep it up!.

    P.S.: (aside – this IS a deprecated use of letter writing practise)
    You might be interested (or already aware of) in seeking out INTP as in the Myers Briggs test!! Seems like you’re interested in many things that an INTP would like… so though you may disapprove of “classification into narrow boxes” you might still like to hunt things that do interest INTPs…. is a good place…

    [James’ Reply: I’m an ENFP, so I do have the N and P thing going. As for books, I would suggest my book, and also Introduction to General Systems Thinking, by Weinberg, and Exploring Requirements: Quality Before Design, by Weinberg and Gause]

  20. Hey James,
    Very interesting thoughts on Testing & Philosophy.

    But I saw a stream of discussion on reality & mention of Ontology.

    My understanding of Ontology and the ultimate reality from the science of Ontology states “The Human Word” is the Ultimate reality. The word that comes from our mouth. If we dig deeper into things there is no limit & keep exploring… the past human beings have explored from millimeters to now nanometers scale of understanding & perception….we can go beyond….
    But the reality exists in Human word.
    To experience the ultimate reality one needs to experience himselves in the domain of “Being” which is the source of action & medium to manifest reality.

    If one needs to exeperience the domain of Being, you can take the journey through The landmark Education – The Forum is considered the 2nd most adventurous human endevour on the planet. Cheers, Shankar

    [James’ Reply: Can you relate that to testing?]

  21. Ya James,
    Now here’s how it is related to Testing.

    I’m someone interested in Innovation in Testing.
    I have found how Ontology can help create new paradigms of thought & innovation from that. I have undergone this education system & want to impact the testing community through each person’s individual ability to create from his own context. This will help great Innovations to be present in our world on Innovation. We can see extraordinary Innovations coming alive through this education.
    Landmark provides an experiential education which helps one to see the world from a new Context & hence creativity is born.

    Here we have some study reported on the Landmark methodology how it can help people see from different context & paradigms…..
    Robert Marzano Study: A New Paradigm for Educational Change

    This article examines powerful change oriented educational innovations and how Landmark’s educational experience provides access to a new, effective approach.

    The authors explore the nature of the change process, examining two types of change:

    First-order change assumes innovation is assimilated into existing beliefs and perceptions, and is rejected when it does not fit into the current framework.
    Second-order change addresses the existing framework of perceptions and beliefs, or paradigm, as part of the change process – an ontological approach.
    The article proposes that most educational innovations do not address the dynamics of second-order change. In contrast, the ontological approach to change seeks to provide individuals with:

    An experience of their paradigms as constructed realities.
    An experience of consciousness other than the “I� embedded in their paradigms.
    These experiences provide individuals with an opportunity to try out new paradigms that might allow them to be more effective in dealing with current problems.

    “To date, the majority if not all, of the innovations designed to improve education in substantive ways have not endured. One possible reason…is that those innovations simply have not addressed the dynamics of second-order change, which is fundamentally ontological in nature. Given the dramatic effects produced by [Landmark Education] the theory and practice of second-order change appears to be a fruitful area for increased research and study.�


    I would love to invite each one of you for a free Introduction To the Landmark Forum. Come with a open mind & discover how we can Innovate in our lives…….in our natural abilities……..

    Please find find a center at a location near you!!!!!!!!!!

    Cheers, Happy Innovation,

    [James’ Reply: I read the study. It didn’t seem like a study to me. The only study part was an opinion poll, and the methodology of the poll was not divulged.

    Also, the authors are not clear about their values and standards. At one point, they state “The ultimate proof of the effectiveness of the seminar is the extent to which participants consider new, more effective paradigms.” They do not explain what they mean by “proof” or “more effective” and they don’t seem to consider the alternative hypothesis that A) no new paradigms were considered or adopted, and B) any new paradigm considered and adopted were worse than the ones abandoned. In any case, an opinion poll is a very weak way to conduct an assessment about the effects of education.

    The statement also betrays a misunderstanding of the Kuhnian concept of a paradigm. Paradigms in Kuhn’s terms are incommensurable. They cannot be evaluated objectively against each other from within each other. Kuhn’s whole thesis, for which he was fervently attacked by rationalists, was that the process of adopting or rejecting a paradigm is not rational. The authors of the article you cited seem to believe in a meta-paradigmatic position from which all paradigms can be fairly assessed. But there is no such thing.

    I’m still wondering what any of this has to do with testing. I think indoctrination of any kind is antithetical to testing. Testing is a skeptical process.

    My material on testing is open. It’s on my website. This is because I want to improve the craft and keep it wide open and freely available. The Landmark material, on the other hand, is proprietary. It’s secretive. And I don’t see how it is developed in a spirit of ongoing criticism within itself or by others– a process that gives life, as well as breadth and depth, to philosophy and science.]

  22. James,

    I quote:
    “That’s how I became a philosopher: My father believes that I must think for myself, and I always agree with my father.�

    Scott posted:
    Is this an obvious contradiction and joke that I am not getting? Thinking for yourself and always agreeing with someone does not really seem to go together. Please forgive me for being slow, if that is in fact the case here.

    [James’ Reply: It’s a philosophy joke! I wrote it to be a paradox, but it is a paradox, actually, that I’ve had to live with in real life, to some extent.]

    I do not find it a paradox at all. As I age, I find more and more things that contradict each other to be “true.” Your father wrote:

    “Perspective- Use it or Lose It. If you turned to this page, you’re forgetting that what is going on around you is not reality. Think about that.”

    In my practice of psychology, people’s perspectives are often limited, i.e. the stutue idea, and more than one perspective is often “correct.” Works well in conflict mediation. I thank your father and the writings of Dr. John C. Lilly to have this perspective.

    — Chris Kayser, PsyD

  23. James,

    I understand that you are coming from “skepticism” and I’m absolutely fine with that.

    Yes this education is not free. This education is not available in “text” as it would only contribute to the “knowing” domain & would not make a difference. A large part of this education is experiential in nature and available through direct communication which works on the “Being” domain.

    However the Introduction to the landmark is FREE and you are welcome to explore it.
    I would also like to invite anyone to share his thoughts/viewpoints on this education.

    My intension is very simple. Im interested in Innovation in Testing and this education provides a medium to achieve that. thats all!
    I have no intension of “Indoctrination of any kind”.

    Thank You,

  24. Hi James,

    I have been a tester for around 3 to 4 years and for a long time I felt that there wasn’t that much to my craft. I don’t mean that there weren’t things to learn, but rather that I got stuck in the squeeze and stretch principle that seems to always affect the test effort. I read your blog and I feel inspired again. It is refreshing to read how you draw together different concepts, ways of thinking and approaches into testing. It reminds of the things I used to think about so much and has (re)sparked my passion to be so much better at what I do.

    I just want to say Thank you.

    [James’ Reply: Yay!]

  25. hi James,

    The more I know about testing and you through this blog and other youtube videos, the more I learn and not necessarily just about testing. thx

  26. If what Richard Bach says is to be followed that each individual must “find his or her true family” instead of going along with the crowd just because it pleases the crowd, then the question of mutual coexistence that is the essence of civilization would be very difficult to achieve.

    [James’ Reply: I don’t see why that would be the case. Do you really think people shouldn’t be allowed to make friends without the approval of the the state?]

    We would all be acting selfishly and not in self interest

    [James’ Reply: I don’t see how you come to that conclusion, unless you think my father believes in rejecting his responsibilities as a citizen of his country.]

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