P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 23
13th January 2002
I. 'Science, Religion and Philosophy' by Dmitry Olshansky
II. Pathways Conference: Up and Away
III. Welcome to the New Pathways Mentors
I. 'SCIENCE, RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY' BY DMITRY OLSHANSKY
The problem of the interaction between philosophy and science is well known.
Some philosophers say that philosophy is a science while others say that it is
not a science. In the second group, some set philosophy as the art of thinking
and questioning, while others (like Socrates) suppose that philosophy is an art
of argumentation and talking. A third group, translating the word 'philosophy'
from Ancient Greek, believe that philosophy is love of wisdom, therefore it is
not neither art nor science, but it is a philosopher's own experience of the
Scientists believe that experiment gives us real knowledge of process and helps
us to discover laws of nature. Here I do not question the truth of that
foundational view. It is the basis of all experimental science. There are a lot
of other beliefs (like the primacy of reason, impersonal and accumulative
character of knowledge, orientation on prognosis and so on), which are realized
in the everyday practice of all scientists. The actual results of experimental
and theoretical science affirm the truth of these beliefs.
On the other hand, from a broad view science is a manner or tool for increasing
knowledge. Such Kantian understanding tries to make all the spheres of cognition
(like religion, art, and poetry) forms of science. If we deal with knowledge,
then we deal with science and we are scientists.
According to such way of understanding, we should conclude that philosophy has
the form of science too, because it deals with knowledge and increases
knowledge about world, the subject, and their interaction, just as religion
increases knowledge about the Absolute and the sublunary world with the help of
revelation, poetry with the help of metaphor, and art with the help of
Some philosophers consider philosophy as a form of personal experience, closer
to poetry than to impersonal science. They suppose that poetry is an individual
creation, which cannot comply with any standards. So they play off poetry
against science, which supports a tradition and canons of thinking and
searching. However, I do not think that poetry is a personal creation only.
Every poet writes in concrete national language and so conforms to grammatical
rules and traditions of previous national literature and national lingual
culture. One can follow these rules or deny these rules. In any case to be a
serious poet one should know them and found one's own art on the basis of these
rules and traditions.
Poetry is not in opposition to science. Just as we know many scientists who
were poets too, like Goethe and Lomonosov, so poetry and philosophy deal with
knowledge. To be an excellent poet one must create one's own style, one should
modify the previous tradition of writing, and enrich national language by new
forms and metaphors, and ultimately influence and change the tradition of
national literature. All the cultural and linguistic property of a nation is in
my mind knowledge, that is why I suppose that both poet and philosopher deal
with knowledge and its interpretation.
However, philosophy has its own way of cognition and treatment of knowledge,
and therefore differs from science by its own methodology and system of values.
First of all philosophy agrees that there are different ways of understanding
what is reality. By contrast, science supposes that there is only one
(objective) reality, which can be cognized by only one proper methodology of
experiment and reason. Philosophy considers that there are many points of view
and many methodologies of describing and writing. Philosophy agrees that there
can be experiential and rational cognition as well as mystical and intuitive.
It denies the idea that there is only one real and veritable treatment of
knowledge and reason.
For example, philosophical modernism (middle of 19th century - beginning of
20th century) maintains that there are many forms of reason. All the modernists
reject the accepted view of reason, but at the same time, all of them use a
varied modifications of reason: economic reason (in Marx), religious reason (in
Frank), psychoanalytical reason (in Freud), mystical reason (in James),
volitional reason (in Nietzsche) and so on.
Frank rehabilitated rationalism as the basis element of faith. Some say (he
wrote) that to trust means to refuse the mind. But how can we trust the symbol
of our faith without knowing of this symbol? ('God with Us' London: Jonathan
Cape, 1946, part I) He returned to the tradition of Thomas Aquinas in the
treatment of relation between faith and mind. Frank is not a rationalist, but
he used the term "mystical knowledge."
Freud rejected the accepted view of the mind, but his system is based on the
principle of libido, which can be cognized through psychoanalytic reason. The
wishes of libido are concrete and clear, but they are hidden from the conscious
mind. Freud talked about subconscious knowledge, which is inaccessible to mind.
Id in Freud is a form of reason too, but it is not "rational reason" as in
Descartes, but subconscious knowledge. All sexual wishes are concrete and
logical, all of them can be realized, but all of them are outside conscious
Marx rejected reason as the intellectual power in society. Not intellect, but
economics, the class struggle, moves social progress. But social progress is
reasonable too, economic reason is logical and healthy, but outside of
intellect. Therefore, intellectuals are not the propellant power of society.
The propellant power is the proletarian class, which produces the concrete
things as well as surplus value. But surplus value is a reasonable element.
Nietzsche's will has the form of reason too. His courage and volition are not
only the abstract and unbeknown forces, they are concrete and reasonable just
as knowledge and philosophy is guts and courage. ('Gtzendmmerung', Heidelberg,
James writes about mystical experience as a patent phenomenon. There is nothing
enigmatic or inconsistent in James understanding of mysticism. "Mystical
conditions may, therefore, render the soul more energetic in the lines which
their inspiration favours. But this could be reckoned an advantage only in case
the inspiration were a true one" ('The Varieties of Religious Experience' London
and Glasgow: Collins p. 401). So he considers mystical condition as a phenomenon
which can be described by philosophical language. He believes that mysticism can
be cognized and treated by reason. But at the same time, he denies the claim of
rationalism as the religious force. He considers that feeling is primary force
in religion as opposed to intellect: "I do believe that feeling is the deeper
source of religion, and that philosophic and theological formulas are secondary
products, like the translation of a text into another tongue" (ibid. p. 414).
So, modernists put the question about the basis of personality with respect to
reason. And they create many modifications of reason, and all of them have
influence on contemporary post-modern philosophy. Both modernism and
post-modernism deny the belief in only one world outlook and only one
understanding of reality.
That is why philosophy differs from religion. I mean here only Biblical
religions (Judaism. Christianity and Islam), because they are the most
influential for European philosophy. Religion is founded on belief in higher
knowledge and only one real understanding of that knowledge. Religious
cognition is founded on revelation (commitment of knowledge), where the
individual's role is irreducible. According to Augustin Aurelius: "Tu enim,
domine, diiudicas me, quia etsi nemo scit hominum" (Sanctus Aurelius Augustinus
'Epistola' Lib. X, Caput 5). "No one knows what is man as well as no one knows
God's purpose, therefore no one knows who is created to be a prophet, and no
one knows whom God will choose for revelation."
By contrast, philosophy aims to doubt all absolutes. Philosophy aims for wisdom
and knowledge, which would be helpful for real human life. Therefore
philosophers of different cultures and different ideology put the same
questions: how to teach us not to fear death (in Plato, Epicurus, Montaigne,
Baudrillard and etc.), what is the basis of our being (in Aristotle, Kant,
Scheler, Levi-Strauss and etc.), what is knowledge (in Socrates, Nicolas of
Cusa, Locke, Descartes and etc.). These are concrete questions, which can help
us to reach wisdom and happiness. I agree here with Boethius ('Consolations of
Philosophy') that wisdom always bring happiness to philosopher. There is no
wisdom without delectation. In order to reach real wisdom, the philosopher
should doubt all absolutes, because wisdom is always the result of personal
effort. The philosopher can trust in God, but should not follow faith
In a lot of cases, religion and philosophy are in closest relation. But that
does not mean that religion creates a philosophy as the liberal and lay form of
theology, nor does it mean that philosophy depends on religion. But philosophy
recognizes religion as a form of ideology and one of the possible ways to
Religion is oriented to the Absolute and every faithful man or woman believes
that he or she depends on a higher force. The philosopher, on the contrary,
holds that one should create one's own ideology and chose one's own way of
living. Religion can help in such a search, but not to rule and direct the
philosopher's will. The philosopher can consider themself as solitary and
doomed to eternal independent choice and accountability, as in Camus or Sartre;
or as determined by environment, culture and humanity ("Das Da-sein ist das
Mitsein"), as in Heidegger; or as only the agent or teacher aiding the search
for self-knowledge, as in Socrates and so on. This choice depends on the
philosopher's understanding of happiness. One philosopher maintains that
freedom is the main human value, so searches for an adequate ideology of free
will. Whereas if one considers that the basic human gift is communication, one
will build a theory and practice of communication, argumentation and dialogue,
as in Buber and Bakhtin.
So, philosophy differs from science as well as from religion by its methodology
of cognition and also by world outlook, while science and religion consider that
knowledge has only one beginning therefore there is only one true knowledge and
only one true methodology of cognition. I think that scientific methodology is
in many ways close to the religious one (see my 'Methodology of Scientific and
Religious Cognition' Issue 19). Science supposes that there is only one proper
basis of knowledge, it is experiment and rational analysis of nature, just as
religion considers that there is only one source of knowledge, God (or other
Absolute). Therefore there is only one methodology of searching for science
(scientific theories and experiments) and only one way of cognition for
religion (revelation and spiritual dialogue with God).
By contrast, philosophy agrees that there are many ways of cognition, just as
there are many forms of knowledge and many beginnings of that knowledge. Wisdom
in my mind is the form of personal knowledge. That is why there is neither a
scientific philosophy, nor a religious philosophy, but there is philosophy of
science and philosophy of religion, which describe the phenomena of scientific
and religious thinking. Philosophy is always personal experience and cogitation
and there is no universal wisdom, which would be the same for all the people,
just as there is no single understanding of happiness.
But that does not mean that there is no progress in philosophy. Science
supposes that progress is the result of accumulation of knowledge and it is the
mark of growth and development of science. So, the idea of progress belongs to
science and describes the accomplishment of science. But philosophy has his own
edifice, therefore the scientific idea of progress, as an objective accumulation
of universal knowledge does not correctly describe philosophy.
Wisdom is a form of ideology. Marxist and Soviet philosophy use this word in a
political denotation but if we return to the Greek origin we find that
"ideo-logia" is a logical consistency of ideas. So, we can say one's world
outlook is one's ideology if it organized on concrete and coherent principles.
Ideology is at the same time knowledge, and edifice, and practice. If one has a
complex of theoretical ideas and if one follows these ideas in everyday
practice, we should say that it is ideology. Ideology as such is not wisdom,
because I cannot agree that every ideology brings happiness. Wisdom in my mind
is only that ideology, which brings satisfaction and blessing to the
philosopher. There is no doubt that science is ideology, because it has its own
edifice and complex of ideas, but it can be wisdom only if one comes to the
scientific world outlook through one's individual cognition, and if this result
Philosophy is like science because it deals with knowledge, but philosophy,
unlike science, understands knowledge as the form of individual experience. For
science, there is universal and objective knowledge of nature and natural
phenomena. Whereas the philosopher aims for one's own ideology, one's own
understanding and world outlook.
Philosophy is the individual sphere of thinking and living, that is why there
is no scientific philosophy. We cannot teach philosophy, but we can only teach
to think and help to find ones own way of philosophy. Of course, everyone is
affected of authority and writers of previous epochs, all of whom depend on the
classics. But that does not mean we can create nothing new and nothing of our
own. To be philosophers we should understand those ideas which have influence
There are three different spheres: science, religion and philosophy. Science
agrees with religion in supposing that there is only one beginning of proper
knowledge, and it has a resemblance to philosophy because they both deal with
knowledge. But science differs from religion, because it deals with knowledge
only and relies upon rational analysis and experiments, while religion aims for
revelation and faith. And science differs from philosophy because it aims for
universal accumulation and progress of knowledge, while philosophy is the
individual search of knowledge and wisdom. Philosophy borders upon religion
because both of them long for human happiness, yet they differ ultimately
because religion assumes belief in God (or other absolute), while the
philosopher gravitates towards doubt.
(c) Dmitry Olshansky 2001
Urals State University
II. PATHWAYS CONFERENCE: UP AND AWAY
Last week saw the re-launch of the Pathways internet conference, and already
there has been a flurry of activity.
In line with my decision to remain incognito during the Conference, it is not
possible for me to say whether I am or am not, at the time of writing, among
those who have made a contribution. But I can say that I like what I have seen
To add a extra interest, I am offering a prize of the hardcover version of my
book 'Naive Metaphysics' to the first person who correctly identifies my
character at the Conference. Everyone will get three chances. If you think you
know, don't express your view to the conference but send an e-mail to me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will be announced at the end of the
To keep things fair, my character will not be expressing different
philosophical views from the views that I myself hold, or responding to other
contributions differently from the way I would respond.
Observers of the Pathways conference can take part in the competition too.
Please e-mail me if you would like an observer's username and password for the
Note: The electronic version of 'Naive Metaphysics' is available from the
Pathways downloads page at:
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2002
III. WELCOME TO THE NEW PATHWAYS MENTORS
Last week six new mentors were added to the list of philosophy graduates who
will be taking on the responsibility of guiding the studies of students on the
Pathways programs. They will be working towards the Fellowship of the
Philosophical Society of England under my supervision.
Their names will be familiar to readers who regularly visit the 'Ask a
Philosopher' web site:
ADAM G is an Oxford graduate, now living in the USA, who combines his
philosophical research with his study of the piano.
BRIAN TEE is a former student from my evening class for the Workers Educational
Association (WEA), now on the PhD program at Sheffield University after gaining
his first class honours degree. He is researching the work of philosopher
Emmanuel Levinas, "the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century". He
recently gave a course of lectures for the WEA on 'The meaning of life and
JOHN BRANDON retired from lecturing in Philosophy and Physiology in 1993.
During that time he was involved in getting Philosophy and Logic courses
started in schools. His main areas of interest are Philosophy of Mind,
Epistemology and Metaphysics.
MAUSHUMI GUHA gained her M.Phil at Cambridge University under the supervision
of Jane Heal, and is now researching for her PhD at Jadavpur University, India,
as well as holding a full-time lecturing post at the Scottish Church College and
lecturing at Jadavpur. Her main area of interest is in the Philosophy of Mind.
SIMON DREW gained his MA in 'Values and the Environment' from Lancaster
University, UK in 1995, where he passed with distinction, and now teaches
Philosophy to 16/17 year olds at the English College in Prague, Czech Republic.
He also teaches Psychology to International Baccalaureate students.
TONY FLOOD first contacted me in October, as a former PhD student living in "a
terror-stricken city (New York), wondering what the future holds. Yet in the
midst of the most unphilosophical things happening around me, I find myself
taking advantage of my enforced idleness to reconnect with my philosophical
mentors...Brand Blanshard, Charles Hartshorne and Peter Bertocci."
- I am full of hope for what these exceptional people will achieve. A hearty
welcome from myself and the other mentors to the Pathways Mentor program!
(c) Geoffrey Klempner 2002
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