P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 125
28th February 2007
I. 'A comparative analysis of 20th Century exemplars in philosophy of
science' by Herman J Pietersen
II. 'Dualism, consciousness, and self-identity in Descartes and Sartre'
by Richard Grego
III. 'Work based learning educational philosophy: some thoughts of Epicurus'
by Fotis Vassileiou and Barbara Saribalidou
In his latest contribution to Philosophy Pathways, Professor Herman Pietersen
reviews the work of four major thinkers: Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn
and Paul Feyerabend. Pietersen applies a dual typology, Materialist vs. Empyrean
(or 'Idealist' in the Platonic sense), and Objectivist vs. Subjectivist. The
result is an integrated and coherent account which students of the philosophy
of science will find invaluable.
Richard Grego is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and
Culture at Daytona Community College, USA. 'After reading/ enjoying Philosophy
Pathways and sharing many articles with my students for several years, I'm
finally submitting one of my own.' His article comparing the dualism of
Descartes and Sartre highlights the paradoxical nature of Sartre's thought
about the self, that which 'is not what it is and is what it is not'.
Fotis Vassileiou is an experienced work based learning tutor, who is starting
his BA in Philosophy via the University of London External Programme under my
mentorship. Together with Barbara Saribalidou he has provided a novel take on
the Stoic philosopher Epicurus. For Epicurus, to sift through one's memories
and recollections and try to make sense of one's life is paradigmatically the
work of the philosopher. This view of philosophy as a practical means to the
attainment of happiness coincides beautifully with the practice of work based
I. 'A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF 20TH CENTURY EXEMPLARS IN PHILOSOPHY OF
SCIENCE' BY HERMAN J PIETERSEN
The aim of this paper is a meta-theoretical comparison of the thought of some
leading modern philosophers of science, namely, Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos,
Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. It does not as such engage in a substantive
discussion of the field itself, neither does it specifically take issue with
the ideas of the chosen exemplars. Rather, the purpose is to juxtapose the four
figures in terms of their unique but also complementary approaches to the
subject, considered from a meta-philosophical perspective.
Historically, philosophy of science (the branch of philosophy dealing with the
nature and elements of scientific enquiry, its principles, methodology,
procedures, validity, and role in society) reflects basic intellectual divides
at the core of ancient Greek philosophy. The first and enduring bifurcation
occurred with respect to empiricist and idealist or empyrean conceptions of
reality -- what Plato referred to as the continuing battle of the Giants
(empiricists) and the Gods (idealists).
Plato (Theaetetus) describes this basic opposition of philosophical types, of
the clash between the 'friends of matter' and the 'friends of form', as follows:
246A. What we shall see is something like a Battle of Gods
and Giants going on between them over their quarrel about
reality... One party is trying to drag everything down to
earth out of heaven and the unseen, literally grasping
rocks and trees in their hands... and strenuously affirm
that real existence belongs only to that which can be
handled and offers resistance to the touch. They define
reality as the same thing as body...
...their adversaries are very wary in defending their
position somewhere in the heights of the unseen,
maintaining with all their force that true reality consists
in certain intelligible and bodiless Forms... On this issue
an interminable battle is always going on between the two
camps' (Cornford, 1935/ 1979: 230).
Another basic distinction concerns the nature of truth, first found in
Parmenides' distinction between the 'way of truth' and 'way of opinion' as two
separate (and mutually exclusive) philosophies. This, in turn, provided a basis
for Plato's own more sophisticated and integrative scheme of four 'states of
certainty' (truth) and the subsequent separation of thought into Philosophy and
Sophism, a phenomenon that also re-surfaced in 20th century philosophy of
science. The turning point was Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific
Revolutions (1962), which forcibly brought the social-historical dimension of
scientific knowledge development to everyone's attention (far beyond the
confines of philosophy of science itself). This is the bifurcation of
objectivist (rationalist, logical) and subjectivist (pluralist, historicist,
social-constructionist) approaches to knowledge. In the 20th century it was
described (see, for instance, Rorty, 1979) and discussed as the issue of
foundationalism (Plato's: episteme or Reason) versus anti-foundationalism
(Plato's: doxa or mere opinion, shadows of truth).
Currently, philosophy of science takes a more realistic approach to the
scientific endeavour, away from what can be described as the previously
'legislating' (externally authorizing) posture of logical positivism, and
philosophers of logic. By and large, the attitude of philosophy of science
during the first half of the 20th century was rather condescending towards
scientific practice. It had, so it reckoned, a better understanding of what
scientific knowledge is and how scientists should best go about obtaining it --
practitioners of science merely had to pay heed to what philosophy of science
had to offer. But the situation changed quite substantially during the second
part of the century. As Fuller states: 'They [philosophers of science] no
longer defend an ideal conception of science that would call in question much
of what scientists normally do. Rather, they function as advocates and
'under-labourers' for practicing scientists' (Fuller, 2002: 394).
Ross sums up the long-standing debate as follows: '...logic cannot provide a
platform of certainty from which a philosopher may legislate as to sound and
unsound scientific practice' (Ross, 1999: 5). As a result, logical positivism
(including -- to lesser extent -- Popper's negative variant) was eventually
eclipsed by a more balanced, epistemologically moderate, approach to scientific
knowledge. However, a group of Popper followers (including Bartley, Watkins,
Agassi, Radnitzky) who wished to continue and extend the philosophy of critical
rationalism, became active in developing and promoting a Darwinian approach to
knowledge, called evolutionary epistemology (see, for example, Radnitzky &
Bartley, 1987). This movement seemed to have fueled some interest, as well as
the ongoing application in biology and the social sciences such as psychology
2. Fundamental predispositions in human thought
A re-consideration of Plato's theory of knowledge led to the development of a
general framework of four fundamental orientations or modes of knowledge, which
seems to underpin human intellectual endeavour (Pietersen, 2000).
Within the meta-framework (Figure 1), Plato and Aristotle appear as
arch-exemplars of rationalist-objectivist thought; Plato with his preference
for visionary theorizing (the turning toward a distant heaven of Forms), and
Aristotle the first scientist, who spent much of his life analysing the
substances of nature (the turning toward earth).
Following Plato's distinction between episteme and doxa, the areas below the
horizontal box-line in Figure 1 can be seen to fit the type of thought of the
Greek Sophists (and, perhaps surprisingly, also of Plato as
ideologist-reformer). Rationalist thought (meta-types 1 and 2) essentially
pursue the question: what is this? Subjectivist thought (meta-types 3 and 4) in
varying degrees revolves around the humanistic question of: how should we live?
Figure 1: The meta-paradigmatic framework
WHAT IS THIS?
TYPE II TYPE I
HOW SHOULD WE LIVE?
TYPE III TYPE IV
The combined epistemological-ontological distinctions made here should not be
reified as totally divisible and separate spheres. What the framework does is
to identify unique orientations or predispositions in human thought that
manifest itself in different combinations in various fields of endeavour.
One would, therefore, expect the work of each thinker or group of thinkers to
contain all these archetypal dimensions. Furthermore, although every body of
thought possesses objectivist (rationalist); subjectivist (humanistic);
transcendent (idealist/ empyrean) and immanent (realist) characteristics, no
two aspects manifest itself in identical ways in the intellectual products of
different scholars and writers. Hence, also, the existence of ongoing debates
between thinkers and movements of thought, which more often than not can be
traced back to conflicting epistemological-ontological orientations.
An important rationale and interpretive key to the meta-theoretical set is that
the four knowledge types are quite intimately related to one another in
pronounced ways. The first level of distinction is between the four primary
knowledge orientations (indicated in Figure 1).
At the second level of analysis, secondary or adjunct styles of thought can be
identified. For instance, a meta-type 1 philosophy (Plato, speculative,
theoretical) is premised to be closely linked to, alternated by, or interwoven
with either the meta-type 2 (scientist) or meta-type 4 (ideological-reformist)
mode; whilst the more critical-poetical knowledge orientation of a meta-type 3
philosophy, frequently favours or supports the reformist (social development;
political) orientation of meta-type 4; and so on.
At the third level of analysis the framework contains, for each knowledge type,
its diagonally opposite or conflicting orientation. Fourthly, the same basic
configuration also appears within each of the primary types, in a further,
second-order differentiation of the knowledge paradigms.
Figure 2 provides, by way of sketchy summary, a profile of meta-theoretical
approaches in philosophy of science, while Figure 3 describes the general
framework, and Figure 4 positions the meta-orientations of leading 20th century
philosophers of science.
The meta-philosophical approach to knowledge that is followed in the present
discussion needs to be distinguished from Thomas Kuhn's perspective of
intra-scientific paradigm change. Kuhn uses various definitions for what he
primarily takes to be guiding basic models of empirically established
puzzle-solving knowledge within a scientific community. By contrast, the
meta-framework used in the present paper has its origin in philosophical
thought and identifies enduring and distinguishable epistemological-ontological
positions. Kuhnian paradigms change (hence his model of 'normal science',
'crisis', 'revolution', and new 'normal science'), usually after long periods
of time and as a result of new solutions to previously intractable problems in
a scientific community. The meta-framework in the present essay represents
third order explanations (at a level beyond Kuhnian paradigms), twice removed
from the direct knowledge of phenomena generated by the natural and human
The meta-framework underpins intra-scientific paradigms across the sciences and
scholarly disciplines (including philosophy itself), and includes but is not
limited in its scope to specific intra-disciplinary knowledge traditions.
Figure 2: Meta-paradigmatic contrasts in philosophy of science
META-TYPE I: OBJECTIVIST -- EMPYREAN
* Plato (Parmenides) FORM
* Idealism (Descartes, Kant)
* Logical positivists (conceptual bias; logical coherence,
with scope of arguments as the main requirements for
* Theoretical physics
META-TYPE II: OBJECTIVIST -- EMPIRICIST
* Aristotle (Democritus) MATTER
* Materialism (Bacon, Locke, Hume)
* Logical empiricists (empirical bias; rational
correspondence, with prediction the highest test of
* Applied physics
META-TYPE III: SUBJECTIVIST -- EMPIRICIST
META-TYPE IV: SUBJECTIVIST -- EMPYREAN
Figure 3: Knowledge archetypes -- general characteristics
META-TYPE I: OBJECTIVIST -- EMPYREAN
VISIONARY / METAPHYSICAL MODE
* Essential truths (Ideas)
* Impersonal / SPECULATIVE INQUIRY
* Theoretical / mystical
* Generalist / 'boulder-building' / Integration
* Encompassing concepts ('patterns that connect')
* Determinist / foundational / transcendent
META-TYPE II: OBJECTIVIST -- EMPIRICIST
EXPLICATORY / SCIENTIFIC MODE
* Empirical truths (Facts)
* Impersonal / CONTROLLED INQUIRY
* Observation / measurement
* Specialist / 'Pebble-picking' / Differentiation
* Systematic analysis and prediction
* Determinist / foundational / immanent
META-TYPE III: SUBJECTIVIST -- EMPIRICIST
EXPERIENTIAL -- INTERPRETIVE MODE
* Existential truths (symbols, linguistic)
* Expressive -- revelatory -- poetical
* Personal -- engaged
* Values (humanism) -- empathic
* Voluntarist / contextual / immanent
* To praise, eulogize, tell inspiring STORIES; to unmask,
debunk, critique and tell 'sad' stories
META-TYPE IV: SUBJECTIVIST -- EMPYREAN
MISSIONARY / DEVELOPMENTAL MODE
* Ideological truths (concepts; principles)
* Political -- advocacy -- action
* Communal -- engaged
* Values (humanism) -- reformist
* Voluntarist / contextual / transcendent
* To influence and ENGINEER life/ world/ society according to
valued ideals and principles
Figure 4: Meta-paradigmatic exemplars in philosophy of science
META TYPE II META TYPE I
(rational research programs) (logic of science)
META TYPE III META TYPE IV
Kuhn/ Feyerabend Popper/ Feyerabend
(social psychology of science) (science and society)
3. The meta-orientations of Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend
Although Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend, all had training in the sciences
(physics, mathematics) and philosophy during their formal education, as far as
could be ascertained, none of them practiced as scientists (except for briefest
of periods, perhaps).
The four exemplars considered here were not scientists reflecting on (or
philosophizing about) science from the inside, but were, respectively: a
logic-inclined philosopher (Popper), a mathematics-inclined philosopher
(Lakatos), a history-inclined philosopher (Kuhn), and what, for lack of a
portmanteau word, can be described as the encyclopedic intellectual cum
critic-philosopher (Feyerabend). All of them tried to account for the nature of
science, from the outside looking in. They are thus logicians/ theorists/
historians/ commentators, not scientists-reflecting-on-science.
The four exemplars prove, upon inspection, to be quite an interesting ensemble
of individuals: Popper with a doctorate in the psychology of thinking (but did
not practice as psychological scientist); Kuhn with a doctorate in physics (but
did not practice as physicist); Lakatos with a doctorate in philosophy of
mathematics (but did not practice as mathematician); and the enigmatic and
roving intellect Feyerabend, who (as student) by chance got interested in the
arts, physics and philosophy. He later became a professor of philosophy who
objected to being called a philosopher (see Parascandalo & Hosle, 1995).
All four profess to be scientific realists and fallibilists although Feyerabend
often slips into a relativist position, and Kuhn at times seems to straddle two
worlds (scientific rationalism and social constructionism). Popper became the
moralizing Critical Rationalist (the methodological purist who emulated
Socrates, or -- less flatteringly -- the 'logical negativist', as in Bunge,
1996); Feyerabend seems to have become the Critical Non-Rationalist (of
methodological anarchism); Lakatos chose the more conventional route as
Rational-Realist (the methodological positivist-empiricist); whilst Kuhn may be
described as the Rationalist cum Subjectivist (the methodological historicist
who wished to retain the traditional view of science as a rational-logical
Popper is concerned with the logic of science, Lakatos with research programs
that have predictive value, Kuhn with unmasking the foundationalist pretensions
of the textbook view of science as a cumulative, linear, context-free process,
as well as the corresponding introduction of a social-psychological account of
science as consisting of changing paradigms, and Feyerabend with the debunking
of elitist conceptions of science and promoting the democratization of science
as element of society.
3.1 Popper: Objectivist-Empyrean philosopher of science (Type I)
Regarded as one of the leading philosophers of the 20th century, and a
foundational presence in philosophy of science, Karl Popper's theory of science
is rooted in a purist (empyrean/ idealist) approach to knowledge. He proposes a
logical, deductive, hypothesis-testing structure for the sciences as the only
defensible way to achieve truth. His philosophy is based on the premise that
all knowledge and scientific theories are flawed (there is also no external
criterion of truth), and posits the ideal of arriving at the best possible
(unflawed) scientific theory of phenomena of interest to the scientist.
Verification by induction does not lead to objective truth (any set of
observations can always result in another inductive solution to the same data),
thus calling for a different approach.
With some similarity to the Socratic approach, he proposes a principle of
falsification, which is designed to show up the mistakes in our theories
(something which Socrates never tired of doing in Plato's dialogues). We can
never establish scientific certainty (all our theories and ideas about
phenomena are conjectures), but we can strive to attain objective truth by
deliberately searching for errors in our theories, and so weed out weaker ones
(those that do not correspond as well with the empirical evidence). Popper
rejects naive objectivism (absolute truth) as well as naive realism, as do
probably most modern thinkers and scientists, but his meta-type I inclination
shows up in his strong support for objective knowledge provided by what he
describes as the 'logical theory of truth' (Popper, 1992/ 1945: 378). He
rejects what he calls 'philosophical absolutism', but accepts another type of
(objectivist-idealist) absolutism that he calls 'fallibilistic absolutism'
(1992/ 1945: 7) -- an approach of 'truth by approximation', of trying to get
rid of weaker theories by consistent application of the falsification principle.
Experience or observation, although important for providing the empirical
component of scientific truth, can never be the arbiter of truth. For Popper,
the methodological purist (meta-type I) and Kantian philosopher, all truth is
theory-laden, there is no Lockean empty mind (tabula rasa). '... It is a
serious mistake...to believe that we can appeal to anything like an authority
of experience...' (Popper, 1992/ 1945: 388).
Popper's philosophy of Critical Rationalism (his own term) posits the following
as some of the central characteristics of scientific knowledge (Popper, 1996:
It begins with problems, practical as well as theoretical
It consists in the search for 'objectively true theories'
It is conjectural and 'the method of science is the
critical method: the method of the search for and the
elimination of errors in the service of truth' (p4)
Contrary to Kuhn's philosophy, which explicitly makes provision for the
subjective (social-psychological) dimension of scientific thought, Popper
favours the objectivist approach. He makes this clear with his declaration
that: 'As a philosopher... ng ago I gave up as superfluous the search for
subjective certainty. The problem that interests me is that of the objectively
critical rational grounds for preferring one theory to another, in the search
for truth' (Popper, 1996: 5).
Popper's metaphysics consists of a three-world ontology: the world of physical
things (world 1); the 'experiences of human beings' (world 2); and world 3, the
world of the 'objective products of the human mind' (1996: 7). And here Popper's
strong empyrean (Platonic, meta-type I) orientation and the similarity of his
world 3 to Plato's 'intelligible realm' becomes clear: 'I assume that there
exist immaterial inhabitants of world 3, which are real and very important; for
example, problems...' (1996: 9).
Lastly, in line with the characteristics of the type I meta-orientation, Popper
also did not accept expressionism in art (Heyt, 1999: 12), something that, by
contrast, is typical of the meta-type III (subjectivist-realist) orientation.
For Popper the individual scientist did not really figure -- he was concerned
with the social and public (macroscopic and impersonal) character of the
scientific method (Heyt, 1999: 23).
3.2 Lakatos: Objectivist-Empiricist philosopher of science (Type II)
Strongly sympathetic to Popper's deductivist approach to scientific knowledge,
Imre Lakatos nevertheless eschewed the falsificationist principle as simply not
a good reflection of what really happens in science. In typical
rationalist-realist fashion (and in an effort to reconcile aspects of both
Popper and Kuhn's philosophies), he proposed his own, verificationist, approach
of 'research programs'. A research program consists of a hard core of main
hypotheses (conjectures) and an outer protective (flexible) belt of secondary
hypotheses and propositions that are more likely to change and be modified over
time in scientific investigations.
In contrast with Popper's focus on logical purity in scientific theories,
Lakatos' research program contain: '...clusters of hypotheses, evaluated not by
the refutation of any one but rather by their ability to predict new
observations, and for rational reconstruction as a method for understanding the
history of theories...' (Long, 1998:1). In further contrast to Popper's
approach, which can be characterised as a metaphysical research program,
Lakatos opted for an empiricist-objectivist (meta-type II) scheme of scientific
research programs (Kresge, 1996), preserving logical rigor and adhering to a
realist conception of truth (Miner, 1998).
Similar to Popper, Lakatos views the objectivity of scientific theories as
independent from individual human minds -- in other words, scientific theories
should be objectively and rationally true, not subjectively and
inter-subjectively as in Kuhn's (meta-type III) approach. He also agrees with
Popper in regard to the theory-ladenness of truth and his hypothesis-testing
At the same time Lakatos rejects what he perceives to be Kuhn's drift toward
scientific truth as irrational faith or belief commitments, which for Lakatos
(as for Popper) creates the spectre of not being able to separate science from
pseudo-science or subjectivity (the so-called demarcation problem). Like
Popper, his philosophy of science also has the great (Einsteinian) scientific
achievement (and explanations for that event) in mind -- but for Popper's
isolated, conjectural statements and hypotheses he substitutes the research
program of clusters of hypotheses as recommended approach for the sciences.
In sum: Lakatos is the objectivist-empiricist (meta-type II) philosopher of
science, viewing science as a process of seeking rational confirmation of the
predictive value of research programs. As he formulates it: 'The time-honored
empirical criterion for a satisfactory theory was agreement with the observed
facts. Our empirical criterion for a series of theories is that it should
produce new facts' (1970: 5).
3.3 Subjectivist-Empiricist philosophers of science (Type III)
(a) Thomas Kuhn
It would probably be true to say that Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific
Revolutions (1970/ 1962) upturned the whole philosophy of science apple cart in
the 20th century. In terms of the meta-theoretical approach followed in the
present paper, the whole tone and emphasis of Kuhn's exposition is in marked
contrast to the impersonal and abstracted form of theorizing found in the work
of Lakatos, and especially Popper.
In sharp contrast to the preference for deductive theorizing by Popper and
Lakatos, Kuhn's methodology for arriving at his socio-historical conception of
science, as well as his explanation of how he came to be interested in the
history of science, reflects a radically different approach. Kuhn is the
inductive researcher and theorist in the Aristotelian mould. Similar to
Aristotle's process of data collection and reporting (in the Politeia) on the
actual details of a variety of political systems and forms of government from
which he (inductively) developed his own philosophy of politics -- Kuhn, inter
alia, conducted a range of interviews with prominent scientists and scholars,
before coming up with his own theory of paradigms.
The opening lines of Structure establishes the main theme of Kuhn's philosophy
of science: 'History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or
chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by
which we are now possessed' (1970/ 1962: 1). This is followed by a statement
that clearly shows Kuhn to be the critical, unmasking, thinker in the
subjectivist-empiricist (meta-type III) tradition: 'This essay attempts to show
that we have been misled by them [the sanitized textbooks of science] in
fundamental ways. Its aim is a sketch of the quite different concept of science
that can emerge from the historical record of the research activity itself'
(1970/ 1962: 1). There can be little doubt about what Kuhn mainly intended (and
dramatically succeeded in) doing, namely: debunking and overturning the typical
(naive) account of science as a fully rational undertaking that unfolds in a
cumulative and linear fashion.
Kuhn is concerned with the (seemingly) incommensurable ways in which different
schools of thought (in both natural and social sciences) view scientific truth,
hence his choice of the term paradigm to refer to these different knowledge
traditions within the various sciences. His subjectivist-realist (meta-type
III) orientation clearly comes to the fore when he says: 'Observation and
experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific
belief, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a
particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of
personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the
beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time'
(1970/ 1962: 4).
He openly favours an interpretive (subjectivist) approach, frankly admitting
that: '...many of my generalizations are about the sociology or social
psychology of scientists...' (1970/ 1962: 8). But his very next statement
reflects a (later much debated) ambivalence in his philosophy, when he
immediately harks back to the rationalist tradition with the words: '...yet at
least a few of my conclusions belong traditionally to logic or epistemology'
(1970/ 1962: 8). This points to a problematic aspect of his thought that is
also reflected in his public rejection (see De Gennes, 2001; McGrew, 1994) of
the social constructivist approach to scientific knowledge.
Kuhn's debate with Popper (in Lakatos & Musgrave, 1997/ 1970) gives abundant
evidence of how philosophically far apart these two figures were (despite
Kuhn's attempts, in his own address, to identify commonalities in their views).
The title of Kuhn's address states the difference in philosophical outlook
between them succinctly: 'Logic of discovery [Popper] or psychology of research
Interestingly, Andresen (1999: 28) reports that Kuhn also enjoyed reading
Freud, even confessing that his own psychoanalysis sharpened his skill as
historian. Here one finds again the contrast with Popper and Lakatos, who (in
their turn) spoke derisively about what they viewed as the pseudo-sciences of
Marx and Freud.
In a more pronounced manner than Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend became the leading
example in 20th century philosophy of science of the subjectivist-empiricist
(narrative-poetical) approach in human thought -- the story-teller and critic
of other philosophies of science, who deliberately wanted to shock. The next
section therefore briefly profiles Feyerabend's meta-type III approach to
philosophy of science.
(b) Paul Feyerabend
Formerly an admirer of Karl Popper's philosophy, Paul Feyerabend made a radical
break with Popperian orthodoxy, proposing (and propagating) an anarchistic
('everything goes') philosophy of science. Rorty (1995) mentions that
Feyerabend already made the historicist turn in his writings in the early
1950s. Yet, he remained a loyal participant in the field (maintaining cordial
relations with, especially, Lakatos), all the while supporting the scientific
fallibilist and realist convictions of the others, because: 'it makes very good
sense' (Parascandalo and Hosle, 1995: 39). He later made an even more pronounced
turn toward the advocacy (meta-type IV) mode, calling for the democratisation of
science as just another co-equivalent tradition of knowledge and thought in
society (see next section).
His main thesis (contra Popper, Lakatos and also Kuhn) is that: '...the events,
procedures and results that constitute the sciences have no common structure...'
(1993: 1). For Feyerabend a theory of science embedded in objectivist thought
and using: '...Reason or Rationality may impress outsiders -- but it is much
too crude an instrument for the people on the spot, that is, for scientists
facing some concrete research problem' (1993: 1).
Key features of Feyerabend's subjectivist-realist (meta-type III) theory of
science are as follows (1993: 5-19):
Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise. Theoretical
anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage
programs than its law-and-order alternatives;
Proliferation of theories is beneficial for science, while
uniformity impairs its critical power. Uniformity also
endangers the free development of the individual;
Neither science nor rationality serves as universal
measures of excellence. They are particular traditions,
unaware of their historical grounding;
The distinction between a context of discovery and a
context of justification, norms and facts, observational
terms and theoretical terms must be abandoned. None of
these distinctions plays a role in scientific practice.
Popper's critical rationalism fails for the same reasons;
Interests, forces, propaganda and brainwashing techniques
play a much greater role than is commonly believed in the
growth of our knowledge and in the growth of science;
There is only one principle that can be defended under all
circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is
the principle: anything goes.
Similar to the neo-pragmatism (meta-type III) of Richard Rorty, Feyerabend's
philosophy of science is essentially a narrative-poetical philosophy. Its modus
operandi is the intellectual re-description based on a prolific recourse to
events and examples in the history of science. As in the case of Rorty,
Feyerabend is deliberately critical, provocative and aim to deconstruct -- in
his case of the purist (foundationalist) picture of science painted by Popper
and (to lesser extent) Lakatos.
Feyerabend follows a pluralist approach to knowledge development that goes
beyond Kuhn's historicist cycles. Kuhn still wants to hold on to a
rational-logical structure of thought, even though his socio-psychological
explanation of the growth of knowledge pulls the rug out from under the
standard conception of science as a purely objective-logical endeavor. For
Feyerabend knowledge development is thoroughly unpredictable in terms of clear
procedures and processes -- there is no standard structure.
On the charge of relativism (any position or argument is as good or bad as any
other), Feyerabend's response seems to vacillate between praise and rejection:
'...I say that relativism gives an excellent account of the relation between
dogmatic world-views but is only a first step towards an understanding of live
traditions... relativism is as much of a chimaera as absolutism (the idea that
there exists an objective truth), its cantankerous twin' (1993: 268). Yet, he
also comes out in strong support of Kuhn's rejection of the social
constructivist program in the sociology of science, depicting it (in clearly
anti-relativist terms) as: '...absurd: an example of deconstruction gone mad'
In interviews reported by Parascandalo and Hosle (1995), Feyerabend's personal
and emotive style (typical of the subjectivist, meta-type III thinker) is
unmistakeable. He talks of his aggressiveness against philosophers: '...who
started talking about the sciences without really knowing much about them'
(1995: 5) and unapologetically states that: '...if I can argue something or
tell a story, I do so. If I can say something softly or a little more wickedly,
I prefer to do so...' (1995: 6). Thus, Feyerabend is a clear example of the
deconstructionist philosopher of science, the proponent of what he describes as
'intercultural poetry' (1995: 33) and the enemy of any scientific and
philosophical one-upmanship. For Feyerabend a scientific philosophy (e.g.,
Popper) that makes generalised abstractions about what scientists do is: 'sheer
fairy tale' (1995: 44).
Interestingly, when confronted in an interview (Parascandalo and Hosle, 1995)
with the question about his seemingly contradictory respect for Plato (the
proto-typical objectivist-empyrean, meta-type I, thinker), Feyerabend points to
Plato's other (meta-type III) side, namely, his literary excellence in the
dialogues, as well as the fact that Plato in his dialogues always ends with a
return to mythos (the poetical-narrative form of the meta-type III).
Lastly, it should be noted in passing that even Popper, the more purely
objectivist philosopher of science, could also be the emotive critic (type III
mode). Janik (2002) informs us that: '...Popper was a bundle of contradictions:
a champion of criticism and openness but with a penchant for vituperative
denunciation of those he criticized, anxious to demythologize culture heroes
past and present -- Plato, Hegel, Marx, Wittgenstein...' (2002: 613).
3.4 Subjectivist-Empyrean philosophers of science (Type IV)
(a) Karl Popper
Popper, like his intellectual forebear Plato (of which he is so critical), also
engages in the ideological-political mode characteristic of the
subjectivist-empyrean paradigm (meta-type IV). In the present paper this
dimension will briefly be considered for his philosophy of science (and not his
social philosophy, as in The Open Society).
Popper's writings are, throughout soaked in what can only be described (Kuhn
also observed this) as constant moralising. Almost every sentence reflects an
either thinly veiled or direct exhortation, appeal, proposal, or hint about how
scientists (and philosophers of science) should go about their task, about the
'right' attitude and approach toward scientific knowledge. Popper seldom seemed
to have missed an opportunity to engage in a promotional style of expression in
his work. Some examples are:
'I shall first suggest that a dose of Tarski's theory of
truth stiffened perhaps by my own theory of getting nearer
to the truth, may go a long way towards curing this malady
[relativism]' (Popper, 1992/ 1945: 369);
'...critical rationalism -- and critical empiricism which I
also advocate -- can be regarded as an attempt to carry
further Kant's critical philosophy...' (1996: 48);
'Problems connected with the meaning or the definition of
words are unimportant. Indeed, these purely verbal problems
are tiresome: they should be avoided at all costs' (1996: 49).
(b) Paul Feyerabend
Although Feyerabend's writings and distinctive style clearly places him in the
narrative (subjectivist-realist) tradition of thought, he later on (especially
with his Science in a Free Society) adopted a strong political-ideological
approach. His declared aim was: '...to remove obstacles intellectuals and
specialists create for traditions different from their own and to prepare the
removal of the specialists (scientists) themselves from the life centres of
society' (1982: 7). The political Feyerabend is also described by Benvenuto
(1995), who writes that: 'Feyerabend's 'radical propaganda' sought a double
emancipation: of scientists from epistemologists, and of citizens from
scientists' (1995: 3)
4. Concluding remarks
The above analysis highlights the unique as well as common elements in the
philosophies of science of Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend. Taken
together, their philosophies represent four distinct ways of looking at and
theorizing about the nature of scientific knowledge. As in the case of other
disciplines, philosophy of science is not a unitary intellectual enterprise,
but reflects (from a meta-theoretical vantage point) both oppositional and
complementary tendencies in human thought.
Andresen, J. 1999. 'Crisis and Kuhn.' ISIS: Journal of the History of Science
in Society, 90: 43-68
Benvenuto, S. 1995. 'Paul K. Feyerabend (1924-1994) -- search for abundance.'
Telos. 102: 107-15
Bunge, M. 1996. 'The seven pillars of Popper's social philosophy.' Philosophy
of the Social Sciences. 26 (4): 528-557
Cornford, F. M. (1935) 1979. Plato's theory of knowledge. London: Routledge &
Feyerabend, P.K. 1993. Against method. 3rd Edition. London: Verso.
Feyerabend, P.K. 1982. Science in a free society. London: Verso
Fuller, S. 2002. 'The pride of losers: A genealogy of the philosophy of
science.' History and Theory. 41: 392-409.
De Gennis, P.G. 2001. 'The Road since Structure/ Thomas Kuhn.' Physics Today.
54: (3): 53-55
Heyt, F.D. 1999. 'Popper's Vienna. A Contribution to the History of the Ideas
of Critical Rationalism.' Innovation: The European Journal of Social Sciences.
12 (4): 525-542
Janik, A. 2002. 'Karl Popper -- The Formative Years, 1902-1945.' Central
European History. 35 (4): 613-617
Kresge, S. 1996. 'Feyerabend unbound.' Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 26
Kuhn, T. (1962) 1970. 'The structure of scientific revolutions.' International
Encyclopedia of Unified Science. 2 (2): Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Kuhn, T. 1970. 'Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?' in Lakatos, I and
A. Musgrave (Ed) (1970) 1997. Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge:
University of Cambridge Press
Long, J. 1998. 'Lakatos in Hungary.' Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 28 (2):
Lakatos, I. 1970. 'Falsification and the methodology of scientific research
Programs.' in Lakatos, I and A. Musgrave (Ed) (1970) 1997. Criticism and the
growth of knowledge. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press
McGrew, T. 1994. 'Scientific progress, relativism, and self-refutation.' EJAP.
2 (2). http://ejap.louisiana.edu/EJAP/1994.may/mcgrew.html
Miner, R.1998. 'Lakatos and MacIntyre on incommensurability and the rationality
of theory-change.' Philosophy of Science. 20th World Congress of Philosophy.
Parascandalo, R. and Hosle, V. 1995. 'Three interviews with Paul K.
Feyerabend.' Telos. 102: 115-149.
Pietersen, H J. (2000) 'Meta-paradigms in philosophical thought', The Examined
Life, Vol. 1, (4). [http://examinedlifejournal.com].
Popper, K. (1945) 1992. The open society and its enemies Volume II: Hegel and
Marx. London: Routledge
Popper, K.1996. In search of a better world. London: Routledge
Rorty, R.1979. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Oxford, London: Blackwell.
Rorty, R.1995. 'Untruth and consequences.' New Republic. 213 (5): 32-37
Radnitzky, G and Bartley, W.W. (eds). 1987. Evolutionary epistemology,
rationality, and the sociology of knowledge., La Salle, Illinois: Open Court.
Ross, D. 1999. 'The philosophy of science at the turn of the millennium', South
African Journal of Philosophy. 18 (2): 91-100.
(c) Herman J Pietersen 2007
II. 'DUALISM, CONSCIOUSNESS AND SELF-IDENTITY IN DESCARTES AND SARTRE'
BY RICHARD GREGO
Jean Paul Sartre's existentialist phenomenology was in many ways an attempt to
eliminate Rene Descartes' dualism with respect to consciousness and
self-identity. As illustrative of the 'post-modern' intellectual-cultural ethos
that they did much to configure, Sartre's ideas represent a radical
transformation of Descartes' 'modern' conception of the ego. However, a close
examination of Descartes' and Sartre's ideas in comparative perspective
suggests that this transformation involves more of an inversion of Cartesian
dualism than the simple elimination of it.
This essay will compare perspectives on the ontological structure of
consciousness in the respective writings of Descartes and Sartre. Specifically,
it will examine their views on the relationship between self-awareness and
conscious life. It will focus on the critical discussion of this relationship
in Descartes' Discourse on Method, Meditations, and Principles of Philosophy
and in Sartre's Transcendence of the Ego and Being and Nothingness. Since each
considered the issue of self-identity and consciousness to be foundational to
his own thought, examining their contrasting views on this issue may reveal
much about how basic assumptions regarding the 'ego' or 'self' have changed
since the inauguration of modernity four centuries ago. Moreover, their
contrasting ideas may also say much about the differing intellectual/ cultural
contexts from which these ideas have emerged.
Descartes' concept of a self-aware ego, and Sartre's notion of an ego-less
self-awareness, reflect contrasting intellectual/ cultural paradigms in the
history of western civilization. Descartes' self-concept reflects modernity's
idea of self-identity and -- insofar as Sartre's self-concept reflects the
nature of the post-modern self -- exploring the similarities and contrasts
between Descartes and Sartre illustrates how self-identity in the postmodern
milieu can be understood paradoxically as both the culmination of modernism and
as a reaction against it. For, though Sartre's concept of the ego differed from
that of Descartes in many respects, Sartre (like Husserl and other
phenomenologist) still took Descartes' Cogito as a philosophical point of
departure. Sartre's thinking on this issue was thus heavily influenced by
Descartes and can be interpreted on different levels as (however
unsuccessfully) both confirmation of and rejection of the Cartesian legacy.
CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE AS THE ORIGIN OF THE EGO
Basic similarities are evident, for example, in both thinker's philosophies of
'mind'. Both view mental activity as essentially non-material. While Descartes
grounds his non-material mind in the spiritual 'substance' of God, and Sartre
grounds his non-material consciousness in the radical 'freedom' of
'nothingness', both still view conscious experience as fundamentally different
from the physical or extended reality that it 'inhabits'. Consequently, both
also view mind or conscious experience as one aspect of a dualistic reality.
Though Sartre's phenomenology was an attempt to overcome Cartesian dualism and
there are profound differences between them regarding the nature of dualism,
both envision reality as constituted by a thinking, free, self-aware subject in
ontological opposition to a material, static, and unconscious object. Descartes
and Sartre both also agree that subjective consciousness is a uniquely human
activity. Although Descartes includes God as conscious (actually as the source
of consciousness), both concur that the objective or factual reality 'outside'
of human subjectivity does not and cannot 'think' in a conscious sense. Most
importantly perhaps, both view the capacity for self-awareness as essential to
conscious experience. The larger ramifications of this are ultimately different
for each, but both agree that this capacity grounds and delimits the scope of
Thus Descartes uses his own capacity for self-awareness to arrive at the Cogito:
'But immediately I noticed that while I was endeavoring in
this way to think everything false, it was necessary that
I, who was thinking, was something. And observing that this
truth, 'I am thinking, therefore I exist' was so firm and so
sure that... I decided to accept it without scruple as the
first principle of the philosophy I was seeking' (DM, 36).
Essential to this experience of consciousness is the 'I' that does the
'thinking' -- A 'self' that remains a persistent and substantial locus of
conscious awareness. This self is the 'substance' constituting thought. 'From
this I knew that I was a substance whose whole nature is to think' (DM, 36).
Yet the Cartesian 'I' also seems to exist in a sense that somehow transcends
its own thoughts: 'I' consist of my thoughts, but also collect, possess, and
witness them. Although thinking constitutes my 'nature', 'I' seem to also exist
in some critically detached way that simultaneously transcends the very thoughts
that I am observing. I exist independently from my thoughts as an ego that
This Cartesian ego (which has plagued philosophy of mind ever since) is the
ontological excrescence that Sartre considers the source of a false dualism --
and that he attempts to rid philosophy of. He is successful in eliminating the
Cartesian ego, but not dualism. In fact, his attempt to eradicate Cartesian
dualism arguably results in a more thoroughgoing Sartrean dualism.
Though, like Descartes, Sartre posits self-awareness as essential to
consciousness, he also rejects Descartes' idea of a transcendent ego reflecting
somehow on its own thinking. 'Of course consciousness can know and know itself',
Sartre writes, 'But it is in itself something other than a knowledge turned back
on itself' (BN, LXI) Although consciousness exists in a very definitive sense
and can be self-aware, it does not consist of thoughts contained in or
belonging to an 'I' or ego in the Cartesian sense. Since 'existence precedes
essence', thinking or consciousness can have no 'substance' or 'nature'.
Consciousness for Sartre is radically 'free' or unconditioned mental activity
without any transcendent 'ego' from which it emanates. The subjective
experience or sense of a 'self' IS this activity and cannot have any existence
apart from this activity. (BN, LXV-LXVI)
Therefore, as Sartre states in The Transcendence of the Ego: '... the
consciousness that says 'I think' [in Descartes' Cogito] is precisely not the
consciousness that thinks... There was no 'I' in the unreflecting
consciousness' (45-46). Sartre removes the Cartesian ego from consciousness via
the concept of 'intentionality': Conscious activity consists solely in the
positing or apprehension of its objects. It is a subjective directedness toward
the objective world external to itself. It is aware of its activity, but not as
any activity issuing or deriving from an ego that transcends this activity.
Consciousness is only conscious of itself as 'consciousness-of' something. (BN,
Thus Sartre conceives of subjective consciousness as primarily a
'pre-reflective' or dynamic process. When one is actively engaged in an
experience, the 'I' or ego does not appear and one is not aware of one's
'self': 'When I run after a streetcar... there is no 'I'. There is only
consciousness of the street-car-having-to-be-overtaken'. (TE, 49) It is only
during 'reflective' mental activity (thinking about experience in retrospect --
objectively) that consciousness posits its prior thinking as unified by or
issuing from a transcendent ego. However, this ego is itself just another
object external to the subjective consciousness that posits it. There is no
transcendent or objective ego to which consciousness belongs or from which
consciousness derives. In fact, the opposite is true: 'For most philosophers,
the ego is an inhabitant of consciousness... We would like to show that the ego
is neither formally nor materially within consciousness: it is outside, in the
For Descartes in contrast, the self or ego, which DOES exist in direct relation
to consciousness, can reflect upon itself as it thinks. The ontological
structure of Cartesian consciousness (following the Scholastic tradition) is
configured by the relationship between mental 'substance' which is
characterized by its primary essence or 'attribute', which is thought ('To each
substance there belongs one principle attribute; in the case of mind, this is
thought... ' (PP, 177). Thinking belongs to a mind. Since the mind or ego
exists in transcendent relationship to its thoughts, it can direct these
thoughts back upon itself or upon its prior thoughts.
'But what then am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A
thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is
willing, and also imagines and has sensory perceptions.
This is a considerable list, if everything on I belongs to
me. But does it?... The fact that it is I who am doubting
and understanding and willing is so evident that I see no
way of making it any clearer' (MP, 83).
FROM THE CARTESIAN EGO TO SARTREAN SUBJECTIVITY
Sartre's rejection of this Cartesian ego, and his idea instead of an
intentional consciousness, leads to an attempted (and unsuccessful) rejection
of Descartes' subject/ object dichotomy between the conscious ego and the
unconscious world. Descartes' idea of consciousness is predicated upon the
assumption that the thinking subject is fundamentally different from the
objective physical world -- that 'I exist' (as mind) and 'there exist things
distinct from myself' (physical or extended objects). Insofar as the human mind
participates in the Divine mind, in fact, the subjective conscious 'soul'
remains separate from the objective 'fallen' physical world (PP, 182-189). (For
the former Jesuit student, the 'City of God' is distinct from the 'City of
man'). 'I exist, I find in my mind the idea of God who must -- by his very
concept -- exist; God being good, will not deceive me in my clear and distinct
ideas. Hence my belief in an external world must be true idea' (PP, 189).
Sartre, on the other hand, deliberately tries to eradicate any distinction
between the ego and its world. Though he accomplishes this, he does not
overcome the dualism that separates consciousness and its reality. To effect a
fundamental interdependence between conscious experience and the world that it
apprehends, Sartre empties consciousness of substance entirely. He asserts
that, not only is intentional mental activity in no way the 'attribute' of any
mental 'substance', but that it is also nothing more than an insubstantial
'striving toward' its objects of apprehension. In itself it is 'nothing' --
insubstantial and possessing no attributes. It is an empty and insubstantial
activity. A pure subjectivity through which objectivity is revealed. 'All
consciousness ... transcends itself in order to reach its object' and 'Nothing
is the cause of consciousness' (BN, LI-LVI). So in this sense, intentional
consciousness and the objective world are co-extensive: Consciousness needs its
objects in order to exist, such as it does, because it is nothing in itself
without them. The objective world needs consciousness in order to be revealed
Thus Sartre tries unsuccessfully to unify subjective consciousness and the
objective world via the empty or perpetually transcendent activity of
intentionality. However, the very activity through which this union is
attempted obviates its own possibility. The two 'worlds' cannot be reconciled.
The subjective nihility of consciousness, opposed to the object substance of
its world, makes any such union impossible. The objective world of factual
reality simply 'is' in the most concrete sense. Subjective consciousness
perpetually 'is not what it is and is what it is not' (BN, LXI)
So while Sartre attempts to eliminate subject/ object dualism by making the
conscious 'self' interdependent with its world -- but actually seems to make
the conscious subject less existent than or ontologically subsequent to the
objects it reveals, Descartes posits a dualism in which the thinking subject is
more existent than or ontologically prior to the worldly objects that it
perceives. The Cartesian ego, via the Cogito, first establishes the indubitable
truth of its own existence, which is its most 'clear and distinct' knowledge.
From this self-certainty it then (with the assistance of God, whose 'substance'
is intrinsic to its own) deduces the existence of an objective external world --
whose 'substance' is physical 'extension', as opposed to the thinking substance
of the ego. The existence of an objective world is only established after the
existence of the thinking subject is established. Moreover, this subjective ego
does not need the objective extended world in order to establish its own
existence. It exists, in a sense, as a self-contained entity. A non-physical
soul. Grounded securely on the self-sustaining existence of God, its existence
is not contingent upon the world. He writes:
'On one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself,
insofar as I am simply a non-extended thing; and on the
other hand I have a distinct idea of the body, insofar as
this is simply an-extended non-thinking thing. And
accordingly it is certain that I am really distinct from my
body and can live without it' (MP, 114).
In contradistinction, for Sartre the conscious subject is utterly contingent
(so much so, in fact, that that contingency almost seems like the 'substance'
of Sartre's consciousness, though his characterization of consciousness as
'free' or as 'nothingness' would preclude this possibility). It could not exist
without its objects since the intentional activity that constitutes it occurs
only as a 'striving toward' these objects. It is therefore less existent than
the substantial 'facticity' or concrete existence of the objective world.
IMAGINATION, FREEDOM, AND THE GROUND OF DUALISM
For this reason Sartre regards the mental act of imagination -- integral to
intentionality -- as essential to consciousness. Imagination is the aspect of
conscious experience in and through which possibilities are projected. The
projecting of possibilities is the very activity by which intentional
consciousness engages the world of objective facticity. Unlike the determined
and static character of the factual world (called 'being-in-itself'), conscious
activity (called 'being-for-itself') is perpetually and relentlessly moving --
striving toward and beyond this world. It is perpetually transcending all
objective facticity by projecting possibilities each and every moment.
Consciousness, or being-for-itself, IS this perpetual movement , which is
Because of its imaginative character, consciousness or being-for-itself is
radically free -- unlike the determined world of being-in-itself, toward which
it projects but with which it can never attain consummation. The freedom of
being-for-itself to project possibilities for being-in-itself is what makes
being-for-itself 'nothing' in itself and irreconcilable with being-in-itself.
Since being-in-itself is precisely 'just what it is' (determined), and
being-for-itself is always 'beyond what it is' (free), the freedom of
consciousness perpetually negates the very reality that it is contingent upon.
Freedom, as 'the ability of consciousness to destroy, ignore, or go beyond its
objects' via imagination, thus separates consciousness from its world. Yet
consciousness is this freedom (BN, 25).
For Descartes however, neither imagination nor freedom are as significant or as
ontologically problematic. He views imagination as an essentially superfluous
dimension of experience, connected as it is to the senses and the extended
substance of the physical body. A product of the visceral emotions rather than
of rational thought, it is not essential to mind or consciousness.
'I consider this power of imagining which is in me,
differing as it does from the power of understanding, is
not a necessary constituent of my own essence, that is of
my mind. For if I lacked it, I should undoubtedly remain as
I now am' (MP, 111).
Imagination is thus relegated to the level of sensory knowledge -- which is
neither true knowledge nor thinking in the essential sense. Imagination for
Descartes is therefore also not connected to freedom in the way that it is for
Sartre. Freedom for Descartes is integral, instead, to mental autonomy of an
exclusively rational nature. Only this dimension of consciousness qualifies as
'thinking' and hence, as essential to consciousness (MP, 112).
The contrasts between Descartes' and Sartre's notions of imagination -- and
hence, of freedom -- perhaps illustrate most effectively the basic distinction
between their respective conceptions of dualism and self-identity. Sartre
conceives of consciousness as subjective freedom, which is nothingness, while
Descartes views consciousness as an extension of the objective being of God.
For Sartre, consciousness is freedom as being-for-itself, which is 'condemned'
to perpetually project toward and beyond the the determined being-in-itself
upon which it is contingent. However, the ontological opposition of
being-for-itself and being-in-itself makes a being-for-itself-being-in-itself
union impossible, and consciousness must always for this reason, negate or
nihilate the very objects with which it seeks consummation.
One of these objects turns out to be consciousness itself. Since the objective
ego becomes becomes being-in-itself by the very act of reflecting upon it, it
remains external to the subjective being-for-itself in pre-reflective
consciousness. By positing and identifying with its ego, consciousness attempts
to become a being-for-itself-in-itself. It attempts to give its freedom
substance while still remaining unconditioned and free. It tries to give its
nothingness valid being. It tries to objectify its subjectivity. This is
impossible however, and the free subjectivity from which conscious experience
emerges remains alienated from any objective self-identity.
This is not the case with Descartes. Though consciousness and the external
world are indeed distinct, consciousness still remains the locus of
self-identity. Since it participates in the absolute being of God, the thinking
substance of consciousness gives the ego concrete being. 'My' existence as a
thinking subject is identical with my self-identity. This is the 'clear and
distinct' self-evident character of conscious experience. Consciousness for
Descartes is thus the opposite of nothingness -- whereas for Sartre
'consciousness is freedom is nothingness'.
Thus, far from eradicating Cartesian dualism by de-substantializing the ego,
Sartre actually intensified this dualism and perpetuated much of the Cartesian
legacy that he sought to supplant. For, although Descartes separated the ego
from the world to a relatively greater degree than many of his classical and
medieval predecessors, it nonetheless retained a place -- however precarious --
in the cosmic continuum encompassing all reality. ('I realize that I am, as it
were, something intermediate between God and nothingness, or between being and
non-being', MP, 99.)
However, Sartre not only separated consciousness from the world absolutely and
inalterably via the being-for-itself/ being-in-itself dichotomy, but he further
separated self-identity from its own originating ground by making the free
subjective 'nothingness' of pre-reflective consciousness irreconcilable with
the objective ego of reflective consciousness. Unlike the Cartesian ego, with a
place in the universe, the Sartrean consciousness is nowhere. Thus the
modernity's Cartesian dualism appears to have culminated in post-modernity's
existential alienation. Far from being overcome, the problems associated with
Cartesian dualism are more prominent than ever.
In this way Sartre's inversion of the the Descartes' Cogito represents one of
the most problematic and ironic philosophical developments in the recent
history of ideas. In a post-modern culture where issues related to individual
freedom, personal isolation, social alienation, etc, are increasingly prominent
in public life, this development exemplifies what may be an important transition
in western civilization generally. Where future philosophers may take this trend
remains as open a prospect as Sartrean freedom itself.
Descartes, Rene. Selected Philosophical Writings. J. Cottingham. trans.
(Cambridge: University Press) 1988
Sartre, J.P. Being and Nothingness. H. Barnes, trans. (New York: Philosophical
Sartre, J.P. Transcendence of the Ego. F. Williams, trans. (New York: Octagon
(c) Richard Grego 2007
Dr. Richard Grego
Department of Philosophy and Culture
Daytona Beach Community College
III. 'WORK BASED LEARNING EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY: SOME THOUGHTS OF EPICURUS'
BY FOTIS VASSILEIOU AND BARBARA SARIBALIDOU
Reading Epicurus (based on saved copies of his work) we realise that we can
extract some important points relevant to the 'work based learning' (WBL)
It his book Kyriai Doxai, chapter 2 ('on knowledge theory') Epicurus says:
It is necessary to consider the real purpose of life... or
else, everything will seem confused and not sure.
In work based learning, whatever you have done in the past counts and has its
purpose. An Accreditation Board will examine your past activities portfolio and
will give you APL (assessment of prior learning) credits. Finally every past
activity is valued as a contribution to a WBL course.
At the next chapter 'Epikourou prosfonisis', we read:
We cannot count young man as blessed. Blessed is the old
man who lived a good life. The young man is ruled by his
luck, the old man is not. He relaxes with his nice and
happy memories and with all the goods he gained for which
he was once scarcely confident of.
In work based learning, the 'old man' with 'memories' equals the 'professional'
with her/ his 'experiences'. The 'young man' is the average student who is
trying, studying and hoping to get good grades. The 'old man' is the WBL
student which now can 'retrieve her/ his memories' and gain credits.
In everything but philosophy, the result comes after the
end. In philosophy... your happiness comes simultaneously
We can say that WBL studies provide a philosophical background when we have to
discuss a student's past. At this specific moment, students realise that
everything they learned counts for something. Retrieved knowledge comes
together with happiness. You can see the realization in their eyes.
On another page we read:
To respect the wise man is the greatest good for the one
who respects him.
This is actually a basic rule for the WBL tutor and adviser. WBL tutors and
advisers are usually characterised by their respect for the 'professional
experts' (as usually their students are). At the start of their careers maybe
they do not realise that one day a University will select them for having this
Many times tutors face expert scientist-students of this or that science area
in their class. WBL tutors must have the strength, ethical background,
flexibility, positive thinking, high level of multi-disciplinary scientific
knowledge, studies of many subjects and most of all respect to the
professional/ scientist student. You have to love WBL philosophy in order to
keep working on it. It might seem easy but it is in fact very demanding work.
A few pages further on we read:
You must not wish to have what you not have, but you must
think that everything you have was a past wish.
This is how WBL works. You can gain credits for these areas you learned before
through experience or other studies.
Let's make our travel the most beautiful of all travels
during the time we are on the road. When we touch the end
we can be happy.
In WBL we have a 'travel in the student's past'. This is an enjoyable 'travel'
in order to complete a portfolio and take the best results (gained APL credits).
In human debates the real winner is the man who loses,
because he learned something more.
It is a reality that the WBL tutor who can listen to his student will take back
respect and simultaneously will help her /his student achieve a better result in
his academic progress.
Maybe all of the above are just thoughts. But think for one moment about the
next phrase of Epicurus (saved by Sextus Empiricus):
Philosophy is that human activity which with speeches and
thoughts makes our life to be a happy one.
Ethics Epicurus, Exantas Publications, Athens, 1992, ISBN:960-256-091-6
Kyriai Doxai Epicurus, Epicouros Publications, Athens, 1998
Epicurus Hutchinson, Avramidis, 2000, Athens, Thyrathen Publications,
(c) Fotis Vassileiou and Barbara Saribalidou 2007
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