PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 19 11th November 2001
I. Essay by Ana Gacis, Catherine McAuley High, Sydney
II. 'Methodology of Scientific and Religious Cognition'
by Dmitry A. Olshansky
III. Launch of PhiloSophos - 10 November 2001
I. ESSAY BY ANA GACIS, CATHERINE MCAULEY HIGH, SYDNEY
Catherine McAuley is a Catholic Girls High School in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, founded in 1966. It has about 1,100 students and is highly diverse ethnically and culturally, with girls from Hindu, Sikh, Islamic, Buddhist and various Orthodox and Protestant backgrounds aside from the Catholic mainstream.
Ana Gacis is a 14 Year old student studying Philosophy in the Gifted and Talented program, a group of about 15 students in the Middle School. They have been studying parts of the Pathways program 'Possible World Machine', among other things, over the last few months with their teacher and facilitator Matthew Del Nevo.
"Philosophy at Catherine McAuley High, Australia"
In my school, Catherine McAuley High, is incorporated an extension program without workbooks and homework, simply thinking. The test isn't included in the exam block, however from the moment the members of the community of inquiry form a circle and "philosophy" commences. What is being tested isn't our knowledge, what is challenged are our perception and accepted norms that have been embedded within us since birth.
Using the community of inquiry technique, we analyze debate and conclude, like dialogues of Socrates, questions such as "Is the past real?" derived from texts, and judge which questions are worthy of answering. For example, weighing the options between "Do we think human nature has changed over the centuries - will it ever change?" Or "Do we learn more from fiction than from reality?"
Our community of inquiry always generates an electric vibe of excitement as soon as propositions mentioned above are put to them. However, utilizing the "Koosh ball" (our facilitator Mr. Del Nevo's initiative) we adapt a rule to speak only when holding the Koosh ball, otherwise listen and respect those who possess it. The confidence and reassurance that this respect gives to members of the community permits them to openly agree or disagree with each other as equals without condemnation. The group votes as a whole on issues that have not reached a conclusion. Namely, when discussing "Is homosexuality innate, developed or both?" We concluded that there were not three categories only two, developed or born. This was reached through listening to the squoosh ball owners who stated their opinion with a substantial example. And finally voting to agree with the "opinion of the many". Consequently, we speak individually and think as a group.
During philosophy we often use the power of our reason, logic and imagination to pull apart and identify probing questions suggested in the situation. With Socrates, he asked which was more important, the opinion of the many or the opinion of the best. Whilst studying "The Possible World Machine" we derived the question mentioned earlier, is the past real? Several opinions were voiced on this issue. Our community voted that the past is real but our interpretations may differ. And since there must be something to have an interpretation of, it must be real. I wondered if these interpretations were concrete, perhaps they were just interpretations of interpretations, and nothing was real. Jenna a Yr 8 student, compared our memory to that of a jigsaw puzzle, some pieced while others are lost, to explain why some memories are definite whilst others are vague.
One session when presented with a question "Do we learn more from fiction then from the news? We immediately began to dissect the language. As a community we developed meanings for questionable words such a "fiction" and "learn." We asked whether it depended on what we want to learn, what we are more predisposed to learn, as well as wondering about the possibility that the reality of news is fiction and fiction is often based on real experiences.
When trying to answer "Do we think human nature has changed over the centuries - will it ever change?" the community of inquiry plunged into turning over the language, creating definitions, categories and clarifying meaning. However when the squoosh ball was passed to Nicole, Yr 9 student, she articulated that the latter part of the question held an element that made the answer to the question obvious and pointed out to us that it was actually quite an un-debatable question because of that. The fallacy was in the element that it was a question that contained its answer. A begging question. The question suggests human nature hasn't changed over the centuries and wonders if it ever will.
The philosophy element in my school life is essential to me. It gives the young women involved in philosophy the foundation to challenge concepts that otherwise would have just been accepted. Words like "normal", "past", "time" lead to a Pandora's Box of questions that everyday conversation doesn't permit let alone answer. What is normal? Is it simply society's perception of normal, a stereotype or ideal? Is there any specific outline that tells us how things are supposed to be? Or the latter, is the past real? Dos the past, future and present exist or is present demolished when time is like a train streaming towards us as Time as its only whistle? Whatever the question, we decide whether to answer with philosophy. Philosophy opens up a world beyond sensory perception and it is a joy to participate in it.
(c) Ana Gacis 2001
II. 'METHODOLOGY OF SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS COGNITION' BY DMITRY A. OLSHANSKY
To enunciate the problem of investigation let us firstly define the terms 'methodology' and 'knowledge'. Methodology as I understand this term is an epistemological strategy, i.e. the way of searching and receiving knowledge. In my mind methodology depends on (1) object of investigation, as well as (2) aims of search.
For example, when searching for scientific truth one has to create (or use) a scientific strategy, that is the methodology of notice, experiment and rational analysis. That methodology aims to discover and state new laws of nature. This methodology rides on the object of investigation (on nature) and rides on the aims of search (scientific conclusion, account and prognosis). That is why methodology of science looks for a consistent pattern in nature, engineering and economic results.
Searching for sacred truth one must create a religious strategy, which addresses mystical revelation. Religious methodology aims for a mystical approach to the Absolute (to God*, to Nirvana, to Tao, even to the Devil and so on). Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches as well as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism propose their own way of connection with the Absolute.
The religious way of cognition deals with knowledge too, just as in the scientific way, but the believer uses religious methodology (not rational and scientific). She/he deals with knowledge, but she/he receives it with religious methodology. That is why science denies the importance of religious knowledge, and religion longs for deliverance from the power of science (as well as of reason). Scientists call religious dogmas non-scientific which are, in their mind, non-truth. And the Fathers of the church criticize reason. Tertullian said, "I believe because it is absurd." (Credo, quia absurdum.)
Some philosophers say that we can not cognize the Absolute. I fully agree that we can not cognize the Absolute with our mind, but we can conjoin with the Absolute in mystical revelation (or in dialogue, according to Martin Buber and Mikhail Bakhtin), and we can feel the unity of our soul with God. Mystical revelation (or sacred dialogue) is the form of investigation of the Absolute. It is the form of receiving the knowledge about Absolute and from the Absolute directly. According to Semen Frank, in revelation our soul receives knowledge from God. This knowledge can be calibrated and used by mind, but can not be changed by mind.
So, founding on this idea, Frank defines the 'trivial' and 'proper' consciousness of the believer. Trivial consciousness of the believer differentiates faith and reason sharply. Trivial belief follows Tertullian's principle by pressing for the denial of reason as well as all rational knowledge. 'You should believe and not to think' - this is the slogan of trivial believers.
But there is proper belief that applies to mystical (but not rational) knowledge. The proper believer does not deny knowledge as it is, but she/he denies the superiority of mind. Frank agrees that there is rational knowledge as well as mystical, and the proper believer aims for mystical knowledge of God. This way of mystical cognition Frank names as revelation, that is contiguity of the human soul with God. That is why I think that Frank's religious ideas are very close to William James's thoughts in 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' (1901). James calls events of revelation 'automatisms'. 'Beliefs are strengthened wherever automatisms corroborate them' (p. 457). So, I think that we can affirm the encounter between Franks's and James's ideas. But this comparison needs further investigation.
According to Frank, the believer receives knowledge from the God in revelation. That is why mystical knowledge should not be in contradiction with rational knowledge. Mystical knowledge can be examined by the mind, but it does not oppose rational knowledge. In my mind, this is one of the main motives of all Orthodoxy, which appears in Bakhtin's theory of dialogue too.
That is why trivial belief, according to Frank, corrupts the nature of man, it makes a wrongful distinction between mind and soul. And trivial belief and practice is a sin. I consider that this edification to Christians is Frank's own reason for writing 'God With Us' (1946).
I would say that we can not affirm only one truth (or epistemological strategy) and deny all the others. So, we can not affirm scientific knowledge and deny religious or affirm religious truth and deny scientific, because its has different methodologies. First of all, religion and science have different objects of investigation. Science investigate nature, religion investigates the Absolute.
Eventually, religion and science have different aims of research. Religion aims for revelation and receiving clear knowledge from the God directly, science aims for rational and empirical investigation of the nature and receiving laws and common principles of nature.
Of course, science uses the entire arm to make methodology the form of science. It tries to show religious 'knowledge' as based on mere belief. For example, the scientist says that no one has seen God, that is why the 'fact' of God's being is based only on belief. There are no experimental and empirical proofs of God's being, there are only theoretical and scholastic ideas, but not scientific.
Contrariwise, some bishops say that God can not be understood by mind. The knowledge of God is founded upon the act of belief. According to Augustin Aurelius, no one knows to whom God will give the revelation and salvation of soul. So, the human mind is helpless and, according to radical treatments, is excrescent in human nature.
I think there are many ways of cognition: science, religion, art, poetry, psychology, philosophy and so on. There are different objects of investigation and different aims of search, just as there are many methodologies of investigation. Wittgenstein said that every question has an answer and the nature of the answer is determined by the question. So, it may be that the object of science and the object of art is the same (for example, a blade), but the aims are absolutely different: science investigates the blade by experiment: looking at its chemical composition, physical and biological affinities, and art uses metaphor to describe the blade. That is why there are two different methodologies of science and art.
In reality, the sense and purport of the objective world is determined by our methodology. If we use scientific methodology, we see the objects and the aims of scientific investigation. The objective world is formed by our own methodology, by our tool of cognition. That idea is close to Kant's a priori 'form' of cognition, which is contained in our mind and which is the tool of investigation and describing the world.
I agree with Kant that methodology is only the tool of our investigation, and also that it is a result of tradition, the result of previous experiences. But I disagree with his claim that there are the same a priori forms for all people. In reality, there are a lot of different methodologies and the researcher should not choose only one way of cognition. To achieve a new result, the researcher can combine and accomplish different ways of research, different ways of treatment.
Contemporary investigation in my view is the game of different methodologies and treatments. Contemporary research is poly-methodology, which combines different principles and different aims to create a new original treatment. But it does not mean that contemporary investigation denies mono-methodology, it does not deny clear science and clear religion. But it aims for the combination of methodologies and pursues the border between the aims and the different methodologies.
* I am Christian, that is why I associate Absolute with God
(c) Dmitry Olshansky 2001
Urals State University Yekaterinburg City Russian Federation E-mail: Olshansky@hotmail.com
III. LAUNCH OF PHILOSOPHOS - 10 NOVEMBER 2001
I am pleased to report that PhiloSophos, announced in the last issue (18) of Pathways News is now up and running. My thanks to Pathways student Tim Harris for his invaluable help and support.
On the home page are samples of the articles that have appeared in Pathways News over the past year. I am now looking for more articles for posting on PhiloSophos on any aspect of philosophy. We would be especially pleased to receive articles on the practical role of philosophy in different areas of science, culture and working life.
The rest of the site is divided into five sections. This is how the sections appear on the home page:
PHILOSOPHY KNOWLEDGE BASE: "Do a fast search through over a thousand indexed pages of philosophical questions and answers from the Pathways to Philosophy web site."
- I have started on the process of splitting up the thirteen pages of Questions and Answers on the Pathways 'Ask a Philosopher' site (up to 60,000 words per page!) into one page for each question, in order to provide a searchable archive. When the job is completed, the Knowledge Base will contain about a thousand pages, which will be updated every two months. At the time of writing, six of the thirteen pages have been converted. The 'Freefind' search engine which I have installed on the page can be used to search the archive or other sections of the PhiloSophos site.
GALLERY OF PHILOSOPHY LOVERS: "Virtual post cards from students and mentors on the Pathways to Philosophy, and Philosophical Society Diploma programs."
- I am looking forward to the time when there will be hundreds of postcards in our 'Rogue's Gallery'. At the moment there are just four! But take a look and see if you might be inspired to send an image (GIF or JPEG) plus a few words about what philosophy means to you. If you don't have the equipment to scan your photograph, you can post it to me at the University of Sheffield Dept of Philosophy (see the address at the bottom of this e-mail) and I promise to return it unscratched.
SCIENCE, ARTS AND HUMANITIES SEARCH: "The ultimate collection of specialized search engines for philosophers researching in the humanities, arts and sciences."
- On the page you will see three search engines: the Humbul Humanities Hub, Scirus (science), and Artcyclopedia (art and artists). If you know of any other, or better, specialised search engines which you think should be there, please let me know.
PATHWAYS TO PHILOSOPHY PROGRAMS: "Launch page for the Pathways to Philosophy Distance Learning Project with information about programs, study guide, essay archive, letters, online notebook and philosophical links."
PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND: "Hub page for the Philosophical Society of England and The Philosopher journal with links and information about the Society and its activities."
- No comment!
Geoffrey Klempner 11 November 2001