शनिवार, 14 अगस्त 2010

Western Philosophical Terms by Prof. Dharmanand Sharma

Philosophy is:
· A search for meaning and truth- The general beliefs and attitudes of an individual or group.
· The body of principles underlying a branch of learning or major discipline.
· Of What Value is the Study of Philosophy
o Provide clarification for what is or has been done by others
o Provides a frame work for life and our action
o Can be useful in solving educational problems
o A good mental activity
· Three Major Areas of Philosophy
o Metaphysics – The nature of reality.
o Axiology – The nature of values.
o Epistemology – The nature of knowledge.

· Concerned with theories of the nature of reality.
o What does the earth exist?
o How did it come into being?
o Is man free?
o Is there God?
o What is real?
· Common terms used in metaphysics are:
o Theology
o Creationism
o Evolution
o Spirit
o Free will
o Atheism

· Metaphysics is the area, many people think of when they hear the term philosophy.


· Concerned with theories of value.
· Two major divisions of axiology.
o Ethics
§ What is right and wrong?
§ What is evil and good?

o Aesthetics
§ What is beautiful and ugly?
· Some common terms used that relate to axiology are pessimism, optimism, hedonism, egoism, and altruism.


· Concerned with theories of the nature of knowledge
· Epistemological questions:
o How do people learn?
o What knowledge is of utmost value?
o What are the different types of knowledge?

Philosophical Schools of Thought
· Idealism
· Realism
· Pragmatism
· Existentialism
· Re-constructionism

Idealism (Idea-ism)

· Idealist believes that ideas are the only true reality.
· The material world is characterized by change, instability, and uncertainty; some ideas are enduring
· We should be concerned primarily with the search for truth. Since truth is perfect and eternal, it cannot be found in the world of matter that is both imperfect and constantly changing.
· Methods of Idealism
o Study the classics for universal truths
o Mathematics (2+2=4 is an absolute truth)
o Dialectic (critical discussion)
§ The dialectic looks at both sides of an issue
o Lecture is used to transmit known truths and to stimulate thinking.
· The Dialectic
o Thesis “War is good”
o Antithesis “War is bad”
o Synthesis

· Leaders of Idealism
o Socrates (469-399 BC)
o Plato (427-347 BC)
o St. Augustine (350-430)
o Descartes (1596-1650)
o Berkeley (1685-1753)
o Kant (1724-1804)

· Socrates
o Regarded as the father of philosophy
o Believed we learned through questioning (the Socratic method)
o Wrote nothing, what we know of his views were written by his followers, most notably Plato.

· Plato
o A student of Socrates
o Known as the father of idealism
o Operated a school named the “Academy”
· Plato’s views toward education
o The state must take an active role in educational matters
o The curriculum must lead bright students from a concern with concrete data toward abstract thinking
o Students with little ability for abstraction should go into the military, business and industry.
· Those who demonstrate proficiency in the dialectic would continue their education and become philosophers in positions of power to lead the state toward the highest good (the Philosopher-King)
· Believed both boys and girls should be educated and girls should be equals.

· Augustine (354-430)
o Born in North Africa (Roman citizen)
§ Mother – Christian
§ Father – Pagan
o Attended Roman Primary School
§ Grammar and literature emphasized
o At 16 went to Carthage and studied:
§ Rhetoric, music, geometry, grammar, mathematics
o During his younger days “He lied, he stole, he winched.”
o Became a Grammaticus in his native town
o Taught rhetoric in Carthage, Rome, Milan
o While in his 30’s was converted to Christianity, took his holy orders and became a great evangelist and priest.
o Found great favour in the church and became a great religious leader.
o People do not create knowledge; God has already created it, but people can discover it through trying to find God.

· Augustine’s Beliefs
o Women were held in low regard (this view was incorporated into the church and held for a thousand years)
o Only a few people possessed the mental ability to quest for the truth. Therefore most people should rely on the church for knowledge.
o Augustine used Greek writing but began to have doubts how people who did not know God could write anything which could be of value to Christians.
o In 401 the Church outlawed pagan writings such as Plato and Aristotle (even the church leaders were not allowed to read the ancient literature). This continued for 1000 years.

· Augustine’s Beliefs about Teaching
o Encouraged the use of summaries
o Believed teachers should teach through persuasion and by leading impeccable lives.
o Teachers should not expect to increase their worldly stores through teaching.
o The “stick and fist” were needed to keep students in line since people were wicked (because of Adam).

· The Church and Idealism
o Idealism has exerted a great amount of influence on Christianity.
o For centuries the Christian church was the creator and protector of schooling.
o Generations educated in these schools were indoctrinated with the idealist point of view (including early American education).

· Descartes (1596-1650)
o A renown mathematician
o Wrestled with the question of what was real and did he really exist (perhaps he was a dream). He finally concluded: “I think, therefore I am”
o Thinking and ideas are the ultimate truth.

· George Berkeley (1685-1753)
o Existence is dependent upon some mind to know it, and if there are no minds, nothing would exist unless it is perceived in the mind of God.

· Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
o “… the greatest and most difficult problem to which a man can devote himself is the problem of education…”
o Education should teach students how to think according to principles- moral laws, moral ideals and moral imperatives
o Enlightenment is the goal of education

· Educational Aims of Idealism
o Develop the mind
o Search for true ideas
o Character development
o Self-realization
o True education is concerned with ideas rather than matter.
o The idealists want to give students a broad understanding of the world in which they live.
· The Idealist and the Chair
o To an idealist the concept of “chair” is important. You could destroy all the chairs in the world but they would still exist in the mind. The idea of a chair is the ultimate truth.


· Realism, knowledge and value exist independent of the human mind, Trees, sticks and stones exist whether or not there is a human mind to perceive them.
· Ideas must be subject to public verification
o Must be proven through scientific experimentation
· “Science for the sake of science”
· Universal properties of objects remain constant and never change, whereas particular components do change
· Need to study nature systematically
· Deductive reasoning – truth is derived from generalizations
o Earth is the center of the universe

· Leaders of Realism
o Aristotle (384-322 BC)
o Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
o Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
o John Locke (1632-1704)

· Aristotle (384-322 BC)
o Ideas may be important but a proper study of matter could lead us to better and more distinct ideas.
o Golden Mean – a path between extremes
o Balance is key – body and mind operate together in a balanced whole

· Aquinas (1225-1274)
o God created matter; therefore it must be ok to learn about it
o This view helped leas civilization out of the dark ages, replaced the influence of Augustine.
o Truth was passed from God to Humans by divine revelation, but God also has endowed humans with the reasoning ability to seek out truth.

· Bacon (1561-1626)
o Novum Organum – challenged Aristotelian logic
o Science must be concerned with inquiry, pure and simple with no preconceived notions
o We need to examine all previously accepted knowledge
o Need to rid our mind of “idols”
§ Idol of the Den – we believe things because of limited experience
§ Idol of the Tribe – we believe things because many people believe them
§ Idol of the Marketplace – we are mislead by language
§ Idol of the Theatre – Religion and philosophy may prevent us from see the world objectively

· Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
o known as the father of inductive reasoning
§ Arrive at generalizations from systematic observations of particulars
o Died as a result of the only experiment he performed – stuffed a dead chicken with snow to see if it would preserve the flesh, caught a cold and died.

· John Locke (1632-1704)
o At birth, the mind is a blank sheet of paper – a tabula rasa
o All ideas are derived from experience by way of sensation and reflection.

· Realism and Education
o Promotes the study of Science and the scientific method
o There are essential ideas and facts to be learned; therefore lecture and other formal methods of teaching are useful
o Find specialization to be desirable
o Like structure
§ Ringing bells, departments, daily lesson plans
o If something exists, it can be measured
§ IQ, Effective teaching
o Approve of competencies, performance – based teaching, accountability
o Teacher should present material in a systematic, organized way and teach that there are clearly defined criteria for making judgements in art, economics, politics, etc.

· The Realist and the Chair
o To a realist, the actuality of “chair” is important. A realist would measure the chair, weight it, examine the physical characteristics, etc. The fact that the chair exists is the ultimate truth.


· The root of the word Pragmatism is a Greek word meaning “Work”
· It is primarily a 20th century philosophy developed by Americans.
· Truth is what works in the real world. We must keep the desired end in mind.
· Ideas should be applied to solving problems; including social problems.
· Leaders in Pragmatism
o Auguste Comte, 1798-1857
§ Not a pragmatist but emphasized using science to solve social problems
o Charles Darwin, 1809-1882
§ Reality is not found in being, but in Becoming
§ Reality is open-ended, in process, with no fixed end.

· American Pragmatists
o Charles Sanders Peirce, 1839-1914
§ Widely acknowledged as the father of pragmatism
§ Wrote an article on “How to make our Ideas Clear” in Popular Science Monthly that is regarded as the basis for pragmatism.
§ True knowledge of anything depends upon verification of our ideas in actual experience
o William James, 1842-1910
§ The truth of an idea is its “workability”
§ Truth is not absolute and immutable; rather it is made in actual, real – life
§ James called his philosophy “radical empiricism”
§ James’s 1907 book “Pragmatism” did much to promote pragmatism.
§ Rufus stemson, a leader in agricultural education, studies under James.
o John Dewey, 1859-1952
§ Need to concentrate on real – life
§ Sought Practical solutions for practical problems
§ How we think
· Felt difficulty
· Define the possible
· Formulate possible solutions
· Examine & Evaluate possible solutions
· Accept or reject solutions

· Pragmatism and Education
o Education should be preparation for life
o Solving problems is important; therefore use real-life situations
o Teaching methods should be varied and flexible
o Education should be action oriented
o Needs and interests of students should be considered
o Project approach to teaching is desirable
o Curriculum is varied
o A broad education is more desirable

· The Pragmatist and the Chair
o To a pragmatist, the use of the “chair” is important. What is the purpose of the chair and does it fulfil that purpose? The “workability” of a chair is the ultimate truth


· Society is in need of constant reconstruction
· Such social change involves both a reconstruction of education and the use of education in reconstructing society
· Problems are viewed holistically
· Futuristic thinking (utopian thinking)
· Do not believe preparing students for the world as it exists today will be sufficient (too much emphasis on the status quo)
· The goal of education should be to emphasize the need for change
· Students should be out in the real world
· “World” curriculum
· Technology is valuable in solving problems

· Reconstructionists want to:
o Link thought with action
o Theory with practices
o Intellect with activism

· Noted Reconstructionists
o George S. Counts
o Theodore Brameld
o Paole Freire
o Karl Marx
o Lvan Illich
o John Dewey (he is also recognized as a pragmatist)
· The Resonstructionist and the Chair
o To a reconstructionist, the redesign of the “chair” to better serve the needs of society is important. How can the chair be improved to prepare society for the future?


· Received new emphasis on the 60s and 70s
o Civil rights
o Women rights
o Individual rights
o Special needs
· In education
o Curriculum was revamped to meet the needs (more accurately - demands) of individuals
o Mainstreaming
o Pass or fail grade policies
o Extended drop deadlines in college
o Elimination of core courses
o Decline of corporal punishment
· In extension there was a focus on serving non-traditional clientele
· Focus shifted toward the urban environment
· Traditional philosophies – consider questions about the nature of knowledge, truth and meaning but:
o Existentialists are concerned with how these things are educationally significant within the lived experiences of individuals.

· Existentialism and Education
o People come first, then ideas
§ People create ideas
o Emphasis on self discovery

· Existentialism and Schools
o A good education emphasizes individuality
o Students should take a positive role in shaping their schools
o Students shouldn’t have to:
§ Attend classes
§ Take examinations
§ Receive grades
§ There is no set curriculum

· Noted Existentialists
o Soren Kierkegaard
o Martin Heidigger
o Martin Buber
o Jean-Paul Sartre

· The Existentialist and the Chair
o To an existentialist, the individuals use to “chair” is important. Whatever the individual wants to do with the chair is important. The experience of the individual with the chair is the ultimate truth.

By Prof. Dharmanand Sharma
Professor, Department of Philosophy &
Coordinator, Centre for Swami Vivekananda Studies,
Panjab University.
E-mail: vivekanandastudies@gmail.com
On dated: August 13,2010

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