PHILOSOPHY AS A SECOND ORDER DISCIPLINE
By: Peter OMONZEJELE
The role of Philosophy as a second order discipline is to critically evaluate the concepts, methods, etc, or other academic disciplines. The effort is not primarily to detect the shortcomings and problems inherent in the methodologies and practices of such disciplines. It is actually to improve their overall practices and check any possible excesses.
Philosophy can play a second order role to almost any discipline, hence we ave areas in Philosophy such as: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Social Sciences, Philosophy of Man, Philosophy of Medicine, Environmental Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Economics, Philosophy of Education, etc. Some of these second order disciplines will be examined to give insight into what is meant as Philosophy as a second order discipline. We shall take them one by one.
PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
What is Science? Its etymological origin if from the Latin word ‘Scientia’ and it is knowledge which is organized and proven. The foremost characteristics of Science are that it should be specific, public, impersonal and objective. Attempt shall be made to explain these characteristics.
What is meant by the specificity of science is that it deals with that which is defined, verifiable and observable. The public nature of Science is that it is accessible to anyone who may be interested in the particular scientific venture. The impersonal dimension of Science means that it is divorced form individual beliefs and ideological coloration. According to J. Aigbodion “that the sciences are impersonal” is to say that they do not involve idiosyncratic beliefs, that is, beliefs and deals which result from a person’s peculiar power of imagination. It also means that the sciences are dispassionate and unprejudiced because they do not admit of value judgement.
What this means is that Science is an objective discipline. The objective character of Science demands that its outcomes are concrete and remain the same under the same condition for any inquirer using the same methods. In the light of this there may be need to philosophically investigate some of these characteristics, especially the “objectivity” of Science.
On the objectivity of Science, Karl Popper was of the opinion that Science must always come up with ‘conjectures’ and these conjectures must be falsifiable. Popper agreed with David Hume that relationship between cause and effect, which is usually taken to be the foundation of Natural sciences, is never really established; hence no scientific theory would be so watertight as to be “unfalsifiable.” The implication of this is that, scientific theories cannot be said to be fully objective, since they may be eventually falsified. As far as Karl Popper was concerned, there is no truth in Science, what we have in science are verisimilitudes, and so, one does not in essence arrive at truth. Popper further explained the problem he set out to solve. In his words,
The problem that I tried to solve was neither a problem of meaningfulness or significance, or a problem of truth or acceptability. It was a problem of drawing a line (as well as this was done) between the statements or systems of statements, of the empirical sciences and all other statements – whether they are of the religious or of metaphysical character or simply pseudo scientific.
Thomas Kuhn in his work, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, explained his notion of the objectivity of Science, when he classified Science into normal, abnormal, and revolutionary science. The period of normal science is a time of consensus among scientists, during the time of abnormal science, problems began to emerge with scientific theories and the period of revolutionary science is when the previously accepted theories are jettisoned for others. What Kuhn has done with his classification of Science is to agree with K. Popper on the non-objectivity of science though there may be some disagreements in their methods of explaining the status of science.
Imre Lakatos classified science into: hard core, protective belt, negative heuristic positive heuristic and progressive or degenerative stage. According to the Lakatosian idea of science, the hard core of any scientific theory is that aspect of the theory that is regarded as given, that is, the unquestionable aspect of the theory. The protective belt helps to illuminate and reinforce the theory. The negative heuristic strives for the need not to touch the hard core of a theory while the positive heuristic seeks for a subtle outlet of revising and restructuring the hard core of a theory.
The last lap, that is, the progressive or degenerative stage, depending on if the theory is still correspondent to scientific realities and thus functional or if the theory can no longer realize the scientific objects of the theory, while the former is progressive, the later is degenerative. What the Lakatosian position has again demonstrated is that the objectivity and irrefutability of scientific theories are mere scientific cover-ups.
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
I will discuss the Philosophy of Religion within the Framework of the given attributes of God, which are: Necessary Being, Omnipotence, Omniscient, Goodness, etc. We need not go into the metaphysical attributes of God here.
The necessary nature of God is that existence is the nature of God. Anselm in Chapter V of the Monologium says that it is of the nature of God to exist. God derives existence from Himself, He exists through Himself, but the existence of other beings are predicated upon His existence. In the Proslogium, Anselm further went on to explain the grandeur of God as “that man which is no greater can be conceived.” From this he drew the necessary and certain existence of God.
Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theological argues for the existence of God in the grounds of self-evidence, for God’s predicate is incorporated in His subject. The classical objection to the given proofs or definition of God, is that the thought of a being does not necessarily bring such a being into existence.
God is often perceived as all knowing Being (Omniscient). He knows the past, present and future. The problem with this definition of God is that it rules out of freedom of man. Man is just living an already determined existence.
The Omnipotence definition is that God is all-powerful. This of course means God’s power covers everything. He is capable of doing everything and if this definition is true, then God is equally responsible for the obvious evil that takes place in the world or He is unable to do anything about it. Either way, there seems to be a sort of shortfall on the attributes of God. God of ‘Goodness’ would certainly not permit evil and an all-powerful God should be able to curtail evil.
All I have attempted to do here is not to dissuade us from our faiths or beliefs in God. Rather it is to urge us to develop rational and good reasons for believing in God. It makes us less dogmatic and more tolerant of other people’s beliefs.