Sunday, January 1, 2012

An "advice" of Philosophy to Sciences

In 2007, as part of teachers training, I joined the class of a Science teacher to co-teach. When it came to measurements he was expressing "embarrassment" that although USA is the leading country in Sciences yet the measurements are not scientific, pound instead of Kilogram, mile instead of Kilometer and so on. But to me a big fact lies there. It is the thinking mechanism that makes things scientific not the language. I mean the job of Science is to unravel facts not to create facts. That is the job of culture.

I wanted to describe the rock samples that I had collected and I wanted to follow a standard color chart, The Munsell color chart. I looked at Amazon and found Munsell color chart books ranging in prices from 72 US dollars to 995 US dollars. What? I was thinking, will getting the book with 995 dollars will result in production of a work 10 times higher in value than one that is priced 72 dollars? At least the price differences are suggesting so. The main purpose of standardization is to make language "precise" and "common" so everybody could get them with precision but I feel in the process of standardization, "Sciences" have created "facts". I mean if you follow everything else but not a "standard language" then no matter how factual is your work it is of less value or worth than one written in "standard language"... In other words, "standardization" have become something "bigger", "larger" or "more important" than Facts themselves...

I am not saying that standardization is wrong but I am talking about the attitude that are the outcome of standardization. It is a natural process that... when something is constructed and are valued as "higher" then a reactionary deconstructionism follows.

Science is still young so we have yet to wait for this reactionary deconstructionism to come. But if want to know how it is going to look, Philosophy as an aged discipline gives some clues. I am not saying that Sciences are going to face the same fate because both disciplines are very different in their mechanisms but still it provides a lot of clues for those who want to see....

Standardization is not something Sciences are obsessed with but it is a general problem of men and it is why we see it in all disciplines. Philosophy had the same problems. I am not going to start from Socrates who was going to streets to question people's beliefs and world views, an effort to demonstrate the shakiness of their beliefs or to invite them towards standardization of their world views... Rather I start from Plato. Plato ( 424/423 BC – 348/347 BC) stands tallest among Philosophers of ancient Greek in terms of impact on human thinking. He wanted to standardized the Philosophy so he introduced the concepts of pure/ideal forms like those of geometrical forms/shapes. Those forms were ideal and absolute and all other things were changing images of them. You can call this metaphysical standardization or ontological (study of being) standardization, meaning essence precedes the existence of things and are of primal importance.

Almost more than 2000 years later, Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) tried to reverse the course of Platonic standardization to 180 degrees. He tried to make the Human mind as the source of knowledge rather than Platonic ideal forms or essence . He doubted the existence of everything and announced, "I think, therefore I am". In other words there is no ideal forms as Plato was saying but rather it is human mind, "I think" which is the source of knowledge... You can call this an epistemology standardization OR the standardization based on consciousness.

However, Descartes' efforts of a solid firm ground for knowledge didn't last long. Sigmund Freud ( 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) just a little more than two centuries later thinned Descartes' solid ground of consciousness by theorizing that conscious mind is very thin part of mind and is dependent on the unconscious mind, the largest part of mind...Freudian structural division of mind was a blow to Descartes' genius efforts. Knowledge was there but it was neither divine nor humanistic...

On other hand his contemporary, Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883)gave another fatal blow to the standardization efforts based on essence and mind by theorizing that Arts, literature, Philosophy and Sciences are not truth on their own but are the results of the socio-economic changes.

Reduced by all these changes and shifts, Philosophy turned to language hoping that by standardizing or precising language they might revitalize Philosophy. In one such efforts, Ferdinand de Saussure introduced "Structuralism". Actually it was an effort to create parallel "Humanities Science" to that of Natural Sciences. In brief, he was saying that "words" in themselves do not mean anything but they get meaning when we order them in a lingual structure. However it also didn't last long as Derrida, an Algerian/French Philosopher proposed that structuralism itself is a structure and by this we entered in post structuralism or the "deconstructionism" in humanities.

Let's rewind all this,

Philosophy as an oldest discipline tells us a very interesting Phenomena and out of this comes one thing very clearly and that is standardization projects didn't last long in Philosophy. The longest one was that of Platonic. That was of ancient Greek period and the main goal was to introduce something higher than material things, the ideal forms. Then comes Descartes' conscious and it also lives for two centuries but after that nothing survives very long. The efforts to standardize language burst as soon as they are born and now we live in a time that we are left only with ruins standardization in Philosophy..

Coming back to Sciences, it is going to work because it is based on measurements but attitude of creating something as "higher" is not going last long as reactionary movements will come to contest them...

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