38.Philosophy

Philosophic Perspective

ThinkerThis section is not directly about philosophy, as a subject, but rather starts to address the implications of a philosophical perspective on any given worldview. As in other sections, some attempt needs to be made to research a spectrum of ideas that have been developed throughout history, after which some conclusions may be drawn. Of course, even after a period of  `due-diligence`, conclusions may still be completely wrong and just by way of a reminder:

For every problem, there exists a simple and elegant solution which is absolutely wrong.

With these possibilities noted, the discussion starts with the premise that philosophy is predicated on logic, science on facts and theology on belief and while this is a somewhat simplistic notion, it does seem to convey some essence of truth. Even so, stemming from this simple mix, we have to face up to a number of philosophic issues, the first of which might be:

How did we end up in a situation whereby one person considers their worldview as true and rational, while another considers the same worldview as false and totally irrational?

While we might initially accept that the truth of a worldview to be subjective, this position needs to be examined in more detail. It is true that some worldviews are predicated on metaphysical assumptions, which makes it difficult for science to challenge with any degree of certainty.  However, let us put aside the need for any political correctness and religious sensitivity for one second so that we might ask a straightforward question:

Should we be allowed to challenge any worldview on the grounds of historical evidence and physical probability?

It is recognized that some prefer to avoid this type of question, especially in public debate, but may well concede the issue in private, when the inherent dangers of proliferating myth as fact are considered. However, their public acceptance may well require the evidence to be overwhelming and predicated on the assumption that this worldview is associated with a small, fringe minority. 

But what if the worldview in question belongs to a powerful mainstream group?

It is suggested that this would probably be an entirely different matter, because although the principles at stake in this hypothetical case remain the same, the pragmatic implications on the stability of a society are not. Of course, while this may have little to do philosophy, it serves to highlight how social and political peer pressure might influence what we are prepared to say about the factual evidence it is claimed supports another worldview. Therefore, maybe we should also to reflect on how this situation might now influence our attitude toward Clifford's philosophic argument:

`it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence'

While the implication is that Clifford's argument may be rejected for pragmatic reasons, history shows us that even entrenched worldviews are not immune to change. Therefore, the 3-stage process that Clifford described in the following terms may still be applied:

  • Duty of Inquiry
  • Weight of Authority
  • Limits of Inference

As previously highlighted, the intention of this discussion is not to segregate the idea of a worldview into 1 of 3 opposing types, i.e. philosophical, theological and scientific, as this assumes that truth must lie in only one camp. Equally, we should not assume that the devout are incapable of a truthful duty of inquiry and, by the same token, a scientist is always immune from bias towards an established theory. Therefore, in this context, philosophy may have an important role to play as the arbitrator between the heart-felt desire and hope of theological belief versus the constraints and limitations of scientific knowledge.