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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal


P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   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



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

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



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

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

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

* 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




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

- 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

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