Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Philosophy and Fact

Is the philosophy disconnected from fact? NO!!!! Why would I say this so emphatically?

Take, for instance, a fact: a teen-aged girl finds herself pregnant. What does philosophy have to do with this fact? Philosophy defines what one's "worldview" is and how one will determine how to respond to this fact.

For instance:
A Christian fundamentalist would disdain her for not having self control and not practicing abstinence. They might even shun her. She needs, after all, to repent.

An atheistic scientist would determine whether the baby would have a handicap, if not, decide where to place the baby for the best benefit to society. If the baby is determined to be handicapped, then abortion would be mandated or, perhaps, the baby would be useful for scientifc experimentation for future generations.

A behaviorial psychologist would determine what discipline would benefit the girl most in building habits that would help her build self-control.

A fundamentalist Islamic would stone her!

A humanist would love her!

What would you do?


Cobalt said...

I can't help but notice the reference to my entry Philosophy and Fact, so I thought I'd respond in light of that. It has the same title as my entry, and includes some fragment of a discussion on one of the topics I covered: sex education and teen pregnancy.

But first, something that bothered me.

"If the baby is determined to be handicapped, then abortion would be mandated or, perhaps, the baby would be useful for scientifc experimentation for future generations."

The heck are you even talking about here? When exactly do scientists start performing abortions or experiments on children without their mother's consent? This is some wild conspiracy nonsense, and all I can say is that I need to see some good, peer-reviewed sources that this happens or is likely to happen.

As for what I'd do, I'd talk to the girl. If she wants to have the child, no one has the right to force her to abort or give up a child she wants. If she doesn't want the child, no one has the right to force her to bear an unwanted child. In short, I wouldn't do anything. The choice and the action are hers.

More to the point...

"Take, for instance, a fact: a teen-aged girl finds herself pregnant. What does philosophy have to do with this fact? Philosophy defines what one's "worldview" is and how one will determine how to respond to this fact."

Philosophy has to do with fact when the two conflict. If philosophy dictates that school-age children be taught one thing, and fact dictates another, a choice must be made. How people resolve that choice says a great deal about their worldview, and a great deal about their priorities. That's what I was talking about in my entry.

My entry was about people who are more interested in taking ideologically appropriate action than in taking action that will achieve the goals they state they wish to achieve. This is not to say that they don't care about results, this is to say that when they have to choose between ideology and results, they'll put results second.

Your entry is about... well, I'm not sure what it's about, aside from a fear that abortion access means that women will be forced to abort babies they want to bear, or will have those babies taken from them so that dastardly nefarious human experimentation can be performed out of the public eye.

If you were going somewhere with this aside from the doctor-fearing hysteria, perhaps you could clarify for those of us who have no idea what you're talking about?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Cobalt, Thank you for being direct and clear in your response.

First, let me say that I am struggling to understand how one's understanding of the world affects their actions. I did not mean any criticism of your post directly. I had been thinking on it...which means that your thoughts, at the time helped me clarify some things I'd been thinking about.

Secondly, I am not reacting in a ideological way, as I'm not trying to make a point one way or another about abortion per se, but "put together" how one might respond to the "fact of a teenaged pregnancy". Our response does reflect our thinking, values and commitments. At least, they should.

Thirdly, science is pragmatic, and results oriented. Results are important, but I don't believe that the ends justifies the means, at least usually. Experiments on humans have been done in the past and it was done in the name of science and for humanity. And it is almost always done within a political or religious ideology. I have been thinking about Church and State issues...And I haven't resolved them for myself.

I hope that answers some of your questions and responds to you in a way that helps you understand where I am in understanding the Philosophy/Fact interface...

P.S. Another blog descibed in story form what I'm talking about when I say that understanding a response to a question is understood within a paradigm or worldview.
Joe was taking a buggy ride in Amish country. Joe asked the Amish "driver" how long it took to drive to Goshen College. Because the Amish "driver" did not have a way to understand time and distance, as he "drives a horse", he responded "Twenty miles."...Communication is wrought when one understands the worldview (experiences, paradigms or frames of reference, personal history, sophisticaion, etc.) that another has and then appropriately using the ways in which they would understand. Perhaps, you disconnected from my meaning because of where I was when I responded to your post. I am a moving target, as I am in process of revising some of the ways I had understood "things"....I hope that none of us grow to the point of never being able to change or hear the other person...

Cobalt said...

It answers a lot of questions, thank you. I appreciate you answering me so directly; in retrospect I came across as much more confrontational than I'd intended.

I also agree that the ends don't always justify the means, which is why I was careful not to phrase myself that way in my entry. If I just say, "progressives believe that the ends justify the means, and conservatives refuse to sacrifice on their means," it makes liberals look like a bunch of maniacs. However, progressives do tend to be more results-oriented, which means that they have a much less narrow definition of "acceptable means."

I think that, for a lot of people, they need a goal. It's part of having an identity, and for the sake of a particular identity ("I am a feminist," or "I am a Christian," for example) they'll work toward certain ends. However, having these goals is just part of the larger task of maintaining an identity for some folk. But if the achievement of those goals becomes a threat to the maintenance of the identity, the goals have to go, because the identity is the thing.

I don't think there's anything cosmically morally abhorrent about putting the preservation of a philosophy (or one's philosophical identity) above the achievement of a specific goal. I just get upset when people claim to be working toward goals when they don't actually care all that much about the goal's success; they just care about doing what people in Affiliation X are "supposed" to do in order to be considered good members of Affiliation X.

I think that's how philosophy affects how people receive facts that are given to them, because philosophy isn't always built on fact. If the person in question wasn't convinced by fact in the first place, facts won't change their mind. This is why I think it's important to figure out which debates (and which goals) are really about facts and which are not.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Cobalt, I don't know whether you will see this or not (and it probably won't really matter to you...but I like to communicate), But, your entry says that our identity is in our goal...yes, I understand that...but, if we measure sucess and our identity on our ambition and its success then, we will bull-doze over others in the name of what we think is important...I believe that identity is a multi-faceted diemension that defines a person. Identity is imperative to affirm whenever we can, because, it brings "meaning" to life. Identity is found within culture and, yes, goals, but, humans are much more than their "goals". What if a person is not "goal-oriented", does that mean that human is not human or should be treated witth less dignity? We all have different personalities, and we understand things from different perspectives, so we must seek to understand one another before labelling another in the name of "right".
Your progressive/conservative dichotomy is based on economics or other material resources, isn't it? Because you say that conservative refuse to give up on their means..while progressives are "goal oriented"....Humans do survive and thrive physically through economics, but, one cannot evaluate everything ethically, based on economics, otherwise, you become a materialist. And life is much more than material, isn't it?

As I told you, I am working through how I understand the Church and State interface. The Church does exist in the material world, but we cannot reduce the Church to the material, otherwise, we reduce the Church to the State. And yet, the Church exists in the material realm and with material means, the Church cannot ceases to be distinct. While the State should reflect something other than materiality, usually, if the State becomes spiritually oriented, then the State implements something other than "spirit" and defines religion, such as Islam, which dissolves religion into legality....It is the interface of the spiritual and natural...the physical/spiritual,
God and man...Jesus, as the God/Man.