From Science to Philosophy

The Philosophy of Science and the Humanities

Nowadays, the philosophy of science is focused mostly upon natural sciences rather than the humanities. The complexity of man's nature and identity makes it highly difficult for the philosophy of science to deal with. As we know, the humanities concern man, with all of his countless physical and spiritual aspects, which are further influenced by his will, decision, induction, imagination, wishes and ideals. Thus, we cannot easily establish a set of laws and principles for the philosophy of science to comment on their preliminaries, results, stability or variability.

If we fit man's physical, spiritual, mental and psychological talents and behaviors into rigid molds and frames, we will degrade man down to the domain of other living beings, or even machines. Furthermore, no science – not even philosophy – can be expected to be able to comment on man as it would about abstract mathematical topics. Mathematical activities are based upon quantity, whereas the humanities deal with qualitative issues and a series of realities. There are two factors that generally make the philosophy of science fail regarding the humanities:

● The difficulty of the identification of the laws and principles governing man's four relationships. Although a great deal of effort has been put into discovering humanity and human potentials and various aspects,  he general knowledge and agreement on it is quite little, therefore the philosophy of science cannot successfully describe the fundamentals and methods of the humanities.

● The diverse, contradicting reactions man shows in response to different situations has also created complications for the philosophy of science making progress in the domain of the humanities. Man endeavors in many ways to fulfill his economic, legal and health needs, and since many of these needs are fixed, the humanities are able to describe basic economic needs and their consequences according to general laws and principles. They can be studied from a philosophical point of view, but having fulfilled man's needs, it is impossible to foresee how the society will then be. We cannot predict, for example, after the fulfillment of the needs, whether people will definitely have a fine religion, culture, politics and moral ethics or not. In other words, when man's specific needs have been satisfied, his status regarding his four relationships – with God, himself, the universe and others – cannot be defined.

Philosophical Doubt

Doubt implies the equality in the possibility of proving or denying a fact. Science, contrarily, is the undeniable discovery of facts. Doubt is naturally invariable, so philosophical doubt is not much different from other forms of doubt. When in doubt, the discoverer cannot discover the facts fully, for he feels himself in an obscured darkness. In other words, doubt can be described as a mixture of light and darkness. In primary ignorance, there is only darkness, whereas in doubt, there is some light. If man knows nothing at all, he will have no doubt, either. Doubt arises when there are both unknowns and certainties concerning a subject. We can categorize doubts into two groups:

1-Normal doubts, which arise from conflicts between reasons of the mind and those of sensory observations. It is the result of mistakes and lacks of knowledge man encounters in life, and has no solution except stronger scientific endeavor.

2-Doubts concerning divine issues and man's highest of uncertainties, like the supernatural. Such doubts cannot be resolved by thought – and heading toward God is the only way to repel them. 

Even in normal doubts, contact with God can relieve man of the psychological stress and suffering it may lead to. As Jalal-addin Mohammad Molawi (Rumi) says:

هر که را در جان خدا بنهد محکهر  يقيــن  را  بازداند  او  ز  شک

(If man desires spiritual and mental development, God will be his best guide through the darkness of life, creating a light in him that can be the criterion that can distinguish fake from genuine and right from wrong – in other words, certainty from doubt.)

It is necessary to have a criterion that can distinguish certainty from doubt. As Jalal-addin Mohammad Molawi  believes, no matter how scientifically advanced man becomes, he will not be able to purify his soul completely of doubt. However, if he can relate his knowledge to divine knowledge, his doubts will not upset him anymore, for his soul will find a light that will serve as the criterion, providing him with serenity and accuracy. No matter how accurate man's senses and tools may be, he will never be able to keep away from his doubts about his knowledge of the universe. Therefore, this doubt will always remain with him: what are the boundaries of his role as actor and spectator in the universe? However, if we can somehow make contact between the drop-sized knowledge we have to dive in the oceans of divine knowledge; then our doubts would no longer make us suffer.

The factors leading to doubt can be divided into two groups:

a)Some believe that doubt arises from man's acts in discovering facts about the world. In ancient times, some people believed strongly in doubting, for they thought that errors of their senses influenced their judgment of facts. Now that man knows about sensory mistakes, this factor has been eliminated. The playfulness of the senses only leads to doubt in facts when we cannot guide their playfulness toward our observation's advantage; with technological advances now, we cannot consider our senses to play a crucial role in creating doubt any longer. 

b)Some others believe that since there are a few unknown things in the world, and all components of the universe are interrelated, philosophical doubts are inevitable. 

There are shortcomings in this viewpoint, too. There are a great many facts that are clear to man without the least shadow of a doubt; furthermore, without accepting a series of unquestionable realities, human knowledge would never be able to exist. On the other hand, having doubt in some components does not conflict with belief in the whole system. For instance, we may see a painting full of hundreds of lines, shapes and colors, and we are certain that the artist has had a definite subject in his mind to use them for; however, we may not be able to clearly understand all of them. If we believe in the overall harmony in the world of nature, our lack of knowledge about some phenomena and relationships do not contradict the whole system. 

Doubts vary in subject and the degree of certainty in the units surrounding them. Here, we can divide doubts into deep and superficial kinds. If our knowledge of a subject we are doubtful of is superficial, our doubt about it will also be superficial. If we know a lot about it, however – that is, if there is more light on the subject – we will be in deep doubt. For instance, if we do not know much about whether "internal freedom is variable or not," we will have superficial doubt about it, but the more we know about internal freedom and change, the more dark points there will be, and the deeper our doubts will become. 

The doubts thinkers and intellectuals have should not be considered to be the same in all cases, either. Bertrand Russell, for example, had a profound knowledge of logic, mathematics and Western philosophy, but he did not know Eastern philosophy, psychology, ethics and religion; his doubts on all of the mentioned topics cannot be regarded the same. 

Doubt is a phenomenon essential to the progress of human culture and civilization. Doubt about formal knowledge, however, must be for the purpose of discovering newer facts and secrets, and it should not cause man to cast doubt on everything. If he does not intend to discover new knowledge, he may question the whole fundamentals of human thought patterns. This is no longer philosophical doubt; it is a mental illness. In facts, doubts should not be regarded as originally, innately desirable, but rather as a means to escape decadent, archaic knowledge, and make efforts to reach new facts. Some have referred to doubt as the "means to flee from rigid, fixed laws and principles."


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