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An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.
  1. (DOC) Ghost Culture: Theories, Context, and Scientific Practice | John Sabol -
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In the end, you must be your own authority and rely on your own powers of critical thinking to know if what you believe is reliably true.

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Transmitting knowledge by authority is, however, the most common method among humans for three reasons: first, we are all conditioned from birth by our parents through the use of positive and negative reinforcement to listen to, believe, and obey authorities; second, it is believed that human societies that relied on a few experienced or trained authorities for decisions that affected all had a higher survival value than those that didn't, and thus the behaviorial trait of susceptibility to authority was strengthened and passed along to future generations by natural selection; third, authoritarian instruction is the quickest and most efficient method for transmitting information we know about.

But remember: some authoritarian evidence and knowledge should be validated by empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and critical thinking before you should consider it reliable, and, in most cases, only you can do this for yourself. It is, of course, impossible to receive an adequate education today without relying almost entirely upon authoritarian evidence.

Teachers, instructors, and professors are generally considered to be reliable and trustworthy authorities, but even they should be questioned on occasion. The use of authoritarian evidence in education is so pervasive, that its use has been questioned as antithetical to the true spirit of scholarly and scientific inquiry, and attempts have been made in education at all levels in recent years to correct this bias by implementing discovery and inquiry methodologies and curricula in classrooms and laboratories.

It is easier to utilize such programs in humanities and social sciences, in which different yet equally valid conclusions can be reached by critical thinking, rather than in the natural sciences, in which the objective reality of nature serves as a constant judge and corrective mechanism. Another name for empirical evidence is natural evidence: the evidence found in nature. Naturalism is the philosophy that says that "Reality and existence i.

Another popular definition of naturalism is that "The universe exists as science says it does. This is not bad, however, for, whether naturalism is ultimately true or not, science and naturalism reject the concept of ultimate or absolute truth in favor of a concept of proximate reliable truth that is far more successful and intellectually satisfying than the alternative, the philosophy of supernaturalism. The supernatural, if it exists, cannot be examined or tested by science, so it is irrelevant to science. It is impossible to possess reliable knowledge about the supernatural by the use of scientific and critical thinking.

Individuals who claim to have knowledge about the supernatural do not possess this knowledge by the use of critical thinking, but by other methods of knowing.

(DOC) Ghost Culture: Theories, Context, and Scientific Practice | John Sabol -

Science has unquestionably been the most successful human endeavor in the history of civilization, because it is the only method that successfully discovers and formulates reliable knowledge. The evidence for this statement is so overwhelming that many individuals overlook exactly how modern civilization came to be our modern civilization is based, from top to bottom, on the discoveries of science and their application, known as technology, to human purposes. Philosophies that claim to possess absolute or ultimate truth invariably find that they have to justify their beliefs by faith in dogma, authority, revelation, or philosophical speculation, since it is impossible to use finite human logic or natural evidence to demonstrate the existence of the absolute or ultimate in either the natural or supernatural worlds.

Scientific and critical thinking require that one reject blind faith, authority, revelation, and subjective human feelings as a basis for reliable belief and knowledge. These human cognitive methods have their place in human life, but not as the foundation for reliable knowledge. Scientists and critical thinkers always use logical reasoning. Logic allows us to reason correctly, but it is a complex topic and not easily learned; many books are devoted to explaining how to reason correctly, and we can not go into the details here.

However, I must point out that most individuals do not reason logically, because they have never learned how to do so. Logic is not an ability that humans are born with or one that will gradually develop and improve on its own, but is a skill or discipline that must be learned within a formal educational environment. Emotional thinking, hopeful thinking, and wishful thinking are much more common than logical thinking, because they are far easier and more congenial to human nature.

Most individuals would rather believe something is true because they feel it is true, hope it is true, or wish it were true, rather than deny their emotions and accept that their beliefs are false. Often the use of logical reasoning requires a struggle with the will, because logic sometimes forces one to deny one's emotions and face reality, and this is often painful.

But remember this: emotions are not evidence, feelings are not facts, and subjective beliefs are not substantive beliefs. Every successful scientist and critical thinker spent years learning how to think logically, almost always in a formal educational context. Some people can learn logical thinking by trial and error, but this method wastes time, is inefficient, is sometimes unsuccessful, and is often painful.

The best way to learn to think logically is to study logic and reasoning in a philosophy class, take mathematics and science courses that force you to use logic, read great literature and study history, and write frequently. Reading, writing, and math are the traditional methods that young people learned to think logically i. Perhaps the best way is to do a lot of writing that is then reviewed by someone who has critical thinking skills.

Most people never learn to think logically; many illogical arguments and statements are accepted and unchallenged in modern society--often leading to results that are counterproductive to the good of society or even tragic--because so many people don't recognize them for what they are.

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The final key idea in science and critical thinking is skepticism, the constant questioning of your beliefs and conclusions. Good scientists and critical thinkers constantly examine the evidence, arguments, and reasons for their beliefs. Self-deception and deception of yourself by others are two of the most common human failings. Self-deception often goes unrecognized because most people deceive themselves. The only way to escape both deception by others and the far more common trait of self-deception is to repeatedly and rigorously examine your basis for holding your beliefs.

You must question the truth and reliability of both the knowledge claims of others and the knowledge you already possess. One way to do this is to test your beliefs against objective reality by predicting the consequences or logical outcomes of your beliefs and the actions that follow from your beliefs. If the logical consequences of your beliefs match objective reality--as measured by empirical evidence--you can conclude that your beliefs are reliable knowledge that is, your beliefs have a high probability of being true.

Many people believe that skeptics are closed-minded and, once possessing reliable knowledge, resist changing their minds--but just the opposite is true. A skeptic holds beliefs tentatively, and is open to new evidence and rational arguments about those beliefs. Skeptics are undogmatic, i. Skeptics have open minds, but not so open that their brains fall out: they resist believing something in the first place without adequate evidence or reason, and this attribute is worthy of emulation. Science treats new ideas with the same skepticism: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to justify one's credulity.

We are faced every day with fantastic, bizarre, and outrageous claims about the natural world; if we don't wish to believe every pseudoscientific allegation or claim of the paranormal, we must have some method of deciding what to believe or not, and that method is the scientific method which uses critical thinking. Now, we are ready to put the scientific method into action. Many books have been written about the scientific method, and it is a long and complex topic. Here I will only treat it briefly and superficially. The scientific method, as used in both scientific thinking and critical thinking, follows a number of steps.

One must ask a meaningful question or identify a significant problem, and one should be able to state the problem or question in a way that it is conceivably possible to answer it. Any attempt to gain knowledge must start here. Here is where emotions and outside influences come in.


For example, all scientists are very curious about nature, and they have to possess this emotional characteristic to sustain the motivation and energy necessary to perform the hard and often tedious work of science. Other emotions that can enter are excitement, ambition, anger, a sense of unfairness, happiness, and so forth.

Note that scientists have emotions, some in high degree; however, they don't let their emotions give false validity to their conclusions, and, in fact, the scientific method prevents them from trying to do this even if they wished. Many outside factors can come into play here. Scientists must choose which problems to work on, they decide how much time to devote to different problems, and they are often influenced by cultural, social, political, and economic factors.

Scientists live and work within a culture that often shapes their approach to problems; they work within theories that often shape their current understanding of nature; they work within a society that often decides what scientific topics will be financially supported and which will not; and they work within a political system that often determines which topics are permitted and financially rewarded and which are not.

Also, at this point, normally nonscientific emotional factors can lead to divergent pathways. Scientists could be angry at polluters and choose to investigate the effects of pollutants; other scientists could investigate the results of smoking cigarettes on humans because they can earn a living doing this by working for tobacco companies; intuition can be used to suggest different approaches to problems; even dreams can suggest creative solutions to problems.

I wish to emphasize, however, that the existence of these frankly widespread nonscientific emotional and cultural influences does not compromize the ultimate reliability and objectivity of scientific results, because subsequent steps in the scientific method serve to eliminate these outside factors and allow science to reach reliable and objective conclusions admittedly it may take some time for subjective and unreliable scientific results to be eliminated. There exists a school of thought today in the humanities philosophy, history, and sociology called post-modernism or scientific constructivism, that claims that science is a social and cultural construct, that scientific knowledge inevitably changes as societies and cultures change, and that science has no inherently valid foundation on which to base its knowledge claims of objectivity and reliability.

In brief, post-modernists believe that the modern, scientific world of Enlightenment rationality and objectivity must now give way to a post-modern world of relativism, social constructivism, and equality of belief. Almost all scientists who are aware of this school of thought reject it, as do I; post-modernism is considered irrelevant by scientists and has had no impact on the practice of science at all.

We will have to leave this interesting topic for a later time, unfortunately, but you may be exposed to these ideas in a humanities class. If you are, remember to think critically! True humanity lies in the network of mutual interdependent relationships between individuals, families and the community which also includes people outside of your immediate community [see Gathogo ] : it is to belong and participate positively in activities that make being truly human possible for others as well.

It is a dynamic relationship of existence-in-relation Pato In an attempt to counter the dominant western conception of the self as self-governing subject, Pato writes that the African theologian John Mbiti, in response to the Cartesian dictum 'I think therefore I am', imagines an African alternative in relation to Ubuntu : 'I belong therefore I am'.

Thusly, personhood is constituted in your relation to the people around you. No individual exists by him or herself alone and we need one another to be fully human Pato In Archbishop Desmond Tutu's conceptualisation of ubuntu within his theology, the focus on community and relationality does not denigrate the individual:.

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No real human being … can be absolutely self-sufficient. Such a person would be subhuman. We belong therefore in a network of delicate relationships of interdependence. It is marvellous to know that one who has been nurtured in a living, affirming, accepting family tends to be loving, affirming and accepting of others in his or her turn.

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We do need other people and they help to form us in a profound way. Tutu in Battle This in turn highlights the ethical dimension of Ubuntu. In their research, Cornell and Van Marle further expounds upon ethical notion:. Ubuntu is a philosophy on how human beings are intertwined in a world of ethical relations from the moment they are born. Fundamentally, this inscription is part of our finitude. We are born into a language, a kinship group, a tribe, a nation, and a family.

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  • Introduction.