Wetenskapsidee en opvoedkunde / Johannes Lodewicus van der Walt
Van der Walt, Johannes Lodewicus
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Concept of Science and the Practice of Educational Science Certainly one of the most fascinating features of the practice of all science, and the practice of educational science in South Africa in particular, is the fact that several "schools" of scientific thought can be distinguished. In the field of educational science in South Africa it is clear that there are at least three schools of which the phenomenological approach and the Christian approach can be regarded as the most prominent. Although both of these can be labelled scientific, they oppose each other in more than one respect, and in some cases the differences are most marked and distinct. It must be admitted that mere differences which exist between various scientific approaches do not summarily label such approaches as "un-scientific". On the contrary, it is a fact that differences in approach can have a beneficial effect on scientific practice (in this case, on educational science). On the other hand though, differences can in some cases be ascribed to differences in principle: differences which can be traced to the respective scientists' convictions and commitment. If such be the case, it stands to reason that, in the case of scientific practice based on an unsound basis of "wrong" convictions and commitment, the superstructure of such scientific undertaking will be adversely affected in some way or another. Now, with regard to the two approaches mentioned in the previous paragraph, it can be said that the phenomenological method is committed to being non-committed, in other words, to practise "neutral" science. This involves a process of ''placing in parentheses" the scientist's (i.e. educational scientist's) life and world view in order to prevent its having any influence on his scientific work. In direct opposition to this point of view, the Christian approach rejects this type of so-called "neutrality", stating that the basic premises of the "neutral" approach are unsound. It is clear from the above exposition that the differences between the Christian and the neutral approaches are fundamental and not merely incidental. This being the case, it was necessary to trace the differences to the fundamentals, the basic principles on which the approaches are founded. To state the problem in somewhat different terms: it was necessary to delve into the fundamentals of the respective sciences as regards the basic concept of how science should be practised, always keeping in mind the fact that this investigation was basically aimed at the practice of educational science. The title of the treatise (Wetenskapsidee en opvoedkunde) also indicates this object of the investigation, viz. to determine what basic concept of science underlies the practice of educational science by the various educational scientists. It soon became evident that this investigation would have to trace the historical background of scientific thought (theory) to determine the fundamental differences among the various approaches to science, and also to determine what constitutes the basic issues of scientific thought (theory). It was consequently decided to undertake a relatively brief and selective survey of the history of the philosophy of science in order to be able to construct an inventory of basic "issues" of "problems" to be reflected upon in the final chapters of the treatise (cf. chapter 1). In the historical survey undertaken in chapters 2 to 8 (sections 1 and 2) it was indicated that the various philosophers of science entertained decidedly divergent ideas about, among others, matters such as: the problem of truth and verification, cosmology, anthropology, epistemology, scientific language, scientific method, the role played by the scientist's life and world view in science, neutrality, objectivity, subjectivity in science, and the use of the Bible. It was also indicated that many of these problems proved to be well nigh insoluble, that they run through the philosophy of science like golden threads up to the present day and that they still demand attention from the educational scientist. Parmenides and Heracleitos (chapter 2) viewed the world in two totally different ways: the one saw the universe as static and the other viewed it as ever-changing, and their methods of determining truth differed accordingly. In the case of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle it became evident that both these aspects of cosmology were assimilated in their view of reality: Socrates and Plato conceived a two-tier cosmology in which the world of ideas formed the static and unchanging component and served as the seat of truth, as opposed to the lower ranking world of material things which could be perceived and from which the ideal counterparts (truth) could be deduced. Aristotle's scheme likewise consisted of two tiers of which the "form" aspect formed the unchanging and everlasting component of reality, and the "matter" aspect, which formed the mutable, changing component of reality and from which form (truth) could be deduced. In the following chapter (3) it was shown that St. Augustine availed himself of the dualistic cosmology (and anthropology for that matter) of Plato (via the new Platonists), but succeeded in introducing a new element into the views of the Platonists, viz. the Bible as the Word of God. Instead of regarding the hypostasis of the world of ideas as the source of eternal truth, it became acceptable to St. Augustine to regard the Bible as the source of all truth about material things that could be perceived and scientifically investigated. It was indicated that St. Thomas of Aquino, the father of Roman Catholic thought, operated with a dualistic view of reality, basically along the same lines as Aristotle. He succeeded in reformulating the matter-form motif of Aristotle in Christian terms and must be credited with the eventual separation of reason and faith into different realms which in actual fact had very little to do with each other. This eventually resulted in the thesis of the so-called neutral practice of science because St. Thomas's views implied that reason had full autonomy in the natura I domain in contrast with faith which had no autonomy in that area, but then again had full autonomy in the domain of grace to the exclusion of reason. Thus man was mechanistically compartmentalised: in the field of science faith had nothing to say, and in matters concerning worship reason had nothing to say. This implies that there existed an arbitrary boundary between faith and reason. Faith had to supply all the answers that reason (meaning: science) could not supply, but had to recede at the same ratio in which reason succeeded in supplying the answers. A stage could be reached, it must be granted, at which reason will be able to answer all the questions and faith will consequently become redundant. Kant's philosophy (cf. chapter 4) ran much along the same lines. He propounded the thesis that man had a dual nature, viz. a theoretical (or pure) nature and a practical nature. Man's theoretical nature or reason was involved in the practice of science and the practical nature was involved in matters concerning principles, norms and values. Consequently, man's (i.e. the scientist's) world and life view (his practical nature) was regarded as having no part to play in science which is a purely theoretical affair. Also, Kant took meticulous care to assert man's powers of reason, to such an extent that Kant may be label led a rationalist. He can also be called an idealist because of his two-tier view of reality in which he distinguishes between a Noumenon as opposed to the perceivable reality of which the Noumenon is the explanation. It is one of the virtues, however, of Kantt’s well-known transcendental eritique of knowing that he also investigated the workings of man's (i.e. the scientist's) mind, his faculty of reason, in the process of acquiring knowledge. Comte, whose views on the practice of science were discussed in chapter 5, also made a considerable contribution toward the establishment of neutral science. Comte is well-known for his positivistic approach with its dogma of natural experience, and for his concept ion of the three stages in which scientific endeavour evolved, the most advanced stage being the positivistic stage in which scientific truth was ascertained, not by means of theological or metaphysical speculation, but by means of the positivistic methods of empiricism, observation and man's reasoning ability. The object of the positivist's endeavours was to indicate that Nature was the final cause of all that was observable, and that all that could be empirically observed could be reduced to a single Fact. Comte rejected any so-called truths which had not been acquired by means of observation. However, he was prepared to concede that there was always some theory behind the observation of facts. Positivistic science was, in spite of this, characterised by the fact that it was supposedly neutral and free from all theological and metaphysical blemishes. A feature of the theories of Comte was the fact that he paid very little attention to the problem of verification, which to his mind was a matter to be left to the science of Logic, a science whose very right of existence he later on questioned. The chronological sequence of the historic survey was temporarily interrupted when a leap was made to the concept of science of the so-called Vienna Circle, the original focal point of logical-positivistic thought, and especially the thought of Rudolf Carnap, one of its early leaders. Logical positivism continued certain trends in the philosophy of science which were prevalent in the nineteenth century (i.e. traditional positivism), but also introduced a few new elements to positivism, viz, renewed interest in linguistics and the science of Logic. New emphasis was also laid on the problem of verification. The status of philosophy was reduced to that of speculation about science, and about the language which scientists used, while a new approach to the verification of scientific results was also adopted. Carnap held the view that scientific results could be proved true by means of inter-subjective discussions between scientists. Of course, being a positivist, Carnap accepted (like Comte) that, in the final analysis, verificat10n of scient1fic results took place by empirical observation and by fitting such results into the system of which the results eventually formed part. Chapter 6 was devoted to Thomas Kuhn's concept of science. Kuhn is an exponent of the so-called "historic school" which is at present very prominent and influential. The members of this school stress the historicity of science and of scientific ideas because of the fact that man is an ever-changing being. In more than one sense it can be said that the historic school forms the philosophic counterpart of (logical-) positivism. For example, Kuhn c.s. regards data acquired purely by means of observation as neutral to such an extent that it is ineffable and consequently of very little use. In contrast also with the positivistic thesis that all knowledge is accumulative, Kuhn entertains the theory that scientific enterprise takes place in a spasmodic fashion, by leaps and bounds from an existing disciplinary matrix via crisis, revolution and conversion to a new matrix. Such matrices or paradigms can exist alongside of each other, can compete and wage battle against each other and it is possible for one matrix to replace the other eventually. These paradigms represent an implicit set of interwoven theoretical and methodical beliefs which determine the selection, evaluation and criticism of data within the group of scientists bound together in such a paradigm or matrix. This explains the differences among the scientific endeavours of scientists - even in the same field of investigation: they belong to different scientific matrices or paradigms. Kuhn is sometimes accused of being relativistic in his views of truth, and understandably so, because he circumscribes truth as that which is accepted as true and valid by the scientists sharing the same paradigm or matrix at a given point in time. Finally, mention must be made of Kuhn's contention that a single uniting language for all scientific enterprise will remain an ever unfulfilled ideal in view of man's scientific experience up to the present time. Section 11 deals with the concept of science of two educational scientists, viz. John Dewey (chapter 7) and W.A. Landman (chapter 8). With regard to the pragmatic concept of science expounded by Dewey it was shown that, according to Dewey, the test for the validity and truth of a scientific result was whether it proved useful in practice or not, for example in practical teaching. Pragmatism also made a contribution to "neutral" science with its axiom that science was only concerned with actual reality and not with the way reality ought to be. Pragmatism was only concerned with natura I reality, to the exclusion of everything metaphysical, theological or pertaining to religion. Also, pragmatism was regarded by Dewey (and is still regarded in the U.S.A. and Canada) as the only genuine scientific temper. I Experience of reality as it exists, sensoric perception, instrumentalism, experimentalism, analysis, synthesis, and passive variation all form part of the pragmatistic method. In all of these methods, it was accepted as axiom, personal convictions and commitment had definitely no part to play. It is quite clear that positivism had a certain influence on the pragmatic approach. As regards Landman it was indicated that his philosophy of science evolved in two "phases". In the first, from 1969, until approximately 1973, he devoted himself to the application of a pure phenomenological approach to educational science, accepting, inter alia, the axiom that it is possible to temporarily "put in parentheses" the scientist's convictions, commitment and life and world view in order to avoid their having any adverse effect on his scientific work. In the later phase, from 1973 onwards, Landman admits the practical impossibility of "putting in parentheses" the scientist's beliefs, commitment and life and world view in such a fashion, and he is consequently currently working out a "new" concept of science in which it is admitted that the scientist's life and world view plays a very important part in scientific work, namely, that of "final selector", irrespective of the fact that the phenomenological method is used. With this approach, it was indicated, he surrendered (albeit in principle) the thesis of a "neutral" approach to educational science. In section 111 (chapters 9 and 10) an effort was made to draw the contours of a specific Christian concept of educational science and the manner in which it should be practised. An inventory was made of those "issues" which had come to the surface in the historic survey so that they could receive proper attention in these, the last chapters of the treatise. It was deemed necessary to circumscribe certain important terms or concepts in order to make the rest of the exposition possible. The first term was "heart", in this case "the scientist's heart". It was explained as the focal point of man's (i.e. the scientist's) innermost being, the root of his self, of his personality. The second term which was discussed can be translated as "equipment of man's heart". The thesis was accepted that man's "heart" is equipped with certain capabilities or endowments, such as a cloak of beliefs, knowledge of the Bible (in the case of a Christian who believes in the Bible), pre-scientific or intuitive knowledge, a life and world view, principles and norms, amongst others. It followed, from this exposition, that no man possesses the ability to free himself from any of these components of his "heart's equipment" for the simple reason that no man can free himself from his heart which is the radix of his total being. Next, a distinction was drawn between religion in the broad sense of the word and religion in the narrow sense of the word. As far as the first sense was concerned, "religion" was circumscribed as "being seized in one’s heart by some origin", be it the true God of the Scriptures or some idol conceived in His place. Religion in the narrow sense was termed "godsdiens", meaning service to that God or idol who took possession of one's heart. This service can be rendered in various ways: in direct worship (in church, for example), by participating in sport or by practising educational science. The Christian educational scientist therefore acknowledges the fact that his whole heart with all its "equipment" has been seized by the true God of the Scriptures and that his whole life is therefore dedicated to the service of God. He also acknowledges that his work in the field of educational science is nothing less than service to God. Next, in chapter 10, attention was paid to various epistemological problems: it was shown that man is endowed with an analytical function, and this function was discussed in some detail. Also it was indicated that there exists some coherence between man's (i.e. scientist's) analytical function and his historical function. The latter points to the fact that man has certain methods and techniques of practising science at his disposal. The standard scientific methods and techniques were not discussed, but it was deemed necessary to discuss the method of verification in greater detail in order to show that scientific truth is founded on the eternal truth, Jesus Christ. It was also suggested that the term "verification" should in all probability be exchanged for the term “certification". Then attention was devoted to the coherence existing between the scientist's analytical function and his linguistic function, which (being a function of his heart) is very personal and will always show particular characteristics peculiar to the scientist using the language in order to formulate scientific results. Few aspirations can be entertained for a uniting language for all scientific work. The following aim of the exposition was to underline the fact that the source of knowledge, in the case of the educational scientist, is nothing more or less than the reality circumscribed as: education. This object, education, is always viewed in the light of the "equipment" of one's heart; in the case of the Christian educational scientist in the light of the Word of God which forms a component of his particular heart's equipment. This thesis makes non-sense of all suppositions that educational science can be practised neutrally. It was furthermore indicated that the Bible (apart from its being ever-present as component of his heart's "equipment" in the case of the Christian educational scientist) can be used as an additional source of data in cases where education is investigated in the secondary state of affairs, for example if education in the Golden Era of Old Testament Israel is investigated. Finally, an effort was made to show that the object of educational science is to find and formulate the universal laws of the reality known as "education", in other wards, to find those essential features characteristic of all education wherever it takes place. Once found, they have to be reformulated in terms of norms or standards so that they may be prescribed to actual teaching. It 1s therefore also the task of the educational scientist to prescribe to the actual teacher how or in which manner his teaching about take place. Educational science is a descriptive as well as a prescriptive science.
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