0708-Some Philosophical Concepts Relevant To Knowledge and Its Sources

Background reading material for Year 1 PPSD session on 8th August 2007 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

The term philosophy derives from the Greek and Greek and Latin words for ‘love of wisdom’. It is basically a methodological discipline that reflects on the universe and human experience. It can also be defined as a critical study of basic beliefs and concepts.


Empiricism: Empiricism is the concept that beliefs must be based on actual experience to be valid.


Rationalism: Rationalists consider reason to be the main source of knowledge. It asserts that the universe is rational, orderly, and structured. It is contrary to empiricism which asserts that knowledge is from experience especially sensory. Rationalism is also contrary to revelation and intuition. 


Ethics is a discipline concerned with studying what is morally good and to distinguish it from what is morally bad. It is closely related to religious beliefs. Ethics can be derived from revelation and from human reasoning. Many ethical values are universal among all humans. Many societies codify their ethical principles within the law. There are also ethical principles that are moral teachings and others that are part of culture and social behavior.


Metaphysics is study of the real nature of things by going beyond the empirical. Among issues studied by metaphysics are: what really exists, the contrast between reality and appearance, first or irrefutable basic principles. Religions provide answers to issues investigated by metaphysics. Among problems of metaphysics are: the existence of God; interrelations among soul, mind, and body; the conception of the spirit.


Naturalism is a theory stating that all objects and events in the universe are natural and are therefore knowable by scientific investigation. Naturalism denies the supernatural except in a few situations in which the effect of the supernatural can be knowable by scientific investigation.


Pragmatism: This is a school of philosophy that asserts that the criterion of merit of ideas is their usefulness, practicability, and consequence. It puts experience above doctrine. It is the opposite of idealism and intellectualism.


Spiritualism: Spiritualism asserts that there is immaterial reality that cannot be perceived by the senses. It subsumes the following concepts: an infinite personal God, immortality of the soul, immateriality of human intellect and human will. Spiritualism is beyond matter.


Thought is manipulation of symbols using logical operators. The symbols may be verbal or concepts stored in the mind. Thinking essentially is assembling and analyzing information within the mind. The process of thinking needs motivation. If the motivation is internal thought is imagination. If the motivation is external, thinking becomes logical involving making judgments and solving problems. Logical thinking can be inductive (combining several propositions to reach a general conclusion) or deductive (starting from a hypothesis to reach a specific conclusion). Both induction and deduction are used by ordinary humans.

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. August 2007