2018-04-16

On the Boundaries and Tasks of Ideology and Philosophy


I'm fleshing out some ideas for teaching philosophy next year, and at the beginning of the class I take students through an "Ideological Toolbox", meant to introduce them to the basic tasks and subjects within philosophy. So, below are some notes from me "thinking out loud".

Ideology refers to the symbolic maps we use, as individuals and as a society, to navigate reality and lead us to the realization of our ultimate values. Note that an ideology can come in many forms. Ideology can appeal to a transcendent source, and thus be a form of “Theology”. Or ideology can claim to stay proscribed within empirical reality and present itself as a form of science or psychology or sociology or political philosophy or economics or cultural critique. 


Everyone has an ideology, because everyone has a mental map to interpret and navigate the reality they inhabit. Every social system and technology is based on ideology, because ideology defines why the system operates the way it does, and what ultimate values it attempts to attain. 

Philosophy— the love of wisdom— is that set of mental tools through which we make ourselves “wise” to ideology, and by which we construct, critique, and reconstruct ideology. 

Thus philosophy has three tasks:

Construct: To lay out basic claims to the nature of reality and our role in it. 

Critique: To learn how to ask questions and engage in debates about ideological claims. 

Reconstruct: To reinterpret and reconfigure ideology based on weaknesses and flaws. 

These three tasks are pursued across the following sub-disciplines:

1. What is the case: Facts. Key Question: What?

Logic: Constructing linguistic propositions and arguments which are clear, coherent, and correspond to what is the case. Included:
  • Constructing propositions and arguments
  • Types of arguments: Deductive, Inductive, Abductive
  • Logical Fallacies

Epistemology: Understanding how we know what we know, and the limits of what can be known. Included:
  • Rationalism
  • Empiricism
  • Intuition
  • Social knowing
  • Revelation

2. What is possible: Horizons. Key Question: Why?

Ontology: Interrogating the essence or nature of things, and the limits of their potential. Included:
  • Realism
  • Nominalism
  • Dualism
  • Idealism

Metaphysics: Interrogating the Ultimate Reality which grounds or gives rise to the apparent reality we experience. Included:
  • Basic views: Platonism, Kantianism, Postmodernism
  • Views of the Divine: Primal views: Animism, Polytheism, Monolatry; Skepticism: Atheism, Agnosticism; Theisms: Deism, Pantheism, Monotheism, Panentheism

3. What ought to be: Values. Key Question: How?

Ethics: Interrogating what we ought to be and do, and ought not to be and do, in relation to what we could be and do. Included:
  • Utilitarian Ethics
  • Deontological Ethics
  • Divine Command Ethics
  • Virtue Ethics

Aesthetics: Interrogating which experiences and objects give us insight into ultimate values, and how they do this. Included:
  • Objectivism
  • Subjectivism



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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.