POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND UTILITARIANISM OF FREE THINKING: A SUPPORTIVE DISCIPLINE

By Udofia Umoh
Discipline may contextually be taken to mean doing that which is within the periphery of law. The processes of theorizing about that which is acceptable by  society, that which is not repugnant to human utility, fairness, justice and equity may be taken to mean what we refer to as political philosophy.
Political philosophy has performed a myriad of functions in the course of its long history. Perhaps,its most impotant philosophical activity is the encouragement of free thinkers to be intellectually independent in the maze of opposing speculations and in solving the growing problem of human civilization.
Although ancient political theories were slightly influenced by religious or normative ” what ought to be “, contemporary realities and lack of evidence of the anchorage of social morality on a deity has shifted the prescriptions of political theory from “what ought to be” to “what it is”. Issues like Homosexuality and sympathetic death is driving the engine of morality from the concept of a supreme deity to the contradictions of existentialism. In this regard, political philosophy is a gift from free thinking to prescribe ways of how humans “ought to live” in the 21st century society to minimize friction as possible by conforming to set standard of norms, values and mores within society.
Some societies however, seems to act in ways suggestive of retrogression to social evolution of humanity as a whole.
Incest, genocide, slavery and exploitation seems to be some prescriptions extant in the so called civilized societies.
Political philosophy thus becomes a continuous improvement of free thinking, a “tough light” in the alleys of superstition and “banefull” beliefs inimical to human progress.

QUINE’S REJECTION OF THE “TWO DOGMAS OF EMPIRICISM”

BY David F. Effiong and Innocent Nwaka

INTRODUCTION

Willard Van Orman Quine was born in June 25, 1908 and died in December 25, 2000 was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, recognized as “one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.”Quine is the main proponent of the view that philosophy is not conceptual analysis but the abstract branch of the empirical sciences. His major writings include “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (1951), which attacked the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions and advocated a form of semantic holism, and Word and Object (1960), which further developed these positions and introduced Quine’s famous indeterminacy of translation thesis, advocating a behaviorist theory of meaning. 
In the 1930s and 1940s, discussions with Rudolf Carnap, Nelson Goodman and Alfred Tarski, among others, led Quine to doubt the tenability of the distinction between “analytic” statements those true, simply by the meanings of their words, such as “All bachelors are unmarried” and “synthetic” statements, those true or false by virtue of facts about the world, such as “There is a cat on the mat.” This distinction was central to logical positivism. Like other Analytic philosophers before him, Quine accepted the definition of “analytic” as “true in virtue of meaning alone”. Unlike them, however, he concluded that ultimately the definition was circular. In other words, Quine accepted that analytic statements are those that are true by definition, then argued that the notion of truth by definition was unsatisfactory. 

In this term paper therefore, we shall journey with W.V. Quine’s philosophical exposition(s) towards his rejection of the two dogmas of empiricism.

QUINE’S REJECTION OF THE TWO DOGMAS OF EMPIRICISM
Two Dogmas of Empiricism” is a paper by analytic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine published in 1951. According to Peter Godfrey-Smith, (a professor of philosophy in City University of New York), this “paper is sometimes regarded as the most important in all of twentieth-century philosophy”. (Godfrey-Smith, 30-33). The paper is an attack on two central aspects of the logical positivists’ philosophy. One is the analytic-synthetic distinction between analytic truths and synthetic truths, explained by Quine as truths grounded only in meanings and independent of facts, and truths grounded in facts. The other is reductionism, the theory that each meaningful statement gets its meaning from some logical construction of terms that refers exclusively to immediate experience.

“Two Dogmas” is divided into six sections. The first four sections are focused on analyticity, the last two sections on reductionism. There, Quine turns the focus to the logical positivists’ theory of meaning. 
ANALYTICITY AND CIRCULARITY

Most of Quine’s argument against analyticity in the first four sections is focused on showing that different explanations of analyticity are circular. The main purpose is to show that no satisfactory explanation of analyticity has been given. Quine begins by making a distinction between two different classes of analytic statements. The first one is called logically true and has the form:

(1) No unmarried man is married

A sentence with that form is true independent of the interpretation of “man” and “married”, so long as the logical particles “no”, “un-” and “is” have their ordinary English meaning.

The statements in the second class have the form:

(2) No bachelor is married.

A statement with this form can be turned into a statement with form (1) by exchanging synonyms with synonyms, in this case “bachelor” with “unmarried man”. It is the second class of statements that lack characterization according to Quine. The notion of the second form of analyticity leans on the notion of synonymy, which Quine believes is in as much need of clarification as analyticity. Most of Quine’s following arguments are focused on showing how explanations of synonymy end up being dependent on the notions of analyticity, necessity, or even synonymy itself.
How do we reduce sentences from the second class to a sentence of class (1)? Some might propose definitions. “No bachelor is married” can be turned into “No unmarried man is married” because “bachelor” is defined as “unmarried man”. But, Quine asks: how do we find out that “bachelor” is defined as “unmarried man”? Clearly, a dictionary would not solve the problem, as a dictionary is a report of already known synonyms, and thus is dependent on the notion of synonymy, which Quine holds as unexplained.

A second suggestion Quine considers is an explanation of synonymy in terms of interchangeability. Two linguistic forms are (according to this view) synonymous if they are interchangeable in all contexts without changing the truth-value. But consider the following example:

(3) “Bachelor” has fewer than ten letters.

Obviously “bachelor” and “unmarried man” are not interchangeable in that sentence. To exclude that example and some other obvious counterexamples, such as poetic quality, Quine introduces the notion of cognitive synonymy. But does interchangeability hold as an explanation of cognitive synonymy – Suppose we have a language without modal adverbs like “necessarily?” Such a language would be extensional, in the way that two predicates which are true about the same objects are interchangeable again without altering the truth-value. Thus, there is no assurance that two terms that are interchangeable without the truth-value changing are interchangeable because of meaning, and not because of chance. For example, “creature with a heart” and “creature with kidneys” share extension.

In a language with the modal adverb “necessarily” the problem is solved, as salva veritate holds in the following case:

(4) Necessarily all and only bachelors are unmarried men

While it does not hold for

(5) Necessarily all and only creatures with a heart are creatures with kidneys.

Presuming that ‘creature with a heart’ and ‘creature with kidneys’ have the same extension, they will be interchangeable salva veritate. But this interchangeability rests upon both empirical features of the language itself and the degree to which extension is empirically found to be identical for the two concepts and not upon the sought for principle of cognitive synonymy.

It seems that the only way to assert the synonymy is by supposing that the terms ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’ are synonymous and that the sentence “All and only all bachelors are unmarried men” is analytic. But for salva veritate to hold as a definition of something more than extensional agreement, i.e., cognitive synonymy, we need a notion of necessity and thus of analyticity.

So, from the above example, it can be seen that in order for us to distinguish between analytic and synthetic we must appeal to synonymy; at the same time, we should also understand synonymy with interchangeability salva veritate. However, such a condition to understand synonymy is not enough so we not only argue that the terms should be interchangeable, but necessarily so. And to explain this logical necessity we must appeal to analyticity once again.
REDUCTIONISM

Analyticity would be acceptable if we allowed for the verification theory of meaning: an analytic statement would be one synonymous with a logical truth, which would be an extreme case of meaning where empirical verification is not needed, because it is “confirmed no matter what”. “So, if the verification theory can be accepted as an adequate account of statement synonymy, the notion of analyticity is saved after all.”

The problem that naturally follows is how statements are to be verified. An empiricist would say that it can only be done using empirical evidence. So, some form of reductionism (the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience) must be assumed in order for an empiricist to ‘save’ the notion of analyticity. Such reductionism, says Quine, presents just as intractable a problem as did analyticity.

In order to prove that all meaningful statements can be translated into a sense-datum language, a reductionist would surely have to confront “the task of specifying a sense-datum language and showing how to translate the rest of significant discourse, statement by statement, into it.” To illustrate the difficulty of doing so, Quine describes Rudolf Carnap’s attempt in his book Der logische Aufbau der Welt. Quine first observes that Carnap’s starting point was not the strictest possible, as his “sense-datum language” included not only sense-events but also “the notations of logic, up through higher set theory… Empiricists there are who would boggle at such prodigality.” Nonetheless, says Quine, Carnap showed great ingenuity in defining sensory concepts “which, but for his constructions, one would not have dreamed were definable on so slender a basis.” However, even such admirable efforts left Carnap, by his own admission, far short of completing the whole project.
Finally, Quine objects in principle to Carnap’s proposed translation of statements like “quality q is at point-instant x;y;z;t” into his sense-datum language, because he does not define the connective “is at”. Without statements of this kind, it is difficult to see, even in principle, how Carnap’s project could have been completed. The difficulty that Carnap encountered shows that reductionism is, at best, unproven and very difficult to prove. Until a reductionist can produce an acceptable proof, Quine maintains that reductionism is another “metaphysical article of faith”.
However, Quine concluded his “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” as follows:

As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits (Quine,43).
CRITIQUE AND INFLUENCE

Rudolf Carnap

Rudolf Carnap prepared a reply entitled “Quine on Analyticity”, but this was not published until 1990. Addressing Quine’s concern over the status of the sentence “Everything green is extended”, Carnap wrote “the difficulty here lies in the unclarity of the word ‘green’, namely in an indecision over whether one should use the word for something unextended, i.e., for a single space-time point. In daily life it is never so used, and one scarcely ever speaks of space-time points.” Carnap then puts forward that an exact artificial language ought to clarify the problem by defining ‘green’ (or its synonym) as something that is either necessarily or contingently not applied to space-time points. He wrote that once that decision is made, the difficulty is resolved. Carnap also answers Quine’s argument on the use of sets of formal sentences to explain analyticity by arguing that this method is an explication of a poorly understood notion (Carnap, 427-432).
Paul Grice and P. F. Strawson

Paul Grice and P. F. Strawson criticized “Two Dogmas” in their 1956 article “In Defense of a Dogma”. Among other things, they argue that Quine’s skepticism about synonyms leads to a skepticism about meaning. If statements can have meanings, then it would make sense to ask “What does it mean?” If it makes sense to ask “What does it mean?”, then synonymy can be defined as follows: Two sentences are synonymous if and only if the true answer of the question “What does it mean?” asked of one of them is the true answer to the same question asked of the other. They also draw the conclusion that discussion about correct or incorrect translations would be impossible given Quine’s argument.
Hilary Putnam

In “‘Two Dogmas’ revisited”, Hilary Putnam argues that Quine is attacking two different notions. Analytic truth defined as a true statement derivable from a tautology by putting synonyms for synonyms are near Kant’s account of analytic truth as a truth whose negation is a contradiction. Analytic truth defined as a truth confirmed no matter what however, is closer to one of the traditional accounts of a priori. While the first four sections of Quine’s paper concern analyticity, the last two concerns reductionism. Putnam considers the argument in the two last sections as independent of the first four, and at the same time criticizes Quine as mentioned above (Hilary, 202-23).

EVALUATION/CONCLUSION
Quine’s technical work places great emphasis on precision, clarity and simplicity, sometimes to the exclusion of other factors which some have thought important. The idea that one theory should be reformulated so as to maximize theoretical virtues of this kind also plays a major role in his philosophical work. At the heart of Quine’s system is his naturalism, his rejection of any form of knowledge other than our ordinary knowledge manifested in common sense and in science. Taken broadly, as the claim that the method and techniques of natural science are the sources of knowledge about the world, naturalism is widely accepted. But what is the status of the naturalistic claim itself? Quine insists that it too must be based on science.
Quines’s rejection of a philosophically useful distinction between the analytic and the synthetic is also connected with his attitude towards meaning and the uses that philosophers have made of that idea. His rejection of the distinction between the a priori and the a posteriori is not to say ipso facto that he cannot accept any distinction of all among the various things that we take ourselves to know (Hylon,9).

Quine’s concern is with the theoretical or cognitive aspects of our lives. For him, philosophy, should aspire to something like the standards of clarity and ‘explanatoriness’ found in the most successful science. He rejects the idea that familiar ways of describing things, just because they are in general use, must be accepted as clear enough to use for “philosophical and scientific” purposes (Hylton,11).
WORKS CITED

Quine, W.V.O. (1951), “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” The Philosophical Review 60: p. 20–43. Reprinted in his 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press.

Peter Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality, 2003, University of Chicago, p. 30-33 (section 2.4 “Problems and Changes”)

Quine, W.V. and Rudolf Carnap (1990). Dear Carnap, Dear Van: The Quine-Carnap Correspondence and Related Work. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 427–432.

Putnam, Hilary, “‘Two dogmas’ revisited.” In Gilbert Ryle, Contemporary Aspects of Philosophy. Stocksfield: Oriel Press, 1976, p. 202–213.

Peter Hylton,Quine: Arguments of the philosophers. NY: Routledge Published, 2007.

MIND-BODY PROBLEM

INTRODUCTION

The idea of a separate soul or mind in humans has a long history. The ancient Hebrews used the word “breath” (ruach, which also means “spirit”) to refer to the soul, believing that it was a gift from God that animated us. The ancient Greeks, particularly Pythagoras and Plato, thought that the soul (psyche, from which we get our word “psychology,” the study of the soul) was lodged in the body like a captain of a ship. The soul was the rational and animating principle within us. It was immortal, having neither beginning nor end. When a person died, the soul left the body and was reincarnated in another body. Hinduism holds a similar belief, with the addition that the soul at last will be absorbed into a greater soul in Nirvana. Most Christians throughout the ages have believed that the soul is created by God, animates the body, and will live forever in another realm after death. Other Christians, basing their belief on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15, believe that it is not a separate soul but a resurrected body (a whole, embodied person) that will survive death.
Today these ideas are under attack. Neuroscience studies brain states, which many scientists believe are sufficient to explain mental life. They argue that there is no place or need for a separate soul or mind. If there are correct, our religious heritage needs to be modified or abandoned. But many philosophers argue that there are good reasons for holding to traditional beliefs about the soul or mind and about its survival after death (Louis Pojman, 259).


THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM IN PHILOSOPHY

Intuitively, we seem to distinguish two different types of reality: material and mental, bodies and minds. Bodies are solid, material entities, extended in three-dimensional space, publicly observable, measurable, and capable of causing things to happen in accordance with invariant laws of mechanics. Minds have none of these properties. Consciousness is not solid or material, is not extended in three-dimensional space, does not occupy space at all, and is directly observable only by the person who owns it, cannot be measured, and seems incapable of causing things to happen in accordance with the invariant laws of mechanics. Individuals can only think their own thoughts, feel their own emotions, and suffer their own pain. Although neurosurgeons can open skulls and observe brains, they cannot observe minds, or their beliefs, sensations, emotions, or desires.

Photo credit: Internet

Unlike physical bodies, mental entities have no shape, weight, length, width, height, colour, mass, velocity, or temperature. It would sound odd, indeed, to speak of a belief weighing 16 oz like a box of cereal, or to describe a feeling of love measuring 4 in. ,like a piece of lumber, a pain as heavy as a cement bag or a desire as green and having a temperature of 103oF. yet common sense tells us that these two entities somehow interact. But the question arises, how exactly does this transaction between the mind and brain occur, and where does it occur? Could it be, as materialists contend, that the mind is really simply a function of the body, not a separate substance at all? Or could the idealist monists be correct: the body is really an illusion, and there is only one substance, the mind alone? (Louis Pojman, 260 -261). Rene Descartes and Alfred North Whitehead sought to respond to these questions as we shall see.


THE MIND-BODY RELATION OF RENE DESCARTES

Having rescued himself from skepticism to discover the reality of the world, Rene Descartes sought again to see what sort of reality has been recovered. To get clear on this, Descartes uncritically dredges up the Greek and medieval notion of substance. He defines substance as “a thing which exists in such a way as to depend on no other thing for its existence.” According to Descartes there are two main categories of substances: mental substances and physical substances. This implies that the mind and body are two completely different entities. He (Descartes) started out by being sure of his own mental existence but in doubt as to whether or not his body existed. This led him to conclude that the mind is a separate substance from the body because it does not need the body in order to exist or to be understood. 
Furthermore, the mind and the body are separate substances because they have completely different attributes. Minds are capable of conscious acts such as thinking, doubting, and willing. Bodies are not conscious and are simply moved by mechanical forces acting on them. Minds are not extended and so do not take up space. They are a kind of nonphysical or spiritual reality. Because they are not extended, they are not made up of parts and cannot be divided. Bodies, of course, are extended, occupy space, and can be divided into more elementary particles. The picture that emerges is that human beings are made up of two different kinds of reality somehow linked together. According to Descartes, your mind (which is identical to your soul) is the “real” you. If you lose an arm or a leg, your bodily mechanism is impaired but you are still as complete a person as before.

Descartes position here is a kind of dualism. Dualism is the name for any theory that postulates tow kinds of ultimate and irreducible principles or elements. More specially, what we have here is metaphysical dualism. Metaphysical dualism refers to any theory that claims that there are two ultimate and irreducible kinds of reality. To be even more specific, because Descartes theory concerns the relationship between the mind and the body, it can be called mind-body dualism or psychophysical dualism and now (after Descartes’ classical statement of this position) called Cartesian dualism in his honour. This dualistic scheme has sometimes been called the “Cartesian compromise.” Descartes was an enthusiastic champion of the new, mechanistic science.

DESCARTES
INTERACTIONISM

At first glance, Descartes’ strategy of assigning minds and bodies to two separate domains of reality may seem like a plausible compromise. However, there are difficult, nagging problems with this solution. Since we are made up of both a mind and a body, how do the two of them coexist? One theory might be that the mind is like a pilot that directs the ship, which is the body. However, Descartes recognizes that this model is not correct. He says that if this picture were correct, when our bodies were wounded we should no more feel pain than a pilot does when his ship is damaged. The problem is that our minds are much more intimately related to our bodies this. The two seem to mutually influence one another. If I go without sleep, or take cold medicine, or am physically uncomfortable, my mind doesn’t work very effectively. Similarly, I can understand how one physical object can move another physical object. But how does my mind move my body, and how can my body affect my mind? In other words, how is it possible for a spiritual substance and physical substance to interact? The mind has no gears or muscles or chemicals by which to move other things or to be moved. Descartes has created quite a problem for his metaphysics.

 He has so radically separated the mind and body that it is not clear how they work together as effectively as they do.
At this point the Cartesian compromise seems to break down. By separating mental substances and physical substances, he neatly placed religion, the human person, and freedom in one compartment, and science, mechanism and determinism in another compartment, where they would not interfere with one another’s domain. Thus, while science can explain the process of digestion in my body, it cannot explain mental events such as my decision to join a church, for example. However, because the interplay of the mind and body is so obvious to our ordinary experience, Descartes had to introduce his theory of interactionism (William, 238). The most notable is epiphenomenalism, which posits a one-way causal relationship: the body affects the mind, causing mental events, but the mind does not affect the body. Mental events are like the babbling of rocks, the exhaust from a car’s engine, or the smoke from train’s chimneys; they are effects of physical processes, (but do not themselves cause motion in the water, the car, or the train (Louis Pojman, 261).
Descartes thought he could pinpoint the place in the brain where the interaction between mind and brain took place: “The part of the body in which the soul exercises its function immediately is in nowise the heart, nor the whole of the brain, but merely the most inward of all its parts, to wit, a certain very small gland which is situated in the middle of its substance.” This gland, the seat of the mind, is the pineal gland. It functions as the intermediary that transmits the effects of the mind to the brain and the effects of the brain to the mind. This was Descartes’ theory of the classic expression of dualist interactionism (Louis Pojman, 263).
The problem is, however, if our minds can influence the physical world through our bodies, then much in the physical world cannot be explained by mechanistic science. The universe is not a self-sufficient clocklike mechanism after all. Yet if the physical forces affecting the body can cause mental events, then our mental life and behavior are, to a large degree, products of the physical environment. In this picture, Descartes’ revolutionary ideas could well be just the inevitable outcome of the purposeless, neurochemical events in this brain.  Because interactionism carries with it so many problems, many Cartesians (like Arnold Geulincx and his position of parallelism as well as Nicolas Malebranche and his position of occasionalism) found it necessary to deny it (William Lawhead, 237 – 240).


THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM OF ALFRED N. WHITEHEAD

Whitehead offers a distinctive solution to the classic mind-body problem. Previously, the main options were dualism, materialism, and idealism: the mind and body were viewed as two completely different substances (Descartes), or the mind was reduced to bodily motions (Hobbes), or physical bodies were reduced to mental ideas (Berkeley). In Whitehead’s view, however, there are neither pure mental substances nor pure physical substances.  These are abstractions from the more fundamental reality, which is the series of actual occasions, each of which is a continuum having a mental pole and a physical pole. No actual entity is devoid of either pole; thought their relative importance differs in different actual entities. Thus, an actual entity is essentially dipolar, with its physical and mental poles; and even the physical world cannot be properly understood without reference to its other side, which is the complex of mental operations.

In other words, in each part of reality there is that aspect (the physical pole) that tends to conform to the patterns of its immediate past is passive, and causally determined. There is also that aspect (the mental pole) that is creative, active, and self determining. In complex organisms such as humans, the mental pole predominates. This allows us to creatively and subjectively respond to our causal influences, giving us the capacity to respond to a wider range of possibilities and thereby producing greater amounts of diversity. If the mental and the physical are two poles of the same continuum, then nature is not divided into separate compartments (mind, matter, organic, inorganic), but is a unified reality (William, 493 – 494).

WORKS CITED 

Lawhead, William F. The Voyage of Discovery: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy, 2nd ed.            USA: Wadsworth Group, 2002.

Pojman, Louis P. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

THE SCIENCE OF GENDER EQUALITY

​By D. F. Effiong

In its obvious form, feminism has concentrated on educational opportunity and careers demanding an end to practices that have excluded women, and strong remediation, which includes not only affirmative action but also the establishment of women centers. On the conceptual level, it has forced a reevaluation of scholarly practices and opened neglected questions of the history, status, and particular interests of women. It has resurrected the work and built the reputation of some women artists and thinkers whom history and male indifference had discounted. The natural sciences take their share of the heat.

In point of opportunities for women, the traditional recruitment and apprenticeship system has been unfair and exclusionary. Strenuous pressure for change has been the predictable result, as women claim their right of equal access to any vocation, no matter how long tradition has regarded it as a province of the male intellect until recently, however, the substance and the cognitive style of science per se had not been the target of much feminist complaint. The main demand was for fair chance at careers, in and out of academic life, a just claim, unproblematic in its philosophic standing if not immune to vexations (Paul and Norman, 109).

It has been this demand for a fair chance that feminist scientists brought to bear the intrinsic presentations of equality especially in fields such as biology and mathematics. This is despite the key process of feminist criticism of science, which is the insistence inasmuch as science has until now been a male enterprise, it is ipso facto biased by unacknowledged assumptions derived from the practical values of western society (Paul and Norman, 108).

The record of science, until recently, is in its social aspect tarnished by gender exclusions (and as well of course, by class snobbery, anti-Semitism racialism, and vulgar nationalism). At times, baseless paradigms in medicine and the behavioral sciences have been pretexts for subordinating women. Pseudoscientific doctrines of innate inferiority and moral frailty have been used to discount female capacity for achievement and to confine women to subservient roles (Paul and Norman, 110).

In “Towards a Feminist Algebra,’’ Maryanne Campbell and Randall K. Campbell Wright argued that women and other disempowered groups are encounter “word problems or narrative problems “or ’’narrative problems of the “ if a man and a half makes-a-dollar-and-a-half- “variety-refer to situations that are sexiest racist, class-bound stereotypes. They doubtless, condemn the “man-and-a-half’’ problem because it encodes the assumption that men work, and it therefore implies style that women don’t, or shouldn’t (Paul and Norman, 113). In reconstruction how early man and woman behaved, we are told by the author, Meredith F. Small, “researchers have generally looked not to Bonobos but to common chimpanzees. “The burden of what follows is that this was a very bad mistake” The spin is that we have undeniable evidence already for that fondest of constructivist, feminist fantasies: an original, genderless human society of perfect sexual and behavioural equality, full of great games and no domination. David H. Freedman, writing on the “aggressive egg,” takes on writing page from the writing of C E. McClung, whom the Biology and Gender Study Group scourged for gender-laden imagery. Freedman’s article near its beginning, describes the spermatozoa as “a wastefully huge swarm…..flop(pin)g along, its members bumping into walls and flailing aimlessly,” then, once they are in the vicinity of the female gamete, “the egg selects one and reels it in, pinning it down in spite of its efforts to escape. It’s no contest, really. The gigantic, hardy egg yanks the tiny sperm inside, distills out the chromosomes, and sets out to become an embryo.

The spin is conscious, its purpose is to highlight the small size, the prodigality, the incompetence, the mis-directedness of male gametes, and the purposeful, dominant object that is the female (Paul and Norman 125). This metaphor, simple as it is, thwarts every theory that orchestrates male dominance because of strength or physicality. Feminist biologists have herein and intrinsically subdued such ‘inequality’ by bringing to bear the ‘sperm in distress’. Psychoanalytic theory on the other hand, has established the origins and the dimensions of the persuasive bias (of men and women) concerning equality. Our early maternal environment coupled with cultural definitions of masculine (that which can never appear feminine) and the anatomy (that which can never be compromised by dependency) leads to the association of females with the pleasures and dangers of merging, and of males with the comfort and loneliness of separateness.

The values of competence, of mystery. Indeed competence is itself prior condition of autonomy and serves immeasurably to confirm one’s sense of self. Evelyn Fox Kellers’ (a feminist empiricist) psychoanalytic reveries have yielded a chain of proposed cognitive relationships, at one end of which is autonomy and at the other, aggression. All characterize the male (gender) or the male end of spectrum of cognitive styles (Paul and Norman, 140). There are many who also argue that male dominance (as written right into the DNA) can never be equal to the woman in this light. Hence, the idea of a “master molecule” DNA- encoding and directing the destiny of the living cell, its aggregates, and the organisms those aggregates produce. The work of Nobelist Barbara McClintock had however opined that DNA “master molecule” is shorthand for “nothing more, it carries no implication of “dominance” (Paul and Norman, 141).

Keller presumably does not believe that the proposed cognitive differences between men and women are inborn. From the essentialist belief in an inherent mathematical excellence of boys as contrasted verbal precocity of (girls and their weakness in spatial relations) – to such believe, feminists usually respond with rage (Paul and Norman, 142).

Gross, Paul R. and Norman Levith. Higher Superstition The Academic Left And Its Quarrels With Science. USA: The John Hopkins University Press, 1998.

CAUSALITY IN AFRICAN ONTOLOGY: THE NEED TO INTERROGATE BOTH “NEGATIVE” AND “POSITIVE” EVENTS COLLECTIVELY

​By Richard A. UGBE

Causality is central in African metaphysics. Whenever an event occurs, there is always a tendency for Africans to interrogate what may have necessitated it. For Africans, no event happens by chance. Every event is necessitated by one cause or another. For instance, if a child complains of headache in the hot afternoon and passes on few hours later, it is said that he/she dies of “Ogbanje” spirit or if a woman has miscarriage more than once, it is said that one witch in her husband’s family or her biological family is against her marriage. Many in Africa hold this, as veracity concerning both the child’s sudden demise in the hot afternoon and the woman’s frequent miscarriages. While one may not dispute this belief, it will also be good to raise some pertinent questions concerning this belief system. Why is it that Africans interrogate and search for a cause only when a negative event occur, but keep mute when a positive event occurs? Why is it that Africans do not see the possibility of events happening by chance? Again and most importantly, this cause that they always interrogate and search for, have they been able to find a satisfactory answer to their question and search? In this piece, we shall attempt a definition of Causality, African notion of causality and the need for Africans to interrogate or search for cause(s), if they must, collectively not just when a negative event occur.

Causality: According to Akpan O. C (2010), is one fundamental natural principle that is inevitable in our day to day interpretation, explanation and prediction of phenomena, whether in religion, science, politics, social interaction, philosophy and so many other fields of human endeavour. Akpan went on to view causality from Traditional African Cultural perspective “as a phenomenon that is transcendental and mythical.” Chiedozie Okoro (2014), in line with Akpan viewed causality as religious, supernatural, spiritual, mystical and mythical.

The African Notion of Causality : Kanu I. A. (2014), in an attempt to define African notion of causality started by presenting the views of European scholars on causality and chance as thus: Hume (1902) in treating the compatibilism of freedom and necessity spoke of things happening by chance, meaning that things could happen without any cause. Secondly, that the concept of ‘perchance is recurrent in the works of Shakespeare (1852) precisely in the ‘Twelfth Night’, which reveals the Western poet’s understanding that things can just happen. Kanu, however, pose this question that, “if the question, ‘Does anything just happen? Were put to an African, what would be his response? According to Aja (2001), cited in Kano, “the world is an ordered universe in which all events are caused and potentially explicable.” Gyekye (1987) cited in Kanu, maintains that the doctrine of universal causation in the Akan-African world. The African does not just speak of mechanical, chemical and psychological interactions like his Western counterparts; he also speaks of a metaphysical kind of causality, which binds the creator to the creature. Reacting to the Western concept of chance, which believes that things could happen by chance, Ozumba (2004) cited in Kanu, argues that what they (Westerners) called chance is their ignorance of the series of actions and reactions that have given rise to a given event. Gyekye cited above maintains a universal doctrine of causality in African ontology, he emphasizes that greater attention is paid to extraordinary events and not natural events or regular occurrences when issues of causality is discussed. Gyekye, further avers that regular or natural events would include, rain during raining season, drought during dry season, a pregnancy that lasts nine months, the growth of plants, catching of few fish at some particular times of the year etc. Such events for Gyekye does not constitute a problem for the mind of the African, because, as Gyekye argues “such events are held by them to be part of the order established by the omnipotent creator”. They are empirical, scientific and non-supernaturalistic. They have been observed by people who know that there is a necessary connection between such events, for instance, they know that during dry season, the river dries up, or that a child stays in the mother’s womb for nine months before delivery. Extraordinary or contingent events are those that engage the minds of Africans, and such events would include, a woman being pregnant for more than nine months, drought during raining season, a tree falling and killing a man. These events according to Gyekye have particular traits that make them mind disturbing, “they are infrequent and hence are considered abnormal; they are discrete and isolated; they appear to be puzzling, bizarre, and incomprehensible; they are not considered subsumable under any immediate known law of nature” (p. 78). The events are deemed insufficient to explain their causes, thus, the ultimate cause of the event is sought. The interest is not on what has happened but why it happened. Thus, not that the tree has fallen, but why it fell on a particular man not on the ground or on any other man.

This is the mindset of most Africans: the fact that we see insufficiency in events explaining their causes and also the fact that the cause of these events must be sought. I have a problem with the fact that most Africans are not interested in what happened but why it happened and finally- the fact that typical Africans have no problem with a tree falling on the ground but why it falls on a particular man and not any other man. Deducing from the above is a situation where majority of Africans, identify only with positive events; while shying away from the negative ones. Again, I am seeing a situation where instead of seeking solution to a particular event, Africans prefer to search for why it happened. For instance, a situation where one is down with a particular ailment and needs urgent medical attention, some Africans will prefer to seek for why he/she is sick with such a deadly disease and not the medical attention such a fellow needs. But come to think of it, can we avoid negative events coming our way? Events like; sickness, death, infertility among couples, hurricane or thunderstorm? Definitely, natural laws must bring them to our door steps. I am seeing a situation why modern African preachers continue to succeed in their various religious houses, owing to the fact that as a people we are always in search for what may have caused this or that in our lives. We go to these prayer houses with the mindset of knowing what may have went wrong at a given time in our lives. I am seeing another situation why it is difficult for us as a people to detach ourselves from consulting oracle.

A practical example is the idea of “Ipe” divination by my people, after which one elderly man or woman is accused for been responsible for the sudden death of a young man/woman or infertility case among a particular couple in the family. I am not trying to deny the existence of witches and wizards, principalities and powers. I still not believe in them. They exist only to those who believe and pay homage to them. However, what is my concern is; how Africans must understand cause(s) holistically. And for us to understand cause(s) holistically, we need to ask ourselves the following questions; why interrogating and searching for only negative events? Do Africans bother to ask; why one is healthy, productive, successful, and live above hundred years? Even when they ask, they always attribute for instance, one’s success to have come from one power or another. It is by looking at both the positive and negative events and places them side by side that Africans will find answers to their search. Again, until Africans begin to understand that life is not one sided (only positive events), that they will fall back to the reality of life which Heraclitus of Ephesus captured well when he observed that things in the universe are in opposite direction: dry season against raining season, life against death, old age against youth age and tallness against shortness. But that there is a unifying force that binds them together. Until we begin to view life from this light, we will continue to approach logical issues through illogical means.