1 Feb 2012

Announcement: New PhilSc Workshop

Author: hashcookies | Filed under: Multiversity

Working to formulate a new “decolonised” Philosophy of Science curriculum

The global consciousness needs new academic courses that transcend older intellectual tyrannies. Philosophy of science courses worldwide portray the development of science and its dynamic conceptual frameworks as a simple, linear, European development in which the rest of the globe played no role. This would be contrary to history. It is in fact false history.

The proposal to decolonize education—on which most universities are agreed—requires, as a first step, the dismantling of false history, and the equally distorted philosophy of science which accompanies it.

For example, Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shifts builds on the stories of Ptolemy and Copernicus, both of which are today known to be abjectly false: Claudius Ptolemy in fact did not exist, the Almagest is an accretive text; and Copernicus, a priest, copied from Ibn Shatir and the Maragheh school of Nasiruddin Tusi.

The story of the Newtonian revolution also needs critical review. The calculus was invented in India, in a different epistemological soil, hence Newton misunderstood it through the metaphysical doctrine of fluxions. This intrusion of metaphysics into his physics was exactly what led to the failure of his physics. Nevertheless, it is this European misunderstanding of calculus using limits, set theory etc. which is taught in schools and colleges today. This has nil practical value, and most practical applications are done using computers which use a different type of arithmetic closer to the way calculus actually developed in India.

As a third example, consider how myths about early Greeks are used, for example, the present-day formalist philosophy of mathematics is founded on the story of Euclid and his deductive proofs. It is now known that  Euclid did not exist, that the Elements uses empirical proofs even in its very first theorem, and that it was authored many centuries later by “Neoplatonists” who believed in the African idea of mathesis, articulated by Plato. That involved a notion of the soul accepted in early Christianity, but cursed  in post-Nicene theology.

Eventually, military failure in the Crusades led to Thomist Christian rational theology, and the acceptance of mathematics reinterpreted in accordance with it, and disconnected from the soul. Hence, the formalism of Russell and Hilbert ended up making mathematics metaphysical, though better applications to science would requires us to downgrade this Western metaphysics. Doing so not only makes math easy, it leads to better applications in science and technology, as have been recently demonstrated.

There are the well-known racist assertions of Kant and various other European and American philosophers relating human creativity to the colour of the skin, or falsely claiming the universality of 2-valued logic, etc.

There are many more examples of this sort, and all need to be critically reviewed. To escape the trap of these Western myths and superstitions which pervade the present-day history and philosophy of science, a piecemeal approach is inadequate. What is required is a full-scale revision of the history and philosophy of science syllabus from a decolonised perspective, starting almost from scratch.

To do this, a five day  international workshop is scheduled at Al Buhkary International University, Alor Setar, Kedah, Malayasia, from March 26 to 30, 2012 which will be anchored by Prof. C.K. Raju, physicist, mathematician and scholar, presently Visiting Professor at the Universiti Sains Malaysia. For more details, look up www.multiworldindia.org.

Participants would be provided local hospitality for the duration of the workshop. Intending participants should contact Dr Claude Alvares at multiversityindia@gmail.com with a short note on the reasons for their interest in participating in this meeting. The subject of the email must be “Decolonization workshop”, and the email should reach by 15 Feb 2012.

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