In my last post, I touched on the natural world and my realist point-of-view. Many philosophers of science take an instrumentalist perspective. They believe the things we come up with are merely tools to help us explain what we see and that they do not necessarily exist. While I do find many examples in science to be instrumental, I do not believe instrument to be the end goal. If our instruments have no limitation/exception, I believe we are describing a real thing; this does not mean that we are right, I just see no point in assuming we are wrong all of the time. I also believe that what we experience everyday is a real world. Even if “the matrix” has us, that matrix is real, and testable.
Describing the supernatural is not quite as straightforward. By science’s own admission the supernatural is off-limits. It cannot be tested, it cannot be empirically observed. This truth about supernatural entities does not negate the possibility of their existence, nor our ability to reason about them. We just have to take a different approach.
C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite religious philosophers. I will present my interpretation of his argument for a supernatural being: God. I will not go farther than the idea of God, because the ideas Lewis uses sets up an argument for universal values nicely, thus fitting into my realist approach to pragmatism.
The argument Lewis uses for the existence of God is quite simple. Perhaps that is why it suits me so nicely. Looking at all of human history we find that people have always believed it bad to harm one another. No where in time do we find humans eating their young or condoning murder within the group. I know wars have been fought and slaves have been mistreated, yet these are people not seen as part of the group or even as not human. This does not make it right, but this tangent is for another time. Very young children understand when they have done something wrong, they feel shame. These ideas of right and wrong transcend age, generations, even civilizations. These ideas are what most people call the conscience. Somehow it is there in everyone, whether we choose to obey it or not is an existential question, but it is there. Lewis uses this universal truth to reason that there is a God that instills each of us with these core values. I have not done Lewis justice, but the metaphysical idea that there is a God and therefore universal values will affect all other aspects of my philosophy, whether or not the affects are explicit.
To sum up my metaphysical stance, I believe there is a real world, and we can understand it. Our main tool toward understanding is experiment. These same ideas hold true in how we approach pedagogy in education. I do believe there are guiding principles that would constitute “best practice” – I do not believe effective teaching to be a matter of relative “style”. On a different plane, I also believe there is a God, and that God has given humanity certain values which can help humans live better, more productive lives on earth. These values directly influence what I think the substance of education should be. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: Education without values seems good only to make man a more clever devil.