There was once a question posted in a social medium about the difference between Philosophy and Ideology. Being against quick answers, those that slip thoughtlessly from the brain lips and the physical lips, I thought deeply about it.
The first thing to do when analyzing differences between two things is to juxtapose the two entities that seem similar on the surface and look closely at them. During this comparison, a stowaway slipped in uninvited, claiming in many ways to be the same, opinion.
Are they really the same? I’ll state clearly they’re not. We say, “my philosophy is” when we mean “my opinion is.” But since philosophy searches without gut-rooted views and mentally tests what it touches, it is more than an opinion. It is a studied position. If your “philosophy” is that you’ve found the answer, you’re a sophist. If your philosophy is that nothing can be known without study, then you’re a philosopher. Philosophy is not static. It is a position that knows no ultimate truth. Philosophy walks or is not a love of knowledge.
Sometimes, we interchange philosophy with, “my ideology is.” Opinion, ideology and philosophy have become a triplet in the same body, and the Body itself. And it is good and well to use these terms a bit loosely and sound a bit sophisticated, but when it comes to the roots of the philosophical movements begun in Greek antiquity, this love of knowledge pursued a different avenue than the narrow path of Opinion or the grand boulevard of Ideology. Discounting Opinion, what really is this beautiful thing Philosophy and its monster spawn Ideology?
When people think of philosophy, they typically envision the images of old personalities such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant, Nietzsche, Hume, and others we consider luminaries.
Not seldom, reading any of these bards of beautiful and often dramatic thought we find, however, a wall of unanswered questions. And that is as it should be.
Because Philosophy, the mother of science, is a branch without answers. When something becomes a fact, it stops being philosophy. You may love knowing the fact and it’s cool applications, but loving it is different from loving the animated search for more answers, to see if it stands as fact or crumbles as one big building of cards.
When knowing something, are you engaged in philosophy? Philosophers who answered, or believed they had answered, a specific question, had exited, at least for that moment, the realm of philosophy.
A scientific theory is the offshoot, the methodical child of philosophy. Its cue is in the term “theory.” With its marriage to science, such a theory doesn’t claim to know the final answer, the “ultimate truth.” The ultimate truth is that which exists but that we could never find, and that is an ultimate truth, found, peeled, and ready to eat. Because indeed we have found some ultimate truths—not all is lost.
Because the truth is that there is no single ultimate truth that explains everything, unless you’re talking about the originator of everything, and even you would have to explain that one.
What is more readily true, however, what we can find, is what is observed over and over again through tests. These tests, without us knowing that evasive ultimate truth, have confirmed that some things happen for a reason, a reason which we have symbolized with words. With such as a guide, and knowing what they mean, it wouldn’t take long for a number of scientists to begin calling Evolution a fact.
Perhaps, like a scientific theory, they ought to have remained humble. But the creationist movement, with its challenge to the word “Theory” within “Scientific Theory,” has attempted to make the word seem as if it was nothing more than a hypothesis.
By calling evolution a theory, science has demonstrated its humility, and no scientist should apologize for calling it that. And yet a scientific theory is so much more than a simple grand idea that has withstood the various tests that have been trying to debunk it. Because like philosophy, a scientific theory is a quest for the forever-to-be-evasive ultimate truth, or the grand truth of the ultimate truth, even as experiments often show the clothes with which it is made, beautifully. The moment a scientific theory stops being a scientific theory, the quest ends, and there is no more science.
Ideology is the dangerous child of philosophy, the rebel child who claims to have found the ultimate truth to something. There is nothing worse than a power built outside a merely, friendly fireplace discussion—an ideologue, someone who cannot be persuaded that the ship he or she is building is a fantasy, one which will strike an iceberg.
Ideology has laid a warm nest in politics. In politics, there is little philosophy. In politics, ideology is what counts the most, the “where we are headed” or “where we should be headed” as a people or a nation.
An ideology is a conviction. It never stops to ask, “Is this right? Is this pertinent.” It has angels and a beautiful future of plenty, and no pain. A place at last of peace and love. It moves forward unabashed to a grand future, a future that is “so much within grasp” if the realists did not stand in the way.
Most ideologies have a utopia, a place where we will be totally safe and beautiful, even if not free. It envisions people changing to the image of that ideology, making it a part of their DNA. Who does not want mana falling from the sky, plenty of it, so that we would never be hungry? What about orange juice? So much of everything? What about everything? It is a foolish dream.
Many scientists themselves suffer from this disease—thinkers who ought to know better. Ideology has an evil streak, and that is usually its desire to control destinies. But it can also go the other way, in the idea that a provision of full liberty will make us all civilized.
Let us find Philosophy and ideology in these statements. “He who has work is the least likely to steal.” “He who has the opportunity to chart his own road, free of restrictions, is the least likely to complain about the system.” “Restrictions to enter the labor or entrepreneurial market cause unemployment and unemployment causes poverty.” These are scientific facts, and not philosophies or ideologies. They can be tested.
An ideologue believes that if everyone walked down the yellow road, we would find Crystal City, a beautiful city where all is possible. But as in the tale of the Wizard of Oz, many good things hide their ugly side behind a curtain.
Let us stick to philosophy, to asking questions, to scientific theories that test: such as will give us, not the ultimate truth—because we will never find it—but a small answer, and live with it, whether it be hard to, or not.