In his 2012 book entitled “Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life”, scientist and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci coin the term Sci-Phi to define a thinking practice with a crucial assumption that we must use both reason and evidence to guide and improve our lives. The book is about what philosophy and science together can inform us about the big questions of life, questions initially raised by Aristotle and other Ancient Greek philosophers.
Basically, Sci-Phi is short for “wisdom” and “practical advice” as he says. Science is not enough, and philosophy can and should be informed by the best science available, the same way that scientific knowledge should also be guided by our values. Going way back in time, the author quotes Kant who famously put that “experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play”. A practical example of that I talked about in a previous post is the question raised about the climate justice movement having the potential to blend environmentalist and social justice movements together, in a Sci-Phi way to address the scientific issue and the axiological issue we are faced with climate change.
The discourse Massimo is raising is by no means new. Kant himself started to articulate that thought is the give and take between sensibility and understanding. The world exists but so does the works of the mind. A version of academic neo-kantianism is concerned with blending new findings in science with the study of philosophy. Two aspects of such played an important role in our “old friend” Bakhtin’s early work as well: 1) The desire to relate traditional problems of philosophy to discoveries in the exact sciences. 2) The emphasis on unit and oneness as he tried to get to the world, the other side of Kant’s ideas, rather than the mind. His emphasis was in the “process”, the need to take others and otherness into account and emphasis on plurality and variety.
As I have been reading on Bakhtin’s work (Shawn correct me if I am wrong), there is this problematic notion of selfhood. We only exist in dialogue, because there is an otherness out there. Hence, there is a radical emphasis on Bakhtin’s work in regards to particularities and situatedeness. On this token, one can argue that Philosophy and Science were once united under the umbrella of “natural philosophy”, but because of changes in particularities and situations in its advancement, there is now a clear otherness between the two, perhaps an otherness that already existed in the “selfhood”of natural philosophy, but that needed to break apart in order for voices to be heard.
Going on another important tangent, the question of selfhood is a question of location. In this sense, what voice is really talking when we talk? Utterance raises a question of authorship, so in a narrative there is always co-authorship among voices, being that everyday speech or complex literary work. At first sight, one may say science fits within the complex text realm and philosophy fits within everyday life concerns, but I would think they truly co-exist and co-author all dimensions of life.
So I got to think, is our informal learning research the very exercise of give and take in the co-authorship? Do we try to make sense of this co-constructed dialogism among participants during an “every day “ experience that constitute a museum visit, being ourselves part of such co-construction of a narrative situated in time and space? Then, when we retell those stories through our thesis, that still consists of a co-constructed dialogism in the shape of a “complex literary work”. In publication, we are named as authors of our own thesis but we are just one of the voices speaking at the moment of writing, while other voices are not silenced only reframed within our situated words. In this sense, we are authors of nothing but the mere mechanical materialization of words in a page, words of a self AND an otherness in a situated time and space.
So, are our theses about science or are they about philosophy? Are we practicing Sci-Phi? I think we are, and I think it is about time that becomes explicit and accepted as a meaningful practice and, why not, a co-constructed way of knowing.