Monday, June 24, 2013


What is philosophy?
  • It’s a study that seeks to understand the mysteries of existence and reality.
  • It tries to discover the nature of truth and knowledge and to find what is of basic value and importance in life.
  • Philosophy arises out of wonder, curiosity, and the desire to know and understand.
  • Philosophy is thus a form of inquiry.
  • It’s a process of analysis, criticism, interpretation , and speculation

The discipline concerned with basic principles of reality; methods for investigation and study; and the logical structures, systems, and interrelationships among all fields of knowledge.
(Blazek & Aversa, 2000, p. 28)
Origin of term
  • The term philosophy itself comes from the Greek philosophia, which means love of wisdom.
  • Ancient Greeks were the first known western philosophers dating back to 500 BC.
  • Non-western philosophy: long history in China and India
  • Western philosophy: generally developed independently of Eastern philosophy

Philosophy in everyday lives
Every institution of society is based on philosophic ideas:
  • Law
  • Government
    • Collective versus independent
  • Religion
    • Traditions
  • Family
    • Raising
  • Marriage
    • More than one
    • Wife can be acceptable
  • Industry
    • Worker treatment should be greater than productivity
  • Business
  • Education
The basic idea is of good understanding and treatment of others, although numerous countries have a different understanding.

Branches of philosophy
  • Aesthetics
  • Ethics
  • Logic
    • The study of the principles and methods of reasoning
    • Studies what rules a person must follow in order to think correctly
    • The syllogism is its most familiar form
      • All terriers are dogs.
      • All terriers are mammals.
      • All mammals are dogs.
        • Although this reasoning makes sense, it is false.

  • The study of the fundamental nature of reality and existence and of the essences of things
  • Often divided into two areas:
    • Ontology
      • The study of being
    • Cosmology
      • The study of the origin and nature of the physical universal (the cosmos)
Metaphysics deals with such questions as:
  • What is reality?
  • What is the distinction between appearance and reality?
  • What are the most general principles and concepts by which our experiences can be interpreted and understood?
  • Do we possess free will or are our actions determined by causes over which we have no control?
  • Epistemology aims to determine the nature, basis, and extent of knowledge
  • Asks questions such as:
    • What are the features of genuine knowledge as distinct from what appears to be knowledge?
    • What is truth, and how can we know what is true and what is false?
    • Are there different kinds of knowledge, with different grounds and characteristics?
Philosophical theology
  • Is there a God?
  • If there is, what is He/She like?
  • Is man immortal?
  • Is God’s goodness a factor in the direction of nature and of human life?
  • If God does direct man’s life, in what sense is man free?
  • Why is there evil in the world?
Philosophical psychology
  • What exactly is man’s mind?
  • Is mind basically a soul or spirit?
    • Or neither?
  • Or is mind a process that depends on the body?
    • Is it psychological or physical?
  • How are mind and body related?
  • Philosophical psychology also addresses the many concepts having an essential mental element:
    • Belief
    • Desire
    • Emotion
    • Feeling
    • Sensation
    • Passion
    • Will
    • Personality
    • and others.
Some subfields of ethics
  • Political philosophy
    • Examines the nature and possible arguments for various competing forms of political organization, such as
      • Laissez-faire capitalism
        • Everyone sinks/swims
      • Welfare democracy (capitalistic and socialistic)
      • Anarchism
      • Communism
        • Karl Marx research from British Library
      • Fascism, etc.
        • Hitler
        • Franco
        • Mussolini
  • Social philosophy
    • Treats such moral problems with large-scale social dimensions as
      • The basis of compulsory education
      • The possible grounds for preferential treatment of minorities
        • Traditionally shut out
      • The justice of taxation
        • Rich get richer, poor gets poorer, middle can get by
      • The appropriate limits, if any, on free expression in the arts
        • censorship
  • Law philosophy
    • Explores such topics as
      • What law is
      • What kinds of laws there are
      • How law is or should be related to morality
      • What sorts of principles should govern punishment and criminal justice in general
  • Medical ethics
    • Examines such questions as
      • Standards applying to physician-patient relationships
      • Moral questions raised by special procedures, such as abortion and ceasing of life-support for terminal patients
      • Ethical standards for medical research, for instance genetic engineering and experimentation using human subjects
  • Business ethics
    • Explores such questions as
      • How moral obligations may conflict with the profit motive and how these conflicts may be resolved
        • Free trade/NAFTA moving production to Mexico because it had cheaper labour; was it right for Canadians to lose their jobs?
      • The nature and scope of the social responsibilities of corporations, their rights in a free society, and their relations to other institutions
  • Aesthetics (Esthetics)
    • Aesthetics deals with the creation and principles of art and beauty
    • It’s wider than Philosophy of Art as it involves both works of art created by human beings and the beauty found in nature
    • Asks such questions as:
      • How can people’s taste in the arts be improved?
        • Collect non-popular articles
        • Good literature
        • Classical music
      • How should the arts be taught in the schools?
        • appreciation
      • Do governments have the right to restrict artistic expression?
        • Censorship
        • Local community standards
  • Philosophy of language
    • The nature of language
    • The nature of meaning
    • The relations between words and things
    • The various theories of language learning
      • See as a whole
      • Sound out
    • Terminology
      • Until the 1700s, no distinction was made between science and philosophy. For example, physics was called natural philosophy.
      • Psychology was part of what was called moral philosophy.
      • Logic has always been considered a branch of philosophy. However, logic has now developed to the point where it is also a branch of mathematics.
    • Other subfields:
      • Philosophy of History
      • Philosophy of Mathematics
      • Philosophy of Education
      • Philosophy of Feminism
      • Philosophy of Linguistics
      • Philosophy of Criticism
      • Philosophy of Culture
      • Philosophy of Film
Non-western philosophies
  • Major movements include
    • Buddhism
    • Jainism
    • Hindu philosophies
    • Confucianism and non-Confucianism
    • Taiosm
    • The Chinese Yin-Yang School
    • Islamic philosophy
Western and non-Western philosophy
  • The line between the two is now less clear now than it once was. Western philosophies have penetrated deeply into the non-Western world, and vice-versa.
  • Marxism may have been for a time the most significant
    • Now waning
    • Discredited
  • Though great interest in non-Western thought (often in association with religious interests), very few philosophers in the West have come to “do philosophy” in a non-Western world
    • Subject to change. New philosophy teaching methods relating to current affairs
Philosophy and libraries
Interdisciplinary nature of philosophy
A cohesive body of literature exists that may be classified as ‘philosophy’. However, philosophy attached to other subject areas may be spread throughout the library, thereby complicating access since all works will not be together physically.
The literature of philosophy
  • Literature of philosophy widely used and particular authors well cited in social sciences and sciences as well as the humanities
  • Heavy reliance on monographs by scholars
  • Primary sources (also translations)
    • Most studied: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume, Descartes, Hegel, Marx, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Kant, Husserl, Russell, and Dewey
Philosophy users
  • Laypersons
    • Popularizing works
  • General students
    • Textbooks
  • • Scholars
    • Scholarly works

The study of man’s beliefs and practices in relation to God, gods, or the supernatural.
(Lester Asheim, The Humanities and the Library, 1956, p. 2)

  • Very broad discipline
    • No one religion
  • Religious literature perhaps the largest subject class in extent and variety
    • Bible
    • Koran
    • Scriptures
    • Sacred texts
    • Concordance
    • Commentaries
    • Comparatives
    • Hymn books
    • Prayer books
    • Tracks
    • Biblical stories/books
Many facets of religious studies
“The religious studies curriculum has become, increasingly, a crazy quilt of courses encompassing many disciplines, eras, religions, languages, and methods of enquiry.”
  • Cultic institutions dedicated to religious ends
    • Mainstream religions, cults and sects
  • Charismatic figures
  • Sociology of religion
  • Christian history and theology
  • Biblical studies
  • Anthropology of religion
  • The Bible as literature
    • Archaeological
  • Philosophy of religion
    • Interdisciplinary
  • Psychology of religion
  • Theology
  • Islamic studies
  • Jewish studies
    • Faith
  • Women and religion
    • Their place
  • Comparative religion
  • Religion and literature
  • Religion and the arts
    • Michelangelo
      • Images of Mary and Jesus
      • Only date back to the 15th century
      • Expressions
  • Religion and science
  • Church history
  • Geography of religion
  • Relates to archaeology
  • History of religion
    • Various types
  • Religious ethics
  • Near Eastern languages and literatures
  • East Asian, African and Indian religions
  • Religion and society
    • Separation
  • Religious education
  • Contemporary religious thought, etc.
Changes in study of religion
  • Since World War II the academic study of religion has generally prospered in North American colleges and universities
  • The more conservative faith based institutions have tended to retain an exclusively Christian focus
  • Secular institutions, responding to ecumenical and secularizing forces, have broadened their programs
  • The amalgamation of philosophy and religious studies are quite common
  • Generally, the recent tendency has been away from a sole focus on the Judaeo-Christian tradition to more global perspectives
  • Today, as such areas as Jewish studies, African religions, eastern religion, religion and women, etc. are increasingly taught, more often than not they and other religion courses are taught by non-clerics.
  • Comparative religion and history of religion have been particularly big growth subjects
  • Liberation theory has also been very popular
Library inadequacy
  • Recent growth of Religious Studies have left many, even large, libraries with very shallow collections in the field, particularly with respect to primary source documents as well as interpretive works now out of print
  • E.g. growing interest in Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism
“Innovative” resources now common
Scholars often make use of materials not previously considered important to the study of religion:
  • Myths and folktales
  • Poetry and devotional epics
  • Psychoanalytic tracts and case studies
  • Newspapers
  • Proper journals and journals from other disciplines
  • Studies and theoretical works from the social sciences
  • The published writings of feminists, Third World commentators, etc.
Libraries need a totally balanced collection – difficiult
  • Also often difficult to categorize religious materials neatly or easily:
    • In LC, for example, most religious materials are in the BL-BX classification, but religious ethics is in BJ, religious dance and aspects of primitive religions in GV, religious music in M, and religion in literature and religious drama in PN
Great need for a collection policy statement
  • While a policy is of course needed to ensure the integrity and comprehensiveness of the collection, it will also help safeguard against undue pressure from specific “difficult” groups or individual patrons
  • Library holdings must be both multidisciplinary and cross-cultural
  • Must have a Global Perspective: “Only by locating Western traditions in the total history of humankind can one truly appreciate the commonalities these share with other religions as well as the uniqueness and integrity of each religious tradition”
Major religious literature divisions
  • Theology
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Science of religion (scientific study of religion)
  • Personal religion
    • Sacred scriptures
      • Bible
      • Koran
    • Commentaries
    • Popularizations, biography, devotional
“Popular literature”
  • Includes the fiction, inspirational works pamphlets, sermons, music, and self-help materials produced by many religious and secular houses as well as by local congregations and other groups
Unpublished materials create problems
  • Church minutes and records
  • Collections of sermons
  • Manuscript autobiographies
  • Pamphlets and religious tracts
  • Travelers’ accounts
    • Pilgrimages
  • Oral histories
  • Personal correspondence
  • And so on
This information is often poorly documented and just as often very scattered
Housed in churches, provincial, and academic affiliated collections

Microform collections are very important
Older material may no longer be made. Microformed or scanned reproductions are cheaper to make and ensures that more access is available to materials that have been around for centuries

Computers in religion
  • Increasing importance of Internet resources
  • Concordancing and indexing
  • Electronic texts
  • E-mail
  • List servs
A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company

Deals with Gods and Goddesses and bigger than life collections, e.g. myth of creation. Associated with Greek and Roman mythology, myths and legends
  • Myths are concerned with the supernatural and are especially associated with religious feasts, festivals, rites and beliefs
  • Mythology often classified by social scientists as part of primitive religion
  • Links to anthropology, classics, literatures, theology
1. The traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. 2. The comparative study of folk knowledge and culture.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company

  • Term coined in 1846 to replace “popular antiquities”
    • Relatively new
    • Traditions relating to people
  • Now an independent discipline in universities
    • Newfoundland’s Memorial University probably has one of the biggest collections
Folk Heritage Collections
Problems of preservation and access
See: Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis
Oral traditions and folk songs recorded on tape will deteriorate over time; not to mention the disappearance of equipment to play

Monday, June 17, 2013

Academic Disciplines: Humanities. DDP Gen ED 300. Washington State University Libraries.

Academic Disciplines: Humanities. DDP Gen ED 300. Washington State University Libraries.

After scholars have communicated informally with colleagues via the invisible college, performed literature searches, and consulted their own professional reading collections, they develop a research design for a specific research project. 
When the project is complete, the scholar may communicate the research results at a professional conference, and/or publish the article in a refereed journal, laying out the results of the research in a highly defined manner. Refereed journals have editorial boards and editors who carefully sift articles submitted to them and judge them by exciting standards, such as soundness of research methodology, quality of writing and presentation, and originality of ideas. In this sense the editors are exercising a gatekeeping function: that is, they control what gets published according to their view of what is valuable or appropriate to their discipline or sub-discipline at the time. This process of “quality control” is exercised by colleagues or other people in the same field and is therefore called peer review. 
Journal articles are often later reviewed, and critiqued by other scholars familiar with the subject. If the original research article proves especially significant, its results may be discussed in a monograph (book) summarizing research on specific topics in the field. 
Finally, though years later, the results may be mentioned in a specialized encyclopedia – by which time the results may have been significantly challenged or questioned by much newer research. Other researchers may find new ideas for research on this topic at various stages of this process; it is likely, though, that they will be plugged into the invisible college and therefore will not be dependent on older sources such as encyclopedias. This cyclical pattern of original research, followed by a chain of various publication formats, is known as the publication cycle. 
There are, of course, variations on the basic pattern which reflect the differing orientations of the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Image from:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Interdisciplinary research

If you’ve read the “Discourse” module, you’ve learned about the main building blocks which shape all of the various academic disciplines – the invisible college, primary and secondary resources, discourse communities, and publication cycle
Of course, there are vast difference in the orientation and approach to knowledge among these three schools of knowledge. Increasingly, scholars of all disciplines conduct “interdisciplinary research” which draws from not just one academic discipline, but two or more disciplines.
This is especially true in the Social Sciences. This approach to research recognizes that most research topics spill over into other disciplines. For example, the topic of “learning disabilities” pertains not only to education, but also psychology and even sociology. When you determine which academic discipline(s) your research draws on, you are also determining many of the qualities your project or paper will contain.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What is discourse?

The word “discourse” is a fairly common one, although we may interchange it for the word “discussion” or “conversation” in everyday speech. To better understand the full meaning of the word, we will look at how it is defined within The Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary provides us with several definitions of the term “discourse”. The first two definitions below are somewhat archaic now, but still hold relevance for out discussion: 
  • “Process or faulty of reasoning”, as in the phrase “discourse of reason”
  • A spoken or written treatment of a subject, in which it is handled or discussed at length”
  • “Familiarity with a subject; conversancy” and “mutual intercourse of language”
Briefly think about what discourse, or conversation, between individuals requires. They need to speak the same language, for example. Discourse is further facilitated by shared assumptions, cultural cues, and values. Groups of people who communicate with these shared qualities can be called discourse communities.
What is Academic Discourse?
Academic disciplines are just one example of discourse communities. Attorneys, physicians, carpenters, and any other profession you can identify make up their own discourse communities. Discourse communities share common understandings, norms, and conventions for communicating in their discipline, particularly in writing. You might imagine that all biologists, for example, agree on certain facts and use specific terminology to describe those facts. This notion of discourse communities will help you understand some of the varieties of language and search vocabularies used in various search tools as you do your own research. 
Scholars and researchers share some distinctive habits and practices, especially in their methods of communicating with each other. Many rely heavily on their colleagues for information about new developments in their fields. They may confer by phone, communicate by e-mail, pass drafts of research articles back and forth by regular mail or e-mail, and attend conferences in their specialities where they learn by word-of-mouth about the latest research, teaching practices, or other trends in their disciplines. 
Because they use informal communication channels, scholars and re searchers are often described as members of the invisible college. The invisible college is a network or web of informal communication among individuals with similar interests. It contrasts with the more formal ways that scholars use for obtaining information, such as doing literature reviews in libraries. The invisible college lacks formal organizational structure, and formality in its method of communication. “Invisibility” describes a component of its very existence. 
More formal ways in which researchers communicate are through the publication of conference papers, journal articles and books. Publications of this type usually undergo a strict “peer review” which ensures the quality and accuracy of these professional, researched materials.