Sunday, 19 December 2010

Disillusioned II (Redemption)

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has been so kind to leave comments in my blog particularly those that were made on my previous post. I wish to clarify a few things about that post and simultaneously respond to some of the comments made.

Students who took the course History & Philosophy of Psychology with me would probably recall my fascination with the ideas of a certain philosopher of science named Paul Feyerabend. Feyerabend was a controversial figure who advocated the argument that science does not need strict methodologies. His most famous book was aptly titled Against Method in which his main thesis was, in science "anything goes".

As someone who has always been quite uncomfortable with strict adherence with methods and methodologies, Feyerabend's ideas were certainly very appealing. Here is a philosopher who has written exactly about what I've been struggling with philosophically and intellectually. In all these years that I've been a student and teacher of psychology, I've never been able to really embrace the conventional notion of what is scientific and what is not. I certainly do not think that pure objectivity is ever possible and I find many of the so called 'scientific' arguments in the humanities and social sciences very pedantic and superficial.

This is the 'demon' that has haunted me for many years that no matter how much I read and try to impress myself with 'scientific' academic work, almost always I end up feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned. Haunted by this still I am as I continue to struggle this past year conceptualising my doctoral research. The dilemma here is, how to remain true and honest to my philosophical beliefs while accepting that adherence to certain rules and principles is mandatory?

That is me and my confused state of thinking. While I continue with my own internal struggle, I have never and will never look at it as a way to elevate myself above others. Others are entitled to form their own opinion and I respect them for that. Allow me to put it on record here that my previous post was never intended to criticise in any way any of my colleagues and friends. If indeed I have hurt anyone's feelings, please accept my apology.

Let me now explain the context behind my general criticism against academicians written in my previous post. Since my doctoral research is essentially about ethnic relations in Malaysia, I've been reading various literatures on the issue available across all fields of social sciences. I was impressed by many of these work but cannot honestly say the same for some others. What I find to be very disconcerting on one hand, are scholars/writers who pass simplistic and bias conclusions. And on the other, those who dwell too much on fancy terminologies and theories while offering little in real substance. Of course, one is entitled to express his/her subjective opinions. But an academic by right should know how to refrain him/herself from passing unfair judgments against others.

If I may briefly offer an example, on the issue of the education system in Malaysia particularly the argument for and against national schools and vernacular schools, I do not think for once there are any sides who are totally right or totally wrong. Such a complex issue should be analysed in all its complexities. I can understand if a politician argues in such a way that he projects the blame totally to a particular group. Politicians are concern about being popular hence they often resort to petty and simplistic arguments. But when an academician resorts to the same sort of argument, I find that very sad and annoying.

I hope this post will help clarify a few things. Certainly, many things I've written here have touched the surface of various intellectual and philosophical issues that I hope to discuss and write more about in the future. Ma'as salamah!