So I have just started a peer-support moodle page for a group of like-minded doctoral candidates who are full-time educators and part-time students trudging through the rigors of the dissertation. I thought to share an interesting question that was raised today by a fellow Pacific island daughter. She wrote: “I am curious, what does it mean when people say ‘From a philosophical or non-philosophical standpoint’ what is the difference? It has occurred to me that the two terms are both relevant in my writing on IK but discussions would be generated from a non-philosophical perspective. What does this imply?”

It took me a while to collect my thoughts after a solid six hours of online marking but the question really intrigued me. I had never before ever considered the possibility of a non-philosophical standpoint nor had I ever heard that phrase ever been uttered – “from a non-philosophical standpoint” before. Before you blow me out of the water consider my thought processes:

Initial hypothesis: If philosophy is understood to be loosely a system of beliefs, values and principles then every statement is a value statement (based on our own personal philosophies) right? And it would then be impossible to speak without any reference point.

I am thinking of constructivism in education where new information is processed as new knowledge only when it can be connected to existing or prior knowledge so I am wondering how I might be able to take a standpoint that is not based on any prior assumptions or values or beliefs. In my mind, as long as I am taking a standpoint it would inevitably be a philosophical one.. am i making any sense?

Second hypothesis: If we look at philosophy as a discipline (more structured/academic box!smile then it would be the theories and ideas related to that specific discipline or subject e.g. education.. So maybe it is in this box that the notion of a non-philosophical standpoint might be considered? If for example if it was a discussion in education then a philosophical standpoint would be specifically grounded in educational theories and ideas – although even within there are so many so even saying that is soooo vague… unless we specify which theoretical lens or paradigm we are using…

Ok so half an hour later, a cup of tea and a cigarette did not unfurrow the brow so I went to bother the hubby who was making dinner. His economic and computing + art and culture brain seemed to get it immediately. He explained that non-philosophical statements are facts such as water freezing and becoming ice!

So that led me to my 3rd hypothesis: Philosophical standpoints  apply in a discussion where perspectives are being established i.e Interpretivism when we recognize multiple realities or subjective contextual interpretivism/ relativism. On the other hand, Positivism  recognizes the world is a world of facts i.e. Empiricism – where facts are non-debatable so therefore stating these facts or taking a purely factual standpoint would be taking the non-philosophical standpoint.

After this little exercise, I realize that I am such a qualitative interpretivist interested in contextual realities that sometimes I forget about Positivism 🙂

I hope someone else has something to add.

Any ideas anyone?