The Symbiotic Relationship between Liberal Studies and Science

Article excerpt

Introduction

Coming from a third world University, though rated as one of the best in our clime, I count it an honour to be invited to this edition of the Oxford Round Table to rub minds with you on one of the crucial issues in the front burner of university education in the world today. Indeed, it is because I count it a great honour to be here that I was able to squeeze water out of rock to generate fund to attend this forum.

Income in many African universities is meagre, and by extension, funding for this sort of academic intercourse is grossly inadequate [Osuntokun, A., 2006, p.16]. To add insult to injury, you are further depressed if you are a scholar of one of the disciplines in the liberal arts (say, Philosophy) considered by many in our shores, including colleagues in the sciences and professional studies as recondite. Liberal arts is perceived as a luxury and a troublesome and meddlesome academic endeavour because of the inquisitiveness and critical attitude of its practitioners; characteristics that, in other climes, endear Liberal Studies to humanity.

These preambular statements may seem out of character, but they serve to illuminate one of the key points of this paper that deliberate under-funding arising fundamentally from ignorance which has considerably diminished the significance and contribution of liberal studies to society, whereas in point of fact, it (liberal studies) ought to be the animator, illuminator, guide and guard of science and mankind.

It is to the task of calling attention to the need to liquidate ignorance and cultivate the intellect to capture the symbiotic relationship obtaining between liberal studies and science that this paper is directed. Accordingly, I begin by expressing my understanding of the concept of the university. I lay out the scholastic components of the university and the structural content of the two major cultures of liberal studies and science therein I highlight what I consider to be the responsibility of and the relationship between liberal studies and science, which ought to elicit fair and equal treatment of the two cultures. I connect the tension between the two cultures to the mind-body problem. And finally, I show that developments in cybernetics and parapsychology or psychical research have thrown new insights that attenuate the mind-body dichotomy, which, by extension, ought to ease out the tension between liberal studies and science.

The Concept of the University

Historically, the concept of the University developed from a humble beginning with the establishment of the Academy by Plato in the Olive grooves of Academicus on the outskirts of Athens (Greece) in the 4th Century B. C. In the Academy, Plato taught courses in all branches of Philosophy including Mathematics and studies of natural phenomena, "using observation and deductive reasoning as tools of analysis" (See Ajayi, J. F. A., 2001, pp. 1-2; Osuntokun, A., 2006, pp. 10-11).

However, the culture of debate and critical enquiry amongst the Greeks started with curiosity and wonder about natural and social phenomena and about the meaning of concepts culminating in the birth of the Academy and the Lyceum, institutions in Ancient Greece historically acknowledged as precursors of modern universities.

The pre-Socratics, [i.e. the Milesians, the Eleatics and the Sophists] all wondered aloud in the village square about the ultimate constitution of the universe, about the ultimate nature of things, about the nature of concepts and about the structure of the human society. They wondered about the fundamental building block of the universe, what constituted valid public information (knowledge) which can be stored and transmitted to generations and what constituted the bond that bound society together [Russell, B., 1979, pp. 44-48; Cf. Omoregbe, J. I., 2002, pp. 3-29]. Plato and Aristotle reasoned that the best way to immortalize the intellectual curiosities and wonders of the Athenians was to create the suitable ambience to formalise and integrate all forms of knowledge. …