In the previous chapters, and especially in the context of our treatment of
propositional knowledge and
belief, we have not only spoken about 'philosophy', 'ideology' and
'science' but also about 'religion' and 'supernaturalism', about
'scientific knowledge' and 'denominational thought'.
When now taking a closer look at the meaning of such terms as science
and religion, that is, as used by ourselves, we shall not put the
cart before the horse by asking what science is (or what the
meaning of science is), or by asking what religion is (or
what the meaning of religion is).
These questions may be interesting from a linguistic or sociological angle,
they need no precise answer when starting from such general concepts as
proposition and theory.
On our systematical approach the question is rather what distinguishes one
body of propositions, or of uttered propositions, from another body of
propositions, and what distinguishes one kind of theory from another kind
Furthermore, we will have to clarify whether types of propositional entities
semantically exclude each other by definition or whether, perhaps, the one
type is to be subsumed under the other, also by definition.
Altho we shall assume an
instrumentalistic attitude towards the use of terms such as science
and religion, it remains recommendable, of course, to stay as close
as possible to the everyday meaning of such terms; that is, close enough
but without mutilating our own body of thought.
Theorists and theoreticians have always referred to what philosophy,
ideology, science 'and so on' —whatever that may mean— are,
or have in common, in many different ways.
They have spoken of "sides of social life", "kinds of social activity"
or "forms of behavior" (which would also include production and
The same people who speak of "kinds of social activity" also call them
"forms of intellectual activity", which very much resembles the phrase
Other expressions employed to refer to science, religion, the
arts 'and so on' are styles of thought or kinds of
(cultural) symbol system. Since on our ontological construction the
basic element of our own characterization of philosophy, ideology and
so on is the proposition, it is the intellectual aspect, or the
fact that we are dealing with thought, which should provide us
with some unity in this muddle of designata.
Accordingly, we take it that 'philosophy' or 'ideology' in our sense could
never exist without thought, but that they could exist without
communication — albeit, perhaps, they could not.
This is something else than claiming that philosophy, ideology, and also
science, are social activities in which the presence of thought would be
Moreover, granted that philosophy, ideology and science may be 'social
activities' insofar as the act of thinking, which is language-dependent,
is itself called "a social activity", the description is far too broad,
because it also encompasses all kinds of social activity, or sides of
social life, which certainly do not belong to what we are dealing with
here, such as organized sports, warfare and making love together.
The products of philosophy and science may be symbol systems, and in a
loose sense philosophy and science may be symbol systems themselves, yet
also this typification is too broad, for languages, too, are symbol
And then thought itself is a symbol system or the production of such a
This may confirm our position that there is a necessary relationship
between the category to which philosophy, science, ideology and at least
part of the arts belong and the activity of thinking, but there must be
some quality in which these thought systems differ from other forms of
This essential feature is that philosophy, science, et cetera, are modes of
thought which are somehow governed by one or more principles, even
if it is 'only' the principle to create something as beautiful as possible
as may (but need not) be the case in literary undertakings — and why
As such they are modes of thought related to some theory or
doctrine. The basics of such a theory or doctrine can be taught
and learned. That is why we shall speak of "disciplinary thought".
Philosophical, scientific, ideological and literary thought are
disciplinary forms of thought in that they all relate to a
particular field of study, or to a 'discipline' in the sense of
a subject which can be taught and learned. Obviously it is not a
good story or poem itself which can be learned but the art or
principles of writing a good story or poem.
While what these principles are believed to be may differ from teacher to
teacher, each teacher's thought itself is disciplinary, regardless of
'er choice of principles or theory.
Nondisciplinary thought is random or anecdotal, which does not mean that
it must be false.
But if it is true, and not purely observational (if, and insofar as, this
is feasible), it is not yet knowledge but merely belief which happens to be
Since disciplinary thought rests on at least one principle, it is not
random or anecdotal.
Nevertheless, like nondisciplinary thought it may still be either true or
Therefore it is nonsensical to define principle as general
truth; at most a principle is a general proposition believed to
be true, that is, a doxastic truth.
It is better to conceive of a principle as something intended as a rule or
code, not only of practical conduct but also of one's thinking in a
As something which is meant to guide one's thought, a principle is, then,
a fundamental assumption or rule.
(It must not be said that all thought in all its aspects is guided by
principles, for this drains the concept of 'principle', and of
'discipline', of all meaning.)
Knowledge is a form of true disciplinary thought, and yet, true
disciplinary thought need not be knowledge — it, too, might just
happen to be true.
Consider, for example, a religion (in the sense of a system of thought)
whose fundamental tenet it is that everything written down in certain
'sacred scriptures' is true.
Such a religion is a product or form of disciplinary thought
founded upon a very lucid principle.
If the scriptures are of any noticeable size at all, it would be highly
unlikely that literally all the propositions therein would be false, but it
would also be unlikely that a true proposition in one of those scriptures
would be the result of scientific deliberation or philosophical reflection.
According to the religion in question its followers should not only take
false propositions as true but also true ones (the only requirement being
that the pronouncements appear in the chosen writings).
Clearly, the system of disciplinary thought concerned may state things
which are true.
However, judging by the principles which lead to knowledge as distinct
from nonepistemic belief, the truth of the things stated is a mere
by-product of the religion's doxastic fundamental tenet.
Disciplinary thought may be said to reflect or constitute a
theory or doctrine. If there exists any difference in meaning
between theory and doctrine, then theory is
more often associated with knowledge, and doctrine with
(nonepistemic) belief. For example, theory is sometimes defined as
general or abstract principles of a body of science or as
plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of
principles offered to explain phenomena, whereas doctrine
has been defined as belief or set of beliefs which is taught.
On the other hand, the main, general and abstract principles of an art
or of a form of art are called "theory" as well, while a
doctrine may be either a system of belief or of knowledge when
defined as principle or whole of principles in a branch of
knowledge or system of belief. In short: we shall use
theory and doctrine as synonyms, the sole difference being,
perhaps, that a doctrine may encompass several theories, and not the
other way around.
Hence, both a 'theory' and a 'doctrine' may be systems of nonepistemic
belief or of knowledge, and —what is an entirely different
matter— both may be true or false, let alone relevant or
Strictly from the point of view of ontology the most important subdivision
of disciplinary thought is that into
normative disciplinary thought.
This is a subdivision based on
the triadic sphericity of reality.
Disciplinary thought may also be subdivided on the basis of other
factors tho, for example, according to the social function or
esthetic qualities of a theory or body of theories. It is when a
mixture of several of these factors is considered that we arrive
at the departments of disciplinary thought which are generally
acknowledged in everyday language, such as science and philosophy.
In the following two sections we shall discuss four of such
departments without claiming to cover all of them.