What is philosophical thinking and what is its significance in the society?

Every time I introduce myself and my academic backgrounds, a number of people, including university dons, do ask me to spell out the meaning of philosophical thinking and its significance in the society. One would be interested to know that human activities are philosophically inclined whether one is a trained philosopher or not. This is because the human mind is inclined to think and ask questions pertaining to life. The distinction is at the level of asking, posing and responding to issues raised. While non-philosophers will have a popular way of responding to issues, a trained philosopher will have analytical, non-contradictory, clear and issue-related answers to whatever question/issue that is raised. Hence, the difference is sorted out through what we refer to as “the popular sense” and “the academic sense” of philosophy. It is the latter that this article addresses with the aim of concluding that, every field, including the technological world requires people possessing philosophical thinking. This is because philosophy is an activity of the mind; an intellectual enterprise that challenges one to think and produce knowledge for the betterment of humanity of which the technological world cannot ignore.

Science of the mind

It should be noted that, philosophy is a science of the mind and it cuts across all academic disciplines. It is a philosophical mind that makes one to wonder, doubt, become inquisitive and eventually, innovative and creative in all areas affecting humanity including and not limited to; environment, engineering, business, medicine, technology, politics, universe as well as arts and that which influences or affects human behavior. It is philosophical thinking that makes one to be evaluative, analytical and strategic in desiring the required goals leading into a mission that is visionary in nature. The world of technology cannot exist without this “science of the mind.”

Globally and in every institution of learning, regardless of its status, there must be elements of philosophy. This is true because philosophy touches so many subjects and its methods can be used in any field, including that of technology. The study of philosophy helps human beings to enhance and possess the ability to solve problems, their communication skills, their persuasive powers and their writing skills. In essence, there are philosophical elements in every subject one engages in; mathematics particularly in algebra or calculus (symbolic logic), music and arts (aesthetics), biological and human behaviour (ethics), education (epistemology and the order of things/being (metaphysics). Hence, there is no one academic discipline that does not employ philosophical thinking in the process of attaining its goals and objectives. An engineer in nanotechnology requires a philosophical mind to make things work. A medical doctor working in the laboratory developing a particular vaccine will require being methodical in analyzing the required doses; this is all philosophical in nature. Even when one discusses time, microcosms, fluid mechanics as well as food science, chemistry, business studies, entrepreneurship, ICT and computer science, philosophical thinking must be applied.

One might ask, why philosophical thinking in areas that appear so technical and practical in nature?

Necessary skills

The skills that one needs in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving and decision making. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way one expresses ideas. In learning how to analyze the logical structure of texts, philosophical and critical thinking improves comprehension abilities and gives impetus to self-reflection and provides the tools for self-evaluation.  Through philosophy, one can ensure that academic knowledge is retained in every level of academic participation including in submitted assignments and passing competently in all examined areas.

It is through philosophical thinking that students are also able to develop a sense of personal humane values and ethics thus providing a better upbringing for them to cope in the later years of their life even when they get employed or become job-creators in their respective countries. This is because philosophical thinking helps in solving problems -mundane or abstract, and it helps one make better decisions by developing his/her critical thinking which assists one to reflect, analyze the reality, acquire and filter through available information. It also assists one to be good in arguments structuring, creative in generating ideas and making proper decision for an organization. Though philosophical thinking assists in making one a good debater, it also enables one to be committed, responsible and accountable to any situation in life including combating crime and corruption in and around any jurisdiction.

Conclusively, philosophical studies culminating in critical thinking is therefore the “key thing” that must drive all units offered at institutions of learning and as charity begins at home, it’s what we strive to achieve at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology where our motto philosophically states “Better Life through Technology”. This better life can only occur when one is grounded in philosophical thinking. Like Socrates would put it, “unexamined life is not worthy living”; it is the same with students either from Business, Engineering or Science schools not studying IGS 1104: Introduction to Philosophy and Critical Thinking offered here at DeKUT. If this foundational unit lacks, then, all other units become blur including those offered from a technological perspective.

By Prof. Theuri Matthew M., PhD
Director, DeKUT Institute of General Studies

Prof. Theuri has taught philosophy and other related units at the university level for over thirty years. He has also been giving seminars on ethics, governance and leadership over the same period of time and possesses broad knowledge and experience on the areas.