Developing a scientific culture through supervision

Abstract

Through effective educational transmission cultural traditions are passed on to subsequent generations. The presence of alternative theoretical views of reality (paradigms) in various academic disciplines uprooted the positivistic conviction that genuine science ought to be ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’. The background of this view is found in Renaissance and post-Renaissance philosophy, with its initial points of culmination in the thought of the 18th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant. He safe-guarded autonomous human freedom by restricting scholarship to phenomena (subject to the universal law of causality). The dialectic between nature and freedom gave direction to modern philosophy. Non-reductionist orientations eventually emerged recognising what is irreducible. Although a sound academic culture,operative within supervision to doctoral students, must pay attention to argumentative skills and informal logic, it must at the same time acknowledge the limitations of logic. The principle of sufficient reason refers human thinking beyond logic itself. The supervisor therefore should generate, amongst students, an awareness of the difference between reductionist and non-reductionist ontologies. Doctoral students must also realise that persistent themes and scientific revolutions go hand-in-hand. Some examples of seeing the aspects of reality as modes of explanation are given, before the seven aims of scientific endeavors identified by Stafleu are stipulated. This constitutes another important guideline that ought to be taken into account in supervising post-graduate work. Argumentative skills, scientific communication and the status of facts are discussed before a concluding formulation is given in which the overall argument of the article is summarised.
https://doi.org/10.4102/koers.v77i2.57
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