DEVELOPMENT THEORIES AND THEIR PHILOSOPHICAL ROOTS

SEAMUS GERARD CONNOLLY, Fordham University

Abstract

One of the primary tasks if not the primary task of philosophy is to criticize and question assumptions and accepted conclusions. In this dissertation the author analyzes the assumptions that underlie the approach of many scholars to the study of underdevelopment and development. The focus is not so much on explicit and individual value premises that an author may consciously or unconsciously bring to the analysis of any social reality. Rather an attempt is made to go deeper into the western tradition to analyze the philosophy of man and society that continues to exert a powerful influence on social thinking and to show the implication of this philosophy for development studies.^ This philosophy is not a collection of separable concepts in psychology, epistemology, economics, or politics. Rather all of those disciplines are influenced by a unified and interconnected set of ideas that resulted from the breakthrough that occurred in Rennaisance Science and the philosophy that was built on the scientific conclusions. The method of science was applied without much qualification to human and social affairs in a manner that predetermined in important ways how questions were asked and what kinds of answers were given. The result was reductionism in epistemology, ontology, and political theory.^ Knowledge was reduced to the scientific, to what was quantifiable and measurable. The quality of things, including the quality of life was the secondary, changeable, and unreliable aspects of things, while moral statements or preferences had no basis in reality, but reflected only the irrational preference of the individual professing them. Man himself was reduced to being another part of the mechanical universe. The method of science removed him from any social context in which his nature could be understood, it deprived him of any objective purpose or meaning in life, and it radically separated his reasoning capabilities from the passionate drives or desires that moved him.^ All of those suppositions also predetermined the nature of political society and formed the basis for the concept of democracy that became the norm in most western nations. This political theory was based on the individualistic and psychological assumptions that an original group of equal, atomic individuals were forced to enter the political community in order to protect themselves and their property from one another.^ This set of ideas forms the unquestioned foundations on which western social thought in general has been built, and in turn forms the basis from which development problems were analyzed. It is in fact a very particular vision of the nature of man and society and very distinct from the vision that preceded it historically in Europe and from the visions in most underdeveloped nations today. The vision took on an absolute appearance and made absolute claims precisely because it eliminated, in its own construction, any method of knowing whereby it could be evaluated.^ In development studies it combined with a philosophy of history to indicate the path the developing nations would have to follow if they were to develop.^ To trace the origin and development of those ideas is not to refute them, but rather to show their relativity both historically and geographically. When they are applied to other cultures and when policy for development is based on them, there is a great need for evaluation so that the people of the underdeveloped world will not end up being passive recipients of change, but can determine what kind of life, social organization, or society they want. Such an evaluation presumes an adequate epistemology and an attempt to fashion a philosophy of man and society that can be used in transcultural comparison or evaluation. ^

Subject Area

Political science

Recommended Citation

CONNOLLY, SEAMUS GERARD, "DEVELOPMENT THEORIES AND THEIR PHILOSOPHICAL ROOTS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8111313.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111313

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