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Dear Friends/Students

Happy Teacher’s Day to All

This page ‘Elements of Philosophy” is a study material page for BA First Year (Ist Semester) philosophy students studying under Panjab University Chandigarh. I am teaching this course since 2010 and found difficulty in the subject-matter of the paper.

This page is a reflection of our class-room teaching of the content. The aim of this paper is to familiarize the students with the subject, its branches, problems and methods. The contents of this paper provide the students with a wider canvas about tackling day-to-day problems from a larger perspective. We are considering this page as an extension of online work of Centre for Positive Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies(CPPIS) Pehowa (Haryana). We made a difference in academic philosophy in India and developing it positively day by day.

We have an another page “A Class-Room Introduction to Logic” also covers the “Logic” paper of BA First Year (Ist Semester), its link given in the Link section. We have an another E-Content page for BA General (Philosophy) Course but this page is revised according to new Semester-System adopted from session 2014-2015. This page is officially released on the occasion of  Teacher’s Day Celebration at our Department of Philosophy and dedicated to All the Philosophers and Teachers who  are guiding and motivating us time to time.


This material is developed from various books, notes and online resources. A detailed list will be given in the  “Suggested Readings Section”. Some pictures are cited from various online pages, their links are cited in the end of every content page. It gives double benefit to us. First it made every page beautiful and secondly it also provide links to some philosophy pages too, which can be read for extra knowledge of philosophy course. This page a developing page, so change is necessary till the end of this session.  Hope this page will be helpful for our students as well as other students of philosophy. For any suggestions and comments, kindly contact to the below mentioned links:

Department Website: http://philgcg11chd.webs.com/


3rd September, 2014

Table of Contents


Introduction of Philosophy

Meaning and Definition of Philosophy

Nature of Philosophy

Subject-Matter and Scope

Utility of Philosophy

Social Equality



Critical Method of Philosophy

Reflective Method of Philosophy

Main Branches of Philosophy

Relation of Philosophy with Science

Relation of Philosophy with Religion

Ethics and Social Philosophy : Good life and Good Society

Morality in Public life

Morality in Personal life

Individual and Society

State and Civil Society

Tolerance : Respect for Cultural Pluralism and Social diversities

Justice : Virtue, Fairness, Equality

Caste System in India : Jyoti Ba Phule, Gandhi, Ambedkar

Suggested Readings

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Introduction of Philosophy

Nature of Phil

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language etc. It is a basic problem of defining philosophy, its methods and the problems etc. Many interpretations we can find in Indian and Western tradition regarding the nature of philosophy.

Philosophy is a fascinating subject which is personally relevant to every intelligent human being. There are some characteristics of a philosophical attitude which made difference in regard to the intellectual discipline of philosophy. The philosophical attitude includes a sense of wonder, doubting, criticism, reflection, universality, tolerance, preference to experience and reason. Philosophy affects the life of a philosopher, it also effects his social life and also effect the civilisation and culture.

Aristotle said long ago, “All human beings by nature desire to understand.” We are curious if nothing else, and it is one of the more admirable traits of human beings. We like to know what is going on and why. After we have fed ourselves and put a roof over our heads, and attended to other basic needs, the question arises what we are to do with our time. One suggestion is that we should raise our heads a bit and look around us and try to understand ourselves and things around us. This turns out to be interesting. It is the genesis of both science and philosophy, with science taking the more empirical road to understanding and philosophy the more conceptual. These are complementary enterprises and there have always been important connections between them which continue despite the growth of institutional science and its increasing splintering into more and more highly specialized sub-disciplines.

There are three common ways of introducing philosophy to people. One way is to focus on the ancient Greek thinkers who founded western philosophy, especially Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle etc. Second approach is  to  give a survey of the history of philosophy to students. The third and most popular way to teach philosophy is the “problems” approach which includes identifying, explaining and attempting to solve philosophical problems like, God, Reality, Freedom , Truth, Mind and more. It is an attempt here to familiarise students with some of the most basic problems in philosophy.

Philosophy in India

The term Indian philosophy (Sanskrit: Darshanas), may refer to any of several traditions of philosophical thought that originated in the Indian subcontinent, including Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and Jain philosophy. Having the same or rather intertwined origins, all of these philosophies have a common underlying theme of Dharma, and similarly attempt to explain the attainment of emancipation. Darśana ( Sanskrit: दर्शन) is a term meaning “sight” (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding; from a root dṛś “to see”), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for “visions of the divine,” e.g., of a god or a very holy person or artifact. Indian Philosophy have been formalized and promulgated chiefly between 1000 BC to a few centuries AD, with residual commentaries and reformations continuing up to as late as the 20th century by Sri Aurobindo and other philosophers.


  • Richard E. Creel, Thinking Philosophically: An Introduction to Critical Reflection and Rational Dialogue, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001.
  • BA First Year (Notes), Philosophy, Paper-I, USOL, Panjab University Chandigarh.

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Meaning and Definition of Philosophy

philosophy def

Philosophy as an intellectual activity can be variously defined, depending on whether the emphasis is placed on its method, its subject-matter or its purpose. The very first question is of much importance to define and discuss the nature of philosophy. This inquiry into the nature of philosophy is called “meta-philosophy”. Philosophy is an open-ended, pioneering discipline, forever opening up new areas of study and new methods of inquiry. Here we will discuss the meaning of philosophy and try to define philosophy.

Etymological Meaning

The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom” Etymologically, philosophy means love of wisdom but functionally it means both the seeking of wisdom (process) and the wisdom sought (product).Literal meaning therefore, philosophy means love of wisdom not “love of knowledge”. That is an important distinction. The pioneers of philosophy were interested in the kind of knowledge that enables human to live a good life and that kind of knowledge is what we call “wisdom”.

Going by this literal meaning a philosopher is most of the time and at the most of the place is preoccupied with the search for truth and wisdom. He pays little attention to the conclusions he searches in cause of his search. His search is endless because the truth is infinite. He wants to keep himself always engaged in this pursuit of truth rather than its possession. What philosophy is?, this question, has baffled the philosophers and thinkers from ancient times.

Definitions of Philosophy

Philosophy is a critical approach to the human life, all objective events and to all scientific knowledge, which is the essence of all knowledge, sciences and the human life. Here are some definition of philosophy given by famous philosophers:

  • Philosophy is t]hat which grasps its own era in thought.” — [ Hegel]
  • Philosophy is a]n interpretation of the world in order to change it.” — [ Karl Marx]
  • “… [philosophy] is the acquisition of knowledge.” — [Plato]
  • Philosophy is the science which investigates the nature of being, as it is in itself.— [Aristotle]
  • Philosophy is a science of sciences.—  [Comte]
  • Philosophy is the science and criticism of cognition.— [Immanuel Kant]
  • Philosophy in full sense is only man’s thinking.— [William James]”मानव-जीवन के विविध पक्षों का बौधिक- अवधारणात्मक चिन्तन या ऐसे चिन्तन का आलोचनात्मक मूल्यांकन दर्शन है।” (Pure rational-conceptual thought regarding different aspects of human life or a critical thought over such kind of thoughts may be called as philosophy.)Sources:
  • As we know that philosophy is an academic subject of study and it is progressive. It is a way of being in the world- of questioning it, interacting with it, and responding to it. The subject-matter of philosophy change with the span of time but it is philosophical attitude which give human being a quality of thinking and reflecting which differentiate him from other creatures of the world.
  • Compositional Definition of Philosophy
  • Richard E. Creel, Thinking Philosophically: An Introduction to Critical Reflection and Rational Dialogue, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001.
  • BA First Year (Notes), Philosophy, Paper-I, USOL, Panjab University Chandigarh.

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Subject-Matter and Scope

subject matter

Instead of being treated as a single, unified subject, philosophy is typically broken down into a number of specialties and it is common for contemporary philosophers to be experts in one field but know little about another. After all, philosophy addresses complex issues from all facets of life – being an expert on all of philosophy would entail being an expert on all of the most fundamental questions which life has to offer. It is a most important thing that philosophy helps us to find wisdom for the shaping and living of our lives. After examining the nature of philosophy, we can see that there are three basic problems in philosophy, which engaged human beings to other problems.

According to Richard E. Creel, “Philosophy is an open-ended, pioneering discipline, forever opening up new areas of study and new methods of inquiry.” There are three basic problems of philosophy:

  1. The Problem of Knowledge: It is mainly discusses within Epistemology.
  2. The Problem of Value: It is discusses within the Ethics and Axiology. Jointly this called as Value Theory.
  3. The Problem of Reality: This is the area of Metaphysics.

With the above said problems we can classifies main braches of philosophy as:

Branches of Philosophy

Metaphysics: In this area of philosophy it discuss about the nature of reality. There are basically three views about the nature of reality:

  1. Theism: Mind and matter are both real.
  2. Materialism: No, only Matter is real.
  3. Idealism: Matter is not real, only Mind is. It is basically views of the Eastern philosophies.

Epistemology: The area of philosophy that investigates the nature sources, authority and limits of human knowledge is called “Epistemology”.

Axiology: It is the study of the nature and achievement of happiness. Here we can include:

Ethics or “moral philosophy”, is concerned primarily with the question of the best way to live, and secondarily, concerning the question of whether this question can be answered.

Aesthetics deals with beauty, art, enjoyment, sensory-emotional values, perception, and matters of taste and sentiment.

There are even more areas of philosophy than these. It includes logic, social philosophy, philosophy of mind, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of language etc. The problems and concepts discussed in these branches constitute an interconnected enterprise that goes by the name “Philosophy”. Certain problems are of wider importance which concern common people in general and intellectuals in particular. Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is the passionate pursuit of knowledge of the real and the good .

The goal of philosophy as we know is the knowledge of the truth about the reality and the values. High motivation and a right attitude play an important role in the achievement of the goal of philosophy. We need to focus and carry out our ambitions good intentions. Especially we need some methods for carrying out the business of philosophy.

Methods of Philosophy

Human reason is the method used by philosophy in inquiring about the nature of things. Philosophical method is the study of how to do philosophy. A common view among philosophers is that philosophy is distinguished by the methods that philosophers follow in addressing philosophical questions. There is not just one method that philosophers use to answer philosophical questions. For our course we will concentrate on only two methods i.e. Phenomenological and Analytical Methods. Some common features of the methods that philosophers follow include:

Doubt: Notice doubts that one has about the meaning or justification of some common, everyday belief one has.

Formulate a problem; Formulate the doubts in a philosophical problem, or question. Explain the problem very clearly and carefully.

Offer a solution: Offer a solution to the problem: either something like a philosophical analysis or a philosophical explanation.

Argument; Give an argument or several arguments supporting the solution.

Dialectic :Present the solution and arguments for criticism by other philosophers, and help them judge their own.

There are some methods of philosophy which play an important role to do philosophy. These can be named as:

  1. The Socratic Method
  2. The Rational Dialogue
  3. The Method of Criticism
  4. The Speculative Method
  5. The Descriptive Method
  6. Inductive Method
  7. Deductive Method
  8. Dialectical Method
  9. The. Method of Analysis
  10. The Method of Synthesis
  11. Method of Intuition

The above said methods are generally used in philosophical speculations. It is an important part to study philosophy. In our course we will study a few later.


  • Richard E. Creel, Thinking Philosophically: An Introduction to Critical Reflection and Rational Dialogue, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001.
  • BA First Year (Notes), Philosophy, Paper-I, USOL, Panjab University Chandigarh.

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Utility of Philosophy


Philosophy brings us, a kind of freedom and powers us with a sense of openness of life. When we acknowledge the everyday relevance and importance of philosophy, we should adopt a healthy philosophical attitude towards the pursuit of solutions to its problems and becoming skilled in the concepts and methods of philosophy so as to be able to think and communicate effectively about philosophical problems. To develop a healthy philosophical attitude, there are five points to understand:

  1. Caring rather than indifferent
  2. Courageous rather than timid
  3. Open rather than closed
  4. Grateful rather than resentful
  5. Assertive rather than passive

The ultimate objective of philosophizing is not merely to avoid errors. Its ultimate objective is to gain knowledge of the truth. Philosophy calls us to put the dignity and courage of intellectual honesty ahead of emotional comfort. It saves us from dogmatism or arrogance. So, we can draw the followings points as the utility of philosophy:

  • Philosophy inculcates in us the habit of thinking.
  • Philosophy yields new ideas.
  • Philosophy makes us more decisive.
  • Philosophy enhances confidence.
  • Philosophy determines the values for life.
  • Philosophy has a use in other field of sciences too.
  • Philosophy yields metaphysical knowledge.
  • Philosophy gives true freedom to man.
  • Philosophy can guide the scientific civilization along the right path.
  • Philosophy is an essential part of higher education and associated with Religion, Morality, Art & Aesthetics and Politics etc.
  • Sources:
  • Richard E. Creel, Thinking Philosophically: An Introduction to Critical Reflection and Rational Dialogue, Wiley-Blackwell, 2001.
  • BA First Year (Notes), Philosophy, Paper-I, USOL, Panjab University Chandigarh.

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Social Equality

social equality

Certain problems are wider importance which concern common people in general and intellectuals in particular. Social Equality, Self-Knowledge and Rationality are such issues which involve any self-conscious person and specialists in other disciplines like political science, sociology, social psychology etc. Philosophical understanding of these issues are different other disciplines as philosophy look into the most fundamental conditions and reasons, which constitute these problems.


According to Prof. D.D. Raphall, “ The right to equality is a right to the equal satisfaction of the basic needs, including the needs to develop and use capacities which are specifically human.”

According to Karl Marx, “ From according to his need to according to his ability.”


  • Absence of Special Rights
  • Equal Opportunities for Development
  • Fulfillment of Basic Needs
  • Provision of Inequality in Certain Conditions
  • Provision of Equal Rights
  • The Fruit according to ability and handwork
  • Equality is the basis of freedom , justice and rights in some forms
  • Complete equality is impossible
  • Concerned government is the custodian of equality
  • Equality saves Democracy


Human Society is the well-organized unity of individuals. All individuals live in a society because they can’t live in isolation. To live with others is the very nature of human beings and that is what makes them social animals. Every individual seeks protection from society and society gives in return.

It is a fact that in human society, not every person gets equal status and respect due to economic, educational and political powers etc. A social problem arises when some individuals or a group is debarred from normal social respectability due to certain reasons for which the individual or the group is not directly responsible.

Causes for Social Inequality

The problem of Social Inequality arises when society declares a group of people as low or despised due to the reason based on its tradition and conventions ignoring the fact that for what the members of that group is made unequal with other members is not within their control, and this injustice could be seen as injustice and immorality only when it is looked at from the stand point of universal equality of all mankind.


Discrimination of a group of people on the ground of their caste is one of the monstrous instances of social inequality. In India where the Hindu society is divided on caste basis, people of Shudra case are deemed as lowly who are born to serve the other upper caste people and to lead a life of humiliation by them.

Textual Proofs of Caste Discrimination

There are textual proofs in support of the view that the Varna system of the division of people in various groups was a kind of division of labour and it was not tied to the birth of the person in a particular family. It is also argued that movement from one Varna to the other was permissible in early Vedic period. However, it is a cruel fact of the day that people are divided in Hindu society along caste lines and even now inter caste marriages are not liked even within the society. Inter caste movement is only a matter of mythology.

The Law of Karma

Humiliating the so-called low caste people have been deemed as a matter of right for the upper caste people and the lower caste people are told to suffer all that as punishment of the evil karmas of past life due to which they were born in that caste. This is a clear example of social inequality which comes into being due to rigid caste system.


Bhakti movement helped in alleviating the suffering of the lower caste people to some extent. In the post independent India discrimination on the basis of caste was declared as a serious offence by the constitution and several political measure were adopted for the well-being of the people of low caste (especially the Shudras) and to restore their social equality. The problem of social inequality turns out to be a socio-political matter.

At the general level the problem of caste injustice is a case of social injustice that makes us aware of the need to question and evaluate every social law in the light of universal standard of morality which is applicable and obligatory for all human beings and for human communities.


Philosophical reflection looks at this problem at a deeper level and enables us in understanding that it should be dealt with at two levels at the most general level as a problem of social injustice and at the specific level of reflection over the conscience of the socio-political measures adopted for its remedy .

Without taking into consideration this essential moral aspect adopting any measure to solve the problem of social inequality of caste is itself an immoral act. Hence to adopt appropriate measure for solving this problem at the specific level also moral aspect has to be taken into consideration and that requires philosophical reflection. This is a different matter that ordinarily politicians and social scientist don’t give importance to that aspect but there is a scope of philosophical reflection and it is warranted too.


Political and sociological reflections on the questions of social equality are needed to understand and solve these problems at the historical level. Philosophical reflection not only helps in considering the moral aspect of the problem but also discloses the pros and cons of the political and social measures in terms of their proximate and remote consequences and enables to evaluate many of the unquestioned political and sociological assumptions regarding the structure and relation of society with the group of individuals within it.


Notes were taken from H.P. Sah, “ Problems of Philosophy”, Philosophy (BA Ist), USOL, 2009-2010, pp. 06-14.

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Self Knowledge

What is self-knowledge? One may initially that self-knowledge is knowledge which one has about or in regard to oneself. Knowledge is, ordinarily, a three element process that consists of the object of knowledge i.e. the known, the mental act of knowing and the subject i.e. the knower.

The Triad of Knowledge

The object of knowledge is, what we know. The object itself is, ordinarily, independent of our mind; it existed out there in the world. The mental act of knowing that relates some object to the knower or the subject and it is the knower who comes to know that object.

The Importance of Knower

What is the nature or status of the knower in the process is an important question of philosophy. This has been one of the central questions dealing with which philosophy acquires its unique identity.

It is obvious that in the act of knowing, a subject or knower is indeed. After all it is the subject who knows. Thus the presence of a subject is very much required in knowledge.

How Self-Knowledge is Possible?

Subject is the knower of any object. It can’t be an object of knowledge. There is no way to make the subject an object of its own knowledge. Someone can know the other as he involved in the act of knowing. But that person cannot become the object of that act of knowing in which he is involved. Then the following questions arises:

  • How knowledge of self (or self-knowledge) be possible?
  • Is it possible at all to know the subject       (in the sense of an object of knowledge) ?

Immanuel Kant Explains:

The German Philosopher Immanuel Kant holds that knowledge of self is not possible. It is to be noted that denial of the knowledge of the subject is not at all the denial of its existence. It is necessary to assume the existence of the subject to explain knowledge but that is a “necessary assumption” ; that is not the knowledge of the subject.


What does self-knowledge, then, mean? Not only in India but even in the ancient Greek Philosophy it has preached that one ought to know oneself. “Know Thyself” has been the central issue to search in philosophy. It, therefore, becomes very important to understand what self-knowledge is (or could be).

Social Identity

Human being is a social animal and a person gets his individual and social identity through his social upbringing and education. A person is recognized by others only by his social identity.   Ordinarily people remain completely involved (or lost) in these various roles and accept their social identity unquestionable.

Personal Identity

In responding to various situations and persons, a person in his various roles forms a self-image and takes it as his personal identity. One’s self-image is dear to everyone and everyone wants to protect it at all costs although seldom one reflects on it. Hardly ever a person reflects on the fact that his social identity is a recognition given by him by the society and his self-image also is an indirect product of the same and he is not merely complex of these social roles.

Self and Consciousness

To question one’s socially constituted identity and one’s self image is the beginning of knowing oneself as an immortal soul, a center of pure consciousness, or one can realize a complete emptiness within. This quest of self-knowledge may eventually result into various theories of self but the possibility and relevance of reflecting on one’s social identity makes it clear that one’s self is not merely one’s social identity’ it is something beyond that.


Self-Knowledge is an at attempt to search for one’s identity in contrast to one’s biological features and socially imposed roles. It is also important to see in this regard that social background serves as an essential backdrop against which self-knowledge emerges as a positive knowledge and without this the actual possibility of self-knowledge would be lost. However, this does not mean that individual identity achieved in self-knowledge is itself a sort of social identity.


Notes were taken from H.P. Sah, “ Problems of Philosophy”, Philosophy (BA Ist), USOL, 2009-2010, pp. 06-14.

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Human beings are endowed with the faculty of reasoning that enables them to think and draw logical conclusions. This increases human knowledge beyond the small limit of perceptual knowledge.

Scientific Knowledge and Reason

Scientific knowledge is gained by the exercise of reason. Reason has brought tremendous progress in scientific knowledge and technology. But this progress raised the question of rationality of science itself. Thus, rationality has become a debatable philosophical issue now a day. Before entering in the debate it is necessary to understand this issue clearly.

Scientific Theories and Choice

Scientists postulate theories to explain some phenomena occurring before them in their experiments and observations. It is found that the same phenomenon could be explained by some other theory postulated by some other scientist (or group of scientists). Thus theories come in competition in course of explaining a phenomenon.

Then naturally a question arises about the choice of the theory. Which one of the competing theories should be accepted as a better theory than the other? Does science has a rational criterion to decide it or is it a matter of the collective choice of the community of the scientists? 

Opinions of the Philosophers of Science

20th century Philosophers of Science were divided on this issue. Some thinkers, like Sir Karl Popper, were of the view that science has within itself criterion of progress whereas others like Thomas Kuhn contend that it is a matter of choice of the community of scientists, and there is not strict scientific formula to make a decision in this regard.

View of Karl Popper

Karl Popper, who is supporter of objective rationality of scientific theory choice, argues that in the cases of competing theories  that theory is chosen which could predict newer facts and that theory is refuted which fail to do so or predict lesser number of facts.

This is the only way to rationally decide which theory is better. Thus the criterion of theory of choice is available within scientific enterprise itself and scientists can’t choose any theory apart from this criterion of progress.

View of Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn tries to  show that in cases of theory choice scientists don’t really have any criterion as Popper has indicated because in the light of one really have any criterion as Popper has indicated because in the light of one theory one sort of facts are predicted and in the light of the others. Scientists, according to Kuhn, work and postulate a theory under the influence of a particular paradigm of science and keep predicting facts deduced from that theory.


No theory is immediately refuted if some facts don’t accord with that.  Scientists keep working with that theory till a new theory makes an occasion of shift in paradigm. A paradigm is the shared belief of the community of the scientists regarding the explanatory power and efficacy of a theory. No new theory can prove its efficacy in advance; it takes long to practically test its predictions and to decide about its explanatory power.

Kuhn argues that theory choice can’t be made by any formula as indicated by Popper. It is the acceptance of a new paradigm by the community of scientists without any strict logical ground that bring about a revolutionary change in science.

Therefore, Kuhn holds that the rationality of scientific theory choice is dependent on the paradigm that is accepted by the community of the scientists as a matter of shared beliefs and there is no fixed scientific criterion or objective logic of this choice.

Nature of Rationality

Earlier it was believed that rationality is one and absolute. Now many thinkers, scientists, historians,  and writers contend that rationality  is paradigm or system relative. In this light people talk about multiple rationality also, i.e., many types of rationality.

Both Views are correct

It is not possible to decide which view about rationality is correct. In fact this kind of decision is not needed because a close philosophical reflection reveals that both the views of rationality are correct in their respective contexts. It is true that a purely objective general formula for theory choice neither in science nor in any other intellectual endeavor could be presented.

Human Choice

Human choice at such a deeper level essentially involves many subjective elements but once this choice is made no subjective elements are  permitted to go ahead in that system if that system is to be called a rational system at all. At every turn subjective elements are not and can’t be allowed.

Within a system once has to strictly and objectively adhere to certain rules to ensure rationality of the conclusions of that system.


Rationality could be accepted to be multiple or many in the sense that different systems don’t adopt the same set of rules for drawing conclusions. However, the recognition that these different sets of rule are necessary to ensure rationality of the conclusions within various systems make it clear that rationality is identifiable beyond the boundaries of different systems, and in this sense it is absolute and purely objective.

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