Dr. Hossein Valeh said in an interview with Public Relations Office:
One of our most important problems is that the interaction of our research institutes and universities with world’s research institutions is very weak.
Dr. Hossein Valeh is an associate professor at the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University (SBU). This prominent professor of SBU has many records such as working as a journalist and diplomat. He has also published some works, including the book “Metaphysics and Philosophy of Language”. Here is part of Dr. Valeh’s interview with Public Relations Office of the university:
- Many of the professors do not evaluate the state of higher education in our country as favorable. In your opinion, how is the state of our higher education system in the field of human sciences in general and philosophy in particular? What criticisms and solutions do you have for this situation?
This is a difficult question. I can only tell my personal experience. Let's do a split. When we talk about human sciences, sometimes we mean human sciences in the modern era and sometimes we mean human sciences before that era. Human sciences, in contrast to natural sciences, have always existed in Iran since ancient times, even before the modern era. Iran has been one of the very important centers in both fields, including literature, philosophy, logic, psychology, sociology and the like, as well as medicine, astronomy, physics, optics and the like. Iran has long been the center of thought production. From the 18th century onwards, events in Iran have caused geographical Iran and cultural Iran to lag behind in the process of scientific development. The developments that occurred in Europe and America as a result of the scientific revolution have reached Iran with a delay. This is true in both basic and natural sciences, and human sciences.
However, when we want to examine the problems of human sciences in Iran, we must see whether modern or pre-modern human sciences are concerned. In modern human sciences, I believe, our big problem is that the main body of our human sciences is imported. This is both bad and good. It is good because knowledge can be found anywhere. Knowledge has no homeland. An important part of modern education first sprouted in Europe and then entered Iran around the Constitutional Revolution. In natural and basic sciences, our backwardness is depicted in our backwardness in technology. It shows itself well there. For example, we imported cars, electric motors, and other tools of modern technology. But due to the forgoing historical delay, we are left behind from the world’s modern technology. This problem is of course normal. The wheel cannot be reinvented a thousand times! The mathematical formula once discovered by Pythagoras is not going to be discovered again! The same is true in the field of human sciences. We have been importers. We have brought sociology, psychology, political science and thought, economics, etc. from abroad.
But why do I believe this is a problem? Because of the fact that part of the disciplines of human sciences are context-bound to a large extent. For example, there are general theories in sociology, but there is a major difference between the general theories of sociology and physics. The general theories of physics are concerned with inanimate nature with no will; but in sociology we describe, rather explain, the collective behavior of free human beings. This discretion makes a difference. Humans exercise their will in different ways in different situations. Field and experimental studies in this field are carried out in different environments and in relation to different subjects. But the general theories that are made here cannot be generalized to all human societies. Therefore, the generalizability of physics will not be possible in sociology. The problem can be described as follows: when we want to introduce physics and chemistry, it is not necessary to localize this information, because they deal with natural subjects and predict the behavior of natural entities. However, in sociology, we want to predict the behavior of people with free will. Here we have to take an extra step that is not necessary in natural sciences and that extra step is localization. In terms of knowing the achievements and insights that mankind has gained so far in the form of new science, our human sciences are good and sufficient and even very powerful in some respects. But if these human sciences are going to become a platform for someone to stand on and give plans and ideas for the future of Iranian society and Iranian people, then we should add one step to these human sciences: studying human behavior in this specific geographical area and add its achievement. First, we should study, analyze and describe human behavior in Iran; then we should make a theory for it; and then we should make predictions. In my opinion, one of the problems in the field of human sciences is that we know well the written theories, but we cannot use them in practice, because the link between theory and practice is missing. The lack of up-to-date native theories in human sciences is our big problem.
Another problem is that we are weak in research in human sciences. This problem is less common in basic sciences. Perhaps our researchers are not daring enough, because they feel the risk is too high. This problem is harmful, because it causes us to issue theories in Iranian human sciences that are not sufficiently based on empirical knowledge. In this situation, we make wrong decisions; we spend the country’s capital on projects; and in the end, we don’t get any benefits. Of course, we have made such mistakes in the field of technology as well; but in the field of technology, localization is not that much important compared with accuracy. The technical study of solids is so extensive that if we learn them, we don’t need to rethink them. It is just enough to be careful in our implementation. But this is not the case in human sciences. In addition to accuracy, localized field studies are also necessary. We are very weak in such research.
Another problem is that the interaction of our research institutes and universities with their peers in the world is very weak. This is not good. For example, in our Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, apart from foreign language programs that have to be in contact with the scientific centers of their mother countries, our communication with the world is very limited in other areas. Of course, these relationships may be formed individually, but this is not observed institutionally. How much do our Department of Philosophy or Faculty of Theology and Religions communicate with the University of Notre Dame, which is one of the most important religious philosophy education centers in the world, where the greatest religious philosophers are active?! This weak connection does not allow the deepening of research. It even makes us replicate. These are among the weaknesses that we have in human sciences and especially philosophy. Of course, all these things are related to modern human sciences. If we go back to the traditional human sciences, we cannot judge in this way.