Connections between Philosophy and Development


This research work on the connections between philosophy and development attempt to look at those areas where the link between philosophy and development lies. It, therefore, dwelled on philosophers’ contributions which have in one way or the other enabled developed countries to attain the height with which they are now, especially in those areas related to these ideas. Plato of the great antiquity in his The Republic was put into consideration. Another area considered was the area of other branches of philosophy like the philosophy of education, where philosophical beliefs and assumptions in education sectors have brought about development in those areas and in the nation at large.


The connections between philosophy and development cannot be overemphasized. Every aspect of life experiencing some form of development has a philosophy. In most developed countries like Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and United State of America and even some third world countries like Nigeria, has national philosophical policies on education. In these countries, philosophy is given much priority such that philosophers are highly regarded in such countries. This regard is based on the fact that philosophers are containers and carriers of ideas upon which a country may experience all-round development in a rapid way. Also, most often time, the role of nation-building in terms of policy and decision making are meant for and given to philosophers in high esteem. But the case is not so with our own country Nigeria where political, economic and social affairs are run by a lazy-minded set of people instead of philosophers. We shall proceed to look at the concepts “philosophy” and “development” so as to ascertain the connection(s) between them.


The word philosophy, though is comprised of 10 letters, has more than 10 definitions by different scholars from different background culture. We shall attempt its definition from its etymology.


The word philosophy is derived from two Greek words “Philos” and “Sophia” both meaning “lover or pursuit of” and “wisdom” respectively. Put together the word simply means “the love of or pursuit of wisdom”.

Following Socrates’ position, James E. White (1989) defines philosophy as:

The critical examination of the basic assumptions of ordinary life and science, and the attempt to justify these assumptions or replace them with more justifiable beliefs.

White’s position refers to philosophy as that which involves a critical examination of unthinkable concepts, beliefs, and assumptions which seem ordinary so as to discover what makes life worthwhile.

For Nwala (2010:7-8), philosophy could either be understood as a worldview or as a critical discipline. According to him, philosophy as a world-view represents the basic ideas or beliefs a person or group of persons have, while philosophy as a critical inquiry, is a critical and conscious effort to understand the universe, its origin, and purpose”.

For Omoregbe, (1990:3), philosophy is a “rational search for answers to the questions that arise in the mind when we reflect on human experience”.

Okorie (2011) in his definition, sees philosophy as a rational, critical and reflective discipline which raises fundamental question bothering human existence.

From the above definitions, it becomes paramount to note that philosophy is simply an act of the mind geared towards the discovery of something out of nothing, and making nothing something, through the projection of the mind.


The word development is an ambiguous one which cut-across virtually all aspects of life ranging from the individual, the society, structure, mental, spiritual, social, cultural and psychological spheres of life. We shall, therefore, narrow it to the purpose for which this assignment seeks to achieve.

Development is, therefore, a process of social, economic and political change usually associated with the Third World or developing or developing countries. It may also be defined as the self-realization within the context of society. The social areas where these changes occur areas of infrastructure (i.e. road, good was, electricity). The economic change may be seen among others in the aspect of the business, marketing, and banking. Whereas the political change can be seen in the form of government which enables development in terms of good governance, in a country.


Having discussed the meaning of both concepts, there is the need to look at its connections. It is pertinent to note that for everything in life to have a philosophy, development is not left out. Hence, philosophy of development. Philosophy of development seeks to bring out the philosophical beliefs and assumptions that underpin theories of development including those concerning explanatory capacity, as well as deal with problematic issues relating to such beliefs and assumptions.

Philosophies of the Philosophers: An Instrument for Development

Philosophers ideas, policies and decisions have greatly served or fostered development in a country or a society. Plato, the great philosopher in antiquity, in his Theory of the Ideal State, which was borne out by the fact that the Athenian polis or city-state was considered deceitful and arrogant in nature.

Plato, therefore, formulated the idea of a perfect state contained in his “Republic”, which was a blueprint for his new Ideal Society. This Ideal State was designed to be instated in three (3) waves. These waves according to Plato, were to wash away corruption and bring in the new ideas and principles. This he did by suggesting the following:

Firstthat the new ruling of Guardians to be established with only philosopher-king in charge. Plato sees the philosopher as an individual who has a great love and penchant for knowledge and believed that knowledge was the key to a successful leadership.

Secondly, the Guardian consisted of being a mixture of men and women. This idea was extremely radical and a novelty for its time, as women were not politically active and empowered then until in recent times.

Thirdly, that the Guardian should live communally without private property of their own. They wouldn’t even have wealth, and they would share things. Envy would be, in theory, non-existent because there wouldn’t be a concern for the attainment of wealth. There would be no disagreement and discrimination will be absent as well.

Philosophy of Education

Education, as it is known, is the bedrock of every nation or a society. A society devoid of it has completely gotten it wrong in the aspect of development. In the philosophy of education, therefore, philosophers play a great role. Education concepts are been subjected to critical scrutiny so as to attain a certain standard. Educational policies and curriculum design are the work of philosophers of education. Therefore, if it is that good education is a criterion upon which a nation experiences development and philosophers of education are in-charge of its policy formulation and curriculum, then there is a connection between philosophy and development.


From the idea of transcendence, according to Kant, simply describes that which lies beyond what our faculty of knowledge can penetrate legitimately, or what lies beyond the phenomenal world of appearance. This idea makes a mancreator of possibilities, one who is capable of bringing what is, from the realm of what is not, go to the unknown and bring out what is known and one that defines a man as a maker of meaning and an agent of transformation and development and a source of creativity.

Philosophy also brings about moral development, which is one of the basis for society and national development.


To say that there is no connection between philosophy and development is a way of saying that there is no development at all. This is because of every development, no matter the area, has a philosophy underlying therein. So, as far as there are philosophers in such fields, philosophic ideas which they proffer are being materialized and hence development. Also, that we have a philosophy of another discipline like Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Arts, Social and Political Philosophy, and so on, is a clear reason that shows how connected philosophy is to development.


  1. White, E.J. (1989): Introduction to Philosophy. New York: West Publishing Company.
  2. Philosophy of Development (Phil 309): Lecture Material, by Mr. Godwin Okaneme.
  3. Philosophy of Education (Phil 206): Lecture Material, by Mr. Onwuchekwa Okorie.
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