Monday, February 20, 2012

Epistemo Logic

 Ever thought, "Somehow it just feels right"? --Yeah , me too.

Recently, Justin and I had a lively debate on the definition of the word "epistemology". Did you know that they teach you completely different definitions inter-majorially ( I just made that word up what I mean is across different majors)? This in and of itself deserves a lengthy, communication-majory, languageisarbitarythisistheendoftheworldNietzchehegemonyhelpmybrainhurts, discussion but I will spare you. On the surface, it would seem that we didn't completely disagree on the actual definition-- Mine: A way of knowing Justin's : A way to know,  but more in the form of its application.

For me, an epistemology represents the journey a person has taken to get to their current worldview and their current way of perceiving the world. Perhaps one might get into epistemology "personas" but of course doing so does not give enough breadth to really understand where a person is coming from. For Justin epistemology is the action of discovering, with a separation between the physical and the metaphysical. For him, "there are metaphysical things that you can come to know with a religious epistemology, but in the physical world the different epistemologies are the different sciences." I found his view particularly fascinating from the anthropological point of view I and my partner Matt Giles have taken in our giant annoying applied anthropology project. We have been focusing on the information "gaps" inherent in American culture and then identifying which ones are the most important to address ( those that have a global impact or have never presented as a gap in any other society) Anyway long-story short one of the gaps we are looking at is a high preference for a single epistemology, the scientific or "observable" way of knowing. In my research so far I found a lot of cases in which mainstream American's literally struggle to accept that someone has "come to know" something non-scientifically.

With regards to the LDS church, this can mean a sort of warring of two sides. On the one hand, mainstream American culture teaches to gather data, organize the evidence, to make a persuasive case for your beliefs , on the other hand, coming to know the Lord and his ways often involves a much more "metaphysical" way of knowing. For many, this struggle can mean leaving the Church , for others it might mean shying away from academia or mainstream culture. I think what we've got on our hands is a real dilemma and not just for Mormons. There is a certain amount of cultural and sub-cultural conflict that comes as a result of this information gap. How can we ever understand Islamic people if we cannot fathom justifying actions religiously, how many coincidences will we explain away or feel creeping up in the back of our minds, how can we have a true appreciation of Nature without allowing for that quiet way of "just knowing" that we seem to have turned our backs on? How can non-Western cultures avoid Westernization without an appreciation for Oral traditions?

It can seem like the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you ask these kind of questions! What I am starting to see in my research more and more though, seems to suggest as at a simple solution. Acceptance. This week I challenge you to come to know something in a different way. Whether that means trying your hand at dream interpretation ( sans Freudian theories of course) or saying loud and proud " I just know because I know". While there are great virtues in the modern-scientific type of epistemology , I think its important to appreciate and accept as valid other ways of knowing, because otherwise life threatens to be a sadly robotic and uberlogical kind of place devoid of those spontaneous decisions that tend to be life-changers.

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I am a videographer located in Goodyear, Arizona. Visit my site to check out my best work and the Stories Told blog.