Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Mad, and I know it.

Back in 1993, I took a course on Epistemology; that is the study of knowing ways of knowing. There was a woman’s way of knowing, an African-American way of knowing, and emerging gay and lesbian ways of filtering the world that were based on collective norms gathered from within the designated strata or population being scrutinized.

The problem with epistemology is two-fold.

1) If one is not a member of the designated group’s way of knowing, one is presumed either to not be aware of how things might be filtered, or unable to comprehend fully what they might mean. Thus, truth is only discreetly revealed to those in the specific filtered class of people, and it is not necessarily able to be transferred.

2) The line which creates the filter by which one knows something –male/female, gay/straight, is to this middle aged Catholic educated Texas female mother of nine’s mind, arbitrarily set by those who wish to draw the lines, but maybe I’m just limited that way.

The question, how does defining one’s reality by one’s collective experience and as unknowable to someone not of that experience, not slip into defining reality only by one’s own individualized experience? How does epistemology not simply collapse into solipsism?

The professor thought I was trying to be cute with the question.

But either truth is knowable or it is not Truth. If it is not Truth, it is merely perception. If reality is merely perception, then the demarcations by which one filters one’s perceptions are almost without limit, such that no one can claim to know what another experiences or comprehends.

Knowledge is not transferable because no one can be certain of what knowledge is, or what should be conveyed, or how much of it is comprehended by the recipient.
Language eventually breaks down in this radically individualized filtering of the world. “You wouldn’t understand,” becomes the natural barrier and explanation for any disagreements.

One’s gender, religion, economics, orientation, I.Q, geographic location, all can be applied to create an impasse from one human being to another as a means of negating any validity in opposing viewpoints. “You’re from the south so you wouldn’t understand.” The accusation of “Lack of comprehension” connotes to the other side, an innate unworthiness to be part of the discussion. The accusation renders any criticism by the side not able to sport a more sympathetic demographic epistemology, impotent by sheer lack of specialized status. Everyone’s argument for their point of view has been reduced to NIMBY status, save the one with the most momentum behind it. (Think loudest and most organized voice).

To get an “A” in the class, one had to come to embrace the concept of epistemologies as legitimate representations of whole groups of people. One had to also identify one’s own misconceptions, biases and intellectual scaffolding that impeded comprehension of other epistemological templates. It also helped to have a thesaurus handy.

“We see but through a glass darkly, but then, when the perfect comes, we shall see face to face.” I think sums ups all epistemologies fairly accurately, but then I simplistically believe that we are understandable and knowable to each other. I’ve since discovered St. Augustine and love his take on things in City of God, wherein he talks of the difference being not what we suffer, but the way in which we suffer.

So we come to today. I have to say, I’m starting to comprehend something of how an epistemology works to convey a sense of import and validity of feeling, without discerning or declaring truth. I must admit freely, I do not understand how it is that President Jenkins can authentically reconcile his Catholic faith and the Catholic identity of the University, with honoring President Obama, (despite his explanations), I only know it is spiritually wrong to honor a man who supports the antithesis of Mary’s Yes in all forms. I know it is not Catholic to honor a person whose policies deny the fundamental humanity of some people based on their level of physical development, and who supports the willful destruction of some people at the hands of others, in the name of research.

I only know this platform weakens the Catholic voice of the faithful to say clearly, Embryonic Stem Cell Research is deliberative destruction of nascent human life for the satisfaction of scientific curiosity. It is wrong. I don’t care if it turns lead into gold and brews the elixir of life, the cost is too high. Catholicism is not about “my way of knowing,” it’s about following HIS WAY, and knowing that is the way, the Truth and the Life.

I also do not understand declaring via a letter to the alumni, that he is not honoring President Obama’s policies by honoring the man, but merely the office and thus the man in the office. If President Fr. Jenkins were to disinvite the man holding the office as a matter of honoring Catholic faith over political policy, perhaps then Fr. Jenkins could say to the media that he wasn’t dishonoring the man holding the office, merely the policies held in firm conviction by the man in office. But I don’t think that would sell with the media any better than the current spin is selling with me.

But then, epistemologically speaking, what do I know?

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

here's to hoping and praying for a lot of EMPTY SEATS in that auditorium on Sunday.

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