Archive for the ‘Epistemology’ Category

Pretending: homeschooling in love 1

Thursday, July 14th, 2011


 I like to pretend. 
 Every trip to the post office, every trip across country—it doesn’t matter where I go—I like to pretend I am on a mission.
 My wife Karen doesn’t like to join my team, or army, or panzer group—even when I offer her a lieutenancy. Of course I am always the captain, but that is incidental.
Karen just frowns at me.
 “Look to the South, Good Buddy,” I warn.  “The Nazis are coming fast . . .”
 “Keep your eyes on the road Jim,” she scolds.
 “10-4,” I respond as I pull the Tiger Tank (aka Toyota Prius) back to the center of the road.
 How about you?
 Why not make a mundane trip to the grocery store into a mission behind enemy lines? Why not make a trip to church into a scouting mission across the Sahara?
 Life is interesting enough, I suppose, without all the pretending  but it is never as much fun.
 My  7 year old grandson Zion will pretend with me.
 Last Christmas high command gave us a mission to take important orders to Second Army (i.e., Karen told me to take a letter to our mail box at the end of our 150 yard driveway.) Brave Master Sergeant Zion (AKA my grandson) volunteered to join me.
 “General Granna (i.e., Karen),” I warned.  “Do not be surprised if we don’t make it back alive.  My will is in the safe deposit box”
 “Don’t miss the postman, Jim,” Karen responded.
 “Yes mame,” I deferentially responded. “10-4.”

I Can’t Think

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

In Newsweek recently there was an article called “I Can’t Think.” It is about the fact that we are overloaded by information. “The Twitterization of our culture has revolutionalized our lives, but with an unintended consequence—our overloaded brains freeze when we make decisions,” journalist Sharon Begley writes. Begley warns us that we are overloaded with information, choices, alternatives.  When we have so many choices, we are unable to make any choice at all. As a result, when we finally do respond “the ceaseless influx trains us to respond instantly, sacrificing accuracy and thoughtfulness to the false god of immediacy.”

In other words, we respond out of exigency and expediency and not out of thoughtfulness and care.  We choose the quick not the right, the convenient not the just.

George Loewen of Carnegie Mellon University warns that “getting 30 texts per hour up to the moment when you make a decision means that the first 28 or 29 have virtually no meaning.” Immediacy dooms thoughtful deliberation.

Another casualty is creativity. Creative decisions are more likely to bubble up from a brain that applies unconscious thought to a problem, rather than going at it in a full-frontal, analytical assault . . .”  So much for making decisions in the shower or on a quiet walk.  We swamp ourselves with text messages and twitter and IMs.  We don’t need to reflect on a problem we can google our crisis away with 100s of hits.

Oh that it were so! No one, my friend, can put humpty together again but the Maker. Yes God.  Unless we can Twitter our way to the Holy Spirit or text God we might be in trouble.  We will not be able to send an SOS out on Facebook to solve our sorry lives—we need a direct, old fashioned touch of God.  In the midst of so much information the thing that really matters, we discover, is WHO we know and not WHAT we know.  Well, all this information is only information after all.  Ah ha!  Our epistemology will takes us no farther than our metaphysics.

How can you protect yourself from having your decisions warped by excess information?  Ms.  Begley suggests we take our e-mails in limited fashion, like a glass of wine before bedtime.  She wants us to control our access to Facebook—only twice a day.

Silly me.  May I suggest an alternative?  Why not turn off the computer. And pick up your Bible. And read it.

When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you (Friedrich Nietzsche). On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society by Gertrude Himmelfarb argues  that the “abyss is the abyss of meaninglessness. The interpreter takes precedence over the thing interpreted, and any interpretation goes. The most obvious aim of such a creed is to weaken our hold on reality, chiefly by denying that there is any reality for us to get hold of; its most probable effect, if we were to take it seriously, would be to induce feelings of despair and dread.  This view invites the tyranny of the subjective—anything goes so long as it does not hurt anyone and it is believed sincerely.

Contemporary Americans are dedicated to the pleasure principle. They yearn to be considered creative and imaginative; casting off the chains of mere causal and chronological. They conceive of history as a form of fiction. Postmodernist fiction, to be sure: what one of them has called “a historiographic metafiction.”

Himmelfarb argues that contemporaries play the harlot with words like “freedom” and “liberty.” She makes a startling claim: Absolute liberty is itself a form of power—the power to destroy without having to face the consequences.

Drama of the Christian Faith

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The British evangelical Dorothy Sayers writes:

The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man–and the dogma is the drama. [The central doctrine of Christianity is a tale of] the time when God was the under-dog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him. Nobody is compelled to believe a single word of this remarkable story. But the divine Dramatist has set out to convince us.

How true Dorothy Sayers’ words are! I am preparing for my sermon this weekend, Romans 4, and I am struck again at how rich the “drama” surrounding our faith! We say in a negative way, “Don’t make so much drama!” But we can never eclipse the drama we read in the Gospel.

But we try. Television has become the command center of our new epistemology. It promotes shallow thinking and has pretty well killed reading and rhetoric. The clearest way to see through a culture is to see how it speaks to itself. The television has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse. Truth is not and can never be show business. (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death). Americans want show business. This is one danger of our fascile Christian culture (Dawn, Dumbing Down).


Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

The term rhetoric has traditionally applied to the principles of training communicators–those seeking to persuade or inform (Britannica). Rhetoric, in its broadest sense, is the theory and practice of eloquence, whether spoken or written. It may or may not be spoken to persuade (Plato aka Socrates). The unexamined life is not worth living (Plato aka Socrates). The problem today is that we do not know how to talk to each other anymore.

Encarta Rhetoric Article–Background. From the beginning there was a general debate (!) over the advisability, even morality of persuading without honoring Truth and the gods (God!).

The underlying question behind communication (rhetoric) is basic: What is the form (Plato) or truth (Augustine)?

  • Epistemology separate from metaphysical reality (Aristotle)
  • Metaphysical reality very much influence epistemology (Plato)
  • It is irrelevant to ask the question (Sophists)

The modern world has been enamored by and repelled by Rhetoric (if understood as persuasive conversation). On one hand logical positivism insists that all statements must be verified by scientific evidence. On the other hand, the new rhetoric posits that communication–rhetoric–has no moral or ethical responsibility to anyone–it is purely created to persuade. This is tied very clearly to Freudian notions that every act presupposes an ego enhancement quality. In other words, we are free to persuade anyone to do anything if we do so with sincerity.