Humanizing Knowledge

Language creates an interesting predicament in that we find ourselves always unable to completely understand our world. A correspondence theory of knowledge and truth is untenable due to the nature of our language. It was once commonly held that if we had a logical language most of the problems in philosophy would some how dissolve. Many philosophers tried to create such a language (most famous Ludwig Wittgenstein and other Logical Atomist and Positivist of the Vienna Circle), but ultimately have failed at achieving ultimate philosophical dissolution. Furthermore as previously demonstrated in Part II, science is always historically contextualized, and scientific narratives can only be understood when historically situated due to the metaphorical language used. Consequently, we are left with a partial understanding of our world.

Furthermore, if we individualize the problem of understanding above, we discover a true philosophical problem. That is, how can we understand each other at all if we all employ our unique understanding of the language we use–A rose to me may be flower, but to someone else “Rose” may be a lover. Many systems of thought have solutions to this predicament, in some form or another. From Descartes onwards, theories regarding reality and our perception of the world, and ourselves have centered on the dualistic view that separates the mind from the body. Some how, as Plato described prior to Descartes, our souls/minds have some kind of access to a universal knowledge that we share. Through this shared universal knowledge, that as Descartes explained, is true due to the divine omnibenevolence of God, we can experience a shared world that is intelligible.

Since Descartes, many systems of thought, especially western systems of thought, have maintained the dualistic view of reality and epistemology (e.g. David Hume, Immanuel Kant, etc…). The subject/object relationship has been the central dogma of epistemology. The alternative view is one in which a substance ontology is removed, and the ensuing representationalist perspective is either denied or vastly modified.

As Aristotle attempted when he denied the separation of the body and mind, and hence denying his teacher’s universal ontology, I suggest here that humanizing knowledge is a means to moving beyond our initial predicament. Rather then assume that knowledge is a universal substance outside of human experience, yet accessible through human experience and rationality, we should embrace the idea that knowledge is a product of human experience, and rationality is a human practice.

For some this may seem impossible, but we should at the least explore this alternative.


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