Relational Knowing

This is a chapter from an awesome book I picked up last week.  It is the closest I have ever read to someone discussing what I've been journaling about as "the relational aspect of knowledge".   She calls it "the risk of knowing", but sounds awfully similar.  Very empowering.  Especially if you've read heavy epistemology stuff before, this is just a fun book to read.
    - Esther Lightcap Meek, Longing To Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People, summary of chapter 7: "Laying Out For A Frisbee: The Knower's Risky, Responsible Struggling
"Human knowing involves actively struggling to rely on a collection of as yet unrelated particulars to achieve a focus on a coherent pattern or whole... "On the modernist model of knowledge, if the default mode in my brain is to be believed, we identified knowledge with informative statements that are true.  When I say 'knowledge', you may think of stated facts, like '2+2=4' or 'The first president of the United States was George Washington' or 'Tiger Woods is a great golfer' or 'My car needs a new power steering pump'.  We tend to think of these as out there, floating around unattached, like so many asteroids. "Conceiving of knowledge in this way blinds us to some of the things we need to see for knowledge to make any sense.  We need to see that our truth claims grow out of and are upheld by humans in a very human effort.  I think this effort that spawns and never stops undergirding our claims deserves to be included as a component in what we call knowledge.  That's why I prefer to talk about human acts of knowing, as opposed to knowledge.  Knowing involves statements, but it doesn't mistakingly divorce those statements from the knower who is affirming them... "If a statement is a dot, the act of knowing is a vector to and through the dot.  It's like laying out for a frisbee.  It has a point of origin in my embodied and world-situated being.  It takes direction from me, through my effort to orchestrate and rely on features of my experience whose relevance and even existence I cannot fully validate or articulate, to and then through a focal pattern to the world beyond... "All of this active human effort characterizes every act of human knowing.  It is true of it the first time we come to know something.  It is also required to maintain through time that some claim is true.  Once you come to understand that something is true, it is still you who are affirming that it it is true.  It takes an ongoing persoanl affirmation... "Many people have come to realize that all truth is somebody's truth... "You may have been frightened by this prospect too, as have I.  But it isn't the end of truth or knowledge.  It is, quite literally, the beginning... "The trivial fact has a positive and a profound counterpart:  The act of knowing actively involves the human agent.  All stated facts, even 2+2=4, crest an unstatable active human effort much a a skin crusts a cooling cup of hot cocoa.  Like so many shining bulbs, truth claims tap into a current without which they would not be what they are. "Truth is not rendered arbitrary by my invovlement.  It is embodied and actualized in my involvement.  It is connected to me;  it lives in my engaging.  It is formally unstatable, but not because it is irrational;  it is unstatable because I am living it.  I live in 2+2=4, when I affirm it, the way I live in the hammer I used to hang the poster.  I don't just stand there and look at it.  Or if I do, it isn't knowledge, even as looking at the hammer isn't going to get the poster on the wall.  Without the knower's sustained and committed effort of relying on clues in the search of a focus, it just isn't an act of knowing, and knowing just doesn't happen. "Statements of truth express and extend my disposing of myself in the world.  They pull me beyond myself to meet a world that they also unlock to meet me.  They can say more than I think they say, letting in a world that transforms my words.  If you restrict knowledge to the sentency lying on the page, it makes no sense, for it is a fish out of water.  It has within it no shred of power to make it true or false.  It's like a hammer lying on a table , untouched by human hands and power.  We often don't notice this because we rightly connect a hammer with both our past exploits as builders and a host of future possibilities.  But the hammer only makes sense, it only engages the world truthfully, in our hands.  The act of knowing is the laying out of ourselves through a claim to engage the world."


Blogger e said...

I went ahead and put this on Hydra, since it's very much an epistemological post.

Hope that's okay.

7/27/2004 8:23 AM  

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