3.11.2009

Why?

I have a confession to make.

I always sort of assumed that epistemology was a dry and dusty discipline, mostly theoretical, with little to recommend it in the way of real-world application.

Not that I have anything against dry and dusty disciplines--in fact I've always found them fascinating. But, well... sort of in the same category as crossword puzzles or sudoku. Brilliant fun and all that, but that's about as far as it goes.

I feel very, very silly admitting to these thoughts. Of course if I'd ever actually thought about them explicitly, I would have denounced them immediately... but never having had occasion to put words to these assumptions, I was free to keep right on assuming them until quite recently.

So I shall now state the obvious(which was obviously not obvious to me).

Epistemology is terribly important for anyone who'd rather not be suckered.

If you want the truth about anything--anything at all, from how to make a good pancake to the origin of the universe--you'd jolly well better make sure you're skilled in the ways of knowing the truth about stuff.

So I've started asking myself "why?"

Not asking why it's true--I'm quite used to asking myself that question--but rather asking why I think it's true.

There's a subtle difference between the two questions, and they're both important. It's important to know what evidence supports your beliefs, but it's also important to know why you accept that evidence, and in what way that evidence supports your belief.

Do I believe this on the basis of reason, a compelling logical argument that I clearly understand? (Logos)

Or do I believe it on the say-so of a trustworthy authority? (Ethos)

Or is it simply because it resonates with my soul, and I know it must be so? (Pathos)

No comments: