Tag Archives: philosophy

E…e…e…e… Epistemology!

Epistemology starts with E.

You know that is a good thing. But how do you know? That is the really big question isn’t it. How do you know? Epistemology. That’s how you know.

Now, if you google “How do you know” you find a movie, and apparently “That’s How you Know” is some kind of movie song. Knowing if someone really loves you is all anyone actually wants to know, at least on the internet. Epistemology doesn’t help with that. I bet you could do well if you wrote a song on Epistemology – there aren’t enough philosophy songs in the world. Oh wait! There’s a song called Epistemology!! Humph, never mind, it is mostly about love again.

OK, Epistemology, how you know. Words are part of figuring out what we know. Language is how we express what we know, but also how we find it out in the first place. Here is a long and interesting quote from Rowan Williams that plays around with language being part of how we know:

“Yet language is unmistakeably a material process, something that bodies do; so thinking harder about the oddities of language may help us see new things about bodies, indeed about ‘matter’ in general; it may open up for us some thoughts about how the material world carries or embodies messages, how matter and meaning do not necessarily belong in different universes. And the sheer diversity of the ways in which meaning is embodied and communicated should leave us with some puzzles over the way in which speech generates such a huge amount of apparently superfluous untidiness and eccentricity. Instead of moving calmly towards a maximally clear and economical depiction of the environment, our language produces wild and strange symbolisms, formal and ritual ways of talking (not just in religion), a passion for exploring new perspectives through metaphor and so on. Unsurprisingly, it also learns how to use gaps in its flow, moments either of frustration or of overwhelmingly full significance, moments when we are brought to silence, as part of its continuing search for an adequate response to what is ‘given’, the search for ways of ‘making sense’.” [From the introduction to The Edge of Words, Bloomsbury, 2014.]

E is for Epistemology, a word that stands for all the ways we explore what we know and how we know it. Words help us make sense of the world. Part of the way we know what we know is by talking about it. Epistemology: more than just another love song.

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A is the first letter of the Alphabet

A is for Authentic. Of course A could also be for Authority, Argument, or Agnostic, words which could all lead to profitable Academic discussions. I’m going to stick with Authentic as my A-word. Authentic things are true and real. Truth plus reality gives these authentic things weight. On the other hand, if something is inauthentic it has a hollow ring of fakery about it.

Why be concerned with something authentic, something weighty? Recently I saw a question posed in a header in social media that separated reality and truth from one another – do we care if something is true, so long as it is real? I’m not sure reality and truth should so casually be separated. Can something be real without being true? And if it were one without the other, would it be an authentic thing, something that carried solid weight?

As an example, lets compare two people called Harry – Potter and Prince Harry of Wales. Both are appealing people, well known and loved by millions. However, Prince Harry is authentic, and Potter is not. Potter is a character in a book and movie series. Because of the ongoing appeal of the series in print, on film, and online, Potter may seem very real. There may be true things to say about Potter and his world. Potter may even seem closer to the world in which you live than Prince Harry does. But Prince Harry shows up in our worlds from time to time, Harry in the flesh. He does things in the real world that Potter cannot do. He is an authentic human being, living and acting in the world, not a character in a fictional universe.

Of course there are many ways to spin authentic. I could argue that I have a more authentic relationship with Potter than with the prince, having read the Potter books more times than I care to admit, and never having met the prince. I could say I have a couple of authentic Canadian first edition Potter books. This sort of spin may have led to the question separating the real and the true that I saw on social media. I’m not sure we should do that in such an off-hand manner, without thinking about what it is we’re saying.

I find that I rather like authentic things, that have both reality and truth, that carry weight. Separating the real and the true diminishes something. So my answer to that internet question, “Does it matter if something is true as long as it is real?” is YES. Yes it matters to me. And I think it should matter to you too.

 

(This is an Authentic Alphabet Soup Monday Morning Blog Post. The authenticity is guaranteed by the capital letters.)

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Third Day: A French translation

I requested and received The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary for Christmas from RABro. This book is set in Paris, and is translated from the French. (All you readers of French out there might want to read it in the original.) I am enjoying it very much. It is hard to describe exactly what the book is about. Philosophy. The meaning of life. Deep thoughts by unlikely people. All these phrases might describe the book. You should just go and find it and read it. It is a few years old at this point, but you can find it at large bookshops and probably also at small independent bookshops as well. It is lovely. Go find it. Now.

What books did you get for Christmas?

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Really interesting author

I mentioned Mark Helprin before in my post on comedy and prophecy. I’m reading another book by Helprin. He is becoming a favoured author. One cannot read his books too quickly. The one I’m presently reading Winter’s Tale features New York City and a white horse with certain special abilities. The book is slightly surreal, as was Freddy and Fredericka which I read before. The surreality is part of the appeal. But in all the surreality, Helprin also makes some statements about society. And about philosophy too. I thought of the mis-communication that was a constant theme in F&F when I read about language and the ability most of us have of communicating with one another most of the time in a philosophy book recently. I wondered to myself whether Helprin was making a comment on deconstructionists and people of that ilk when he wrote F&F. I decided he probably was. His books are simply too intelligent for that not to be the case. Check out Helprin. He writes good stuff. Why is he not read more?

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