Monday, May 30, 2005

Descartes,Epistemology, and Phenomenology

We tend to think of epistemology as fashioned by Descartes. the rationalist constucts a neat little system for obtaining certain knlwedge. At the time that Descartres came up with the cogito Europe was emboiled in a crisis of skepticsm. The Skeptics weren't just anti-religious, though, they were Calivnists! The Calvinists challenged chruch authority, and the chruch was the gate keeper of knowledge. So Descartes' system was aimed at wrecking the arguments of the Calvinists, who despized reason and militated for faith as the ulimate route to knoweldge.

Descartes failed in that he didn't bring everyone back to the RCC, but he succeeded beyond his wildest in that he established the method of empirical scientific proof thorugh statistical verifcation, or helped to do so. Since that time we have tenede to think of epistemology as a need little disciplien that sets out a systemstic system and 1,2,3 we have the truth because we know how we know.

But it doesn't work that way in moderity. Things are too complex. One thing that happened since WWII was a current in German thought that goes back to Brintano and the 19th century came to fruition in the guise of a Nazi, even one accepted in the land of the Nazi deafters.

I speak of course of Heigeggerian epistemology. That is a very appropriate juncture for a Christian to move into thinking about epistemolgy, since Heidegger was influenced by two major christian thinkers, in the liberal tradition; the 'father' of modern liberal theology, Schleiermacher, and the "father" of modern existentialism, Keirkegaard. Both were devout christians.

This phenomenological persective runs parell to the persective of mystical religoius experince, which is the most sure fire safe guard on faith of which I know.

Heideggerian phenomenology proceeds from a point of allowing the phenomena to suggest their own categories. Rather than "gathering" all data into a heap and forcing it into pre conceieved categoreis, the phenomenologist begins with the root of the experince in sense data and phenomena, and rather than insisting upon filing it where he thinks it goes, he mentally allows the phenomena to suggest its own category.

That means in practicle terms expeiencing the presence of God rather than insisting thorugh rationalistic means that God exists and God is thus and so. One experinces God and then comes to an understanding of the nature of God.

Now I'm not saying that this can be a total empistemology in and of itself. We also have emprical knowledge and revelation. But you know my view on revelation of the Bible, that is a recored f peopel's experinces of god; that is very phenomenological. rather than be dictated their theological tennets, they recorede their expeinces and that becomes the tennet as the community comopares it to its own experinces; the dialetical presence model of inspiration that Barth and others spoke of.

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