Friday, June 23, 2006

Labelling Epistemology? - Blabbering On

Larry B., you need a blog of your own! Your comments on the previous post have been so helpful for me in trying to process my thoughts and reflections. I hope other readers take a moment to click here and read them.

In my ongoing endeavor to transcend labels like “conservative” and “liberal” (even though I use them all the time :) ), I have been thinking about open-minded conservatives and narrow-minded liberals. Although these may seem to be fictional characters, they do in fact, exist. The narrow-minded liberal is the one who says, “I think every voice must be heard” and then adds, “Except for the ones I do not agree with.” The open-minded conservative is the one who says, “I think every voice must be heard” and then decides on a certain (conservative) perspective after rationally processing all of the options.

All things considered, I’d rather hang out with an open-minded conservative than a narrow-minded liberal.

My thoughts at the moment are about epistemology – how do we come to know the things we know? It seems fair to me to say that one who looks at many different sources and evaluates their merit, and who engages in this process continually throughout their life might be said to have a “liberal epistemology” whereas one who rejects different sources out of hand without honestly evaluating them, or has ceased to engage in the process of new learning might be said to have a “conservative epistemology.” A liberal epistemology says, “Here is what I know now; show me more!” A conservative epistemology says, “Here is what I know now; and I’m sticking to it no matter what!”

In his United Methodist blogger profiles, John from Locusts and Honey (scroll down on the left side bar) asks a great question: “Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?” I am fascinated with people’s answers to this question. While pretty much everyone can name something, some people seem to have trouble coming up with an answer, and some people seem to have swung all over the place on an issue. Perhaps this is a reflection on their particular epistemology.

More rambling thoughts: There are people who do not agree with new ideas simply because they are different from what is known. This leads to the “we have never done it that way before” mentality so prevalent in our churches. This mentality, whether the individual self-identifies as liberal or conservative, is inherently conservative, by the classic definition of the term. But a "liberal" can have this mentality, hence the problem with labels.

Reading back over this post, it may very well the most rambling and unformed post EVER. If you are still reading and have made it all the way to the bottom, I am sorry. But I will just let you know that the blabbering of this post represents my thoughts at the moment, which are very nebulous. But maybe that’s just my liberal epistemology at work!

4 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

Great post Andy. I'll counter with this:

All things considered, I’d rather hang out with an open-minded liberal than a narrow-minded conservative.

That said I have to say that I don't find many people on either side that really wants to have this kind of dialog.

adam mustoe said...

Andy! Another good post, also nice use of nebulous.

I compare it to people who hate "contemporary music" in churches (which usually isn't contemporary anyway, I digress) but they forget that the organ was new in churches once too....and those great hymns they love so much were new once too.

I think people just stick with what they're used too, in almost every human scenario, the familiar is easier, I do it all the time.

Peace!

Dark Gable said...

Andy:

My favorite quote is from John Adams, the second President of the United States. He stated well over two centuries ago "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
My second favorite quote is from economist and Senoir Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University Thomas Sowell: "It is futile to talk facts to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance."

Thus it seems fair to me to say that one who examines the facts and evidence, weighing the merits utilizing logic, and engages in this process continually throughout their life might be said to have a “conservative epistemology” whereas one who rejects facts and evidence out of hand without honestly evaluating them, baised on preserving their vision (ie social justice)of how things out to be might be said to have a “liberal epistemology.”
Actually, Sowell states it better than I in his book THE QUEST FOR COSMIC JUSTICE
"Crusaders for social justice seek to correct not merely the sins of man but the oversights of God or the accidents of history. What they are really seeking is a universe tailor-made to their vision of equality."
Your comment that open-minded conservatives seem to be fictional
characters reminds me of a comment I read several years ago from a columnist with the St. Petersburg Times:"Black Republicans are "perhaps the strangest" of all the "creatures whose compositions or habits or appearances defy our sense of logic and our way of viewing reality."
LOL! Nothing like ugly facts to undermine the vision.

Respectfully,
DG

Larry B said...

Andy B,

Thanks for the kind words. However, I'm going to use a "conservative" stereotype and say that my profession and nature doesn't lend itself to too much creativity. And thus it's just not in my skillset to be able to come up with interesting topics to post onto blogs. I have a lot of respect for those who do go out and do it, and I'm grateful to be able to engage in the conversation through the comments.

Epistemology is a fascinating subject, and it helps me to take a step away from the content and look at how I come to think about things, but it can be a little "intellectually dizzying" at sometimes - and thus sometimes the discussions can seem to ramble, but I think your posts are really on a good trajectory and bring up a lot of good points.

Look forward to "leeching" off or your creativity in future posts.