Friday, March 30, 2012

Quid Est Veritas? Part Three

What do you look forward to?

We all have dreams, hopes, some sort of thing that we don't experience yet, but that we hope for sooner or later.

This is what I would call the third kind of knowledge. Just as visceral knowledge is awareness of the stimulations of our nervous systems, and just as conjectural knowledge is a set of narratives about the things that impinge on our lives, anticipatory knowledge is the next level of abstraction from the purely physical.

We hope, we have faith, we dream - none of the things that are the objects of these thoughts exist in the present; they're all real only in the indefinite future.

Visceral knowledge maps physical sensation to a mind aware of its surroundings.

Conjectural knowledge uses the vehicle of language to explain context, quality, quantity, and other aspects of the physical objects and their presence about us, as well as thoughts engendered by those objects. The knowledge, because of its use of language, moves from being purely individualistic into a communal or social realm.

Coming directly from the conjectural, anticipatory knowledge extends conjecture and narrative into the future, even as it looks back to the past and examines the present. We become less locked into the here and now, and begin to be conscious of the expanse of time.

These kinds of knowledge interpenetrate and feed back on each other. There are no hard and fast boundaries between them, even as we try to separate and categorize various experiences into one or the other.

Fundamental to all this is language. Words are only meaningful when shared, even as the thoughts are uniquely locked within our own minds. Without a way of encoding our experiences, we lose some part of our humanity.

Words are powerful enough to create a world within each of us. Within our minds, we carry a construct of the way the world works. We have observed, been taught, and conceived of relationships and mechanisms that can predict behavior. It's this ability to predict that is at play in anticipatory knowledge, except that most of the time, we also harbor a sense that things may not turn out the way we expect. We are conscious of incomplete control over our futures. From this awareness of less than perfect control, all sorts of things can spring. We may treat people in a manipulative manner to get our way. We may be selfish, completely devoted to our own good at the expense of others; the social bond will fray. We may become misled due to erroneous thinking, making mistakes that we might otherwise avoid. All sorts of things can go wrong.

Anticipatory knowledge, of course, is at the heart of spiritual faith. Faith is hope in things unseen. The knowledge of the not-yet is just such hope conceptualized. This faith can feed back into the here and now, and cause us to do and think things that put us at odds with "the way things are," in anticipation of preparing us for the future that we hope for. This is the essence of many prayers, that they would produce in us the change we ask for.

With this taxonomy of types of knowledge, we still have to examine the idea of truth. Is truth a quality of the objective world itself, or is it something that exists in our consciousness of that world? We'll examine these alternatives in the next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment