Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Speaking of class blogs

As with my 9th grade classes, my Jr./Sr. level Epistemology class is also writing weekly blogs, and I do plan on keeping up with them and addressing the question of the week for them as well. Here goes. Should a knower’s personal point of view be considered an asset in the pursuit of knowledge, or an obstacle to be overcome?

A few of the students have tried for the whole "It depends" approach, but I don't want to waffle like that. I do think that a personal point of view deeply affects the pursuit of knowledge, whether one wants it to or not. The question comes down to how conscious of that effect the knower is, and once conscious of the effect, the issue then becomes whether or not that knower chooses to do anything about it. In Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality, B. Alan Wallace remarks that "Believing shapes seeing." (p. 69) I see this played out in the day to day life of many people, whether they know it or not. It's called bias, and when pursuing knowledge, it's a risk that the puruser needs to be conscious of and ready to respond when it rears its head, for good or bad.

We see this issue come about particularly when one is trying to make a point, regardless of subject area or interest. We all have a natural tendency to filter out what we don't like or disputes our already established point of view or theory, and to accept that which reinforces that which we think we already know and can reinforce our personal hypotheses.

This plays itself out in the work place and in society at large as well. There are repeated instances of organizations ignoring research or information that may prove detrimental to that organization and seeking out, or in some cases funding, research or information that will shore up that company's party line. Woe be to the employee that speaks up or out of turn.

There's an adage, "As ye seek, so shall ye find." This is the essence of a knower's personal point of view influencing the pursuit of knowledge. And while it seems that perhaps I consider that point of view to be a liability in pursuing Truth, at the same time, I do feel that awareness of that point of view can serve a knower quite well, driving that person further into depths of search that an unaware seeker of truth may ignore.

Part of this relates also to the source of knowledge. What good is it to be aware of your own personal point of view if you are not aware of the points of view of the sources of your information? Certainly there are those who relay information in a clear, unbiased manner... or are there? I would like to think so, and yet, there is plenty of room for doubt.

This almost seems like the age-old dilemma of whether or not we merely perceive reality or if in fact we actually construct it. On the level of Newtonian physics, it would appear that the former is true. However, once one enters the realm of quantum physics, all bets are off. In that context, one's point of view certainly becomes an obstacle, one that at least for now, seems to be insurmountable.

Yet if we do, indeed, construct our reality, is this a bad thing? If action follows thought, and if we truly decide to put our thoughts towards change and peace, then perhaps a little reconstruction is in order.

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