The Nature of Knowledge

The Faculty Ministry Leadeship Team (on which I serve, as part of my role with the Emerging Scholars Network) is reading Douglas Sloan’s book Faith and Knowledge: Mainline Protestantism and Higher Education. I’m keeping a reading journal on my other blog (parts one, two, and three, so far are up). 

One passage, in particular, strikes me as something I’ve been thinking over for some time.  Sloan describes how, after World War II, universities redefined “knowledge” into, basically, the “higher utilianarianism” of scientific, technical, and social research, and the “lower utilitarianism” of “community service and vocational training.”  As a result, there was “very little concern…for an education devoted to the deepening and enrichment of personal and cultural existence.”

Elizabeth and I are just beginning our childrens’ formal education.  Over the last few years, I have wished that my early education included more of the “great books” in the Western tradition.  I have been jealous of the ways that my poetic heroes – Eliot, Auden, Wilbur – were/are able to draw (seemingly) effortlessly from a depth of cultural knowledge that I had to google just to understand.  I’ve been attracted to the classical Christian education movement as a corrective to what I see as gaps in my personal education. 

Just this morning, I was talking with a friend at my other job about the nature of reason.  His work deals quite a bit with debunking scams and seeing through false claims, so he has been attracted to skeptical societies and logical arguments.  Even though he himself is a musician and writer, he seems to lean more to the naturalism favored by so many professional skeptics.  In my experience, hardened skeptics have become so accustomed to fighting false beliefs in UFOs, magic potions, and con artists, that they fail to recognize the truth in philosophy, theology, and religion.  In fact, they often lump the two groups together as mutually “unprovable.”

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