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All Knowledge is Persepectival

N.T. Wright makes the point that all knowledge is perspectival in his chapter on Epistemology in relation to the study of the Bible in The New Testament and the People of God (p. 36).  He opposes two views equally.  First, positivism, which asserts that all true knowledge is purely objective; and phenomenalism, which posits that there is no such thing as true knowledge, but only our individual raw sense-data.  Describing his own epistemological commitment to Critical Realism, he notes three characteristics of knowledge:

1. Each observer “is looking from one point of view and one only; and there is no such thing as a god’s-eye view (by which would be meant a Deist god’s-eye view) available to human beings, a point of view which is no human’s point of view.”

2. “[C]onsequent upon this, all humans inevitably and naturally interpret the information received from their senses through a grid of expectations, memories, stories, psychological states, and so on.”

3. “[M]ost importantly, where I stand, and the (metaphorical) lenses through which I look have a great deal to do with the communities to which I belong… There is no such thing as the ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ observer; equally, there is no such thing as the detached observer.”

Wright goes on to argue that some truth is nevertheless knowable, but we must take into account our own perspectives, especially noting instances where our natural interpretations are likely to skew or distort the data to fit our own worldviews.  In case you have doubts that all knowledge is perspectival, this short YouTube video makes the point:

Thus we must learn to take a critical stand toward our own assumptions and presuppositions.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. bdstimpson
    July 15, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Pretty sweet video. It actually makes the point really well.

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