I was doing some perusing of the latest publication of a favorite online hub for science, psychology, and social justice (lighter reading alternatives not equal to the task of exciting my neurons), when my eyes passed over a long-loved word: epistemology. How can anyone not pause and wonder at such a delicious word? I first ran across it in college, of course, because: a) grade school teachers are mostly concerned with rudimentary elements of learning (as they attempt to use their individual classrooms to socialize the newbies among us), and b) no self-respecting high school student would allow such lofty words from the desert sands of time equal consideration alongside an emoticon on their electronic devices. Who could blame them?
When forced to attend to the edicts of higher education, we begin to catch a glimpse of simpler times when mankind could stride from hearth to field and pause to opine. It is there, in a place where Wi-Fi is a millennium away, that we find Pythagoras and his ilk exercising a ‘love of wisdom’ and seeking to bring some order to questioning, and existence; how humans acquire knowledge and what faculties are employed in the doing of it.
From these toga-clad denizens’ contemplations on the possibility of knowing anything and proving it, came other more practical inquiries about a best way to conduct life. Positing logic and reason as the seat of human essence, the trail they blazed formed a complex root system for other minds to follow. Before long (a blink of a byte), the connections formed by those roots were explored and charted sufficient to the task of explaining what sustains the eventual growth above ground. Natural philosophy gave rise to the fields of medicine and science; and when the branches splayed, they gave shade for further investigations to flourish. Presto! Mankind had the rudiments for specializing.
Psychology, sociology, and economics picked up the quest that would lead to the discovery of how we live together, categorize behavior, and conduct commerce, and the less-lofty pursuit of judging our differences to be less than or greater than.
In the time it took to smoke two cigarettes and drink one ever-cooling cup of coffee, I have traversed from a moment when I could gaze at the morning sun making its’ inexorable journey across my patch of blue, to an awareness for the harsher reality of the selection process for the vacant seat on our Supreme Court that bears no resemblance to the thoughtful examination Pythagoras accorded human existence.
Quote for today: “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, Our action run as causes, and come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville