Friday, March 13, 2009

How Do We Know Anything?

My head hurts.

Eastin and I were reading about the battles at Lexington and Concord this morning. and suddenly she hops up and says, "I just don't believe it. How do we know this happened?" Sigh. Leslie has always been my philosopher. I'm not used to getting these kind of comments from Eastin.

When I taught high school English, I always had some kids (and they always seemed to surface about this time of the year, too) who would question everything I said, every literary interpretation discussed. They drove me nuts. Because they seemed to be just trying to challenge authority, to make a fuss, to be a smartass. My immediate reaction was, I wanted to just send them to the office so I could go on teaching. No office to send Eastin to (unless it's Keith's, and that's a 30 minute drive). Plus, I'm not convinced she's being a smartass. I think that questioning the legitimacy of history is just a new idea for her -- she's playing with it.

But, again, it's piggybacking on the discussions I'm having with my friend about the factuality of the Bible. And my head hurts. I grow weary of my basic conceptions of reality being questioned. Nobody's asking me to defend them, necessarily, but I'm a thinker, and I can't hear the questions without trying to come up with answers. Whether it's "How do we know the Boston Massacre happened?" or "How do we know Jesus walked on water?"

At some point, it all boils down to, how do we know anything? Seriously -- anything at all?? Eastin proudly proclaimed this morning that she doesn't believe anything she can't see with her own eyes (I'm not concerned yet -- she's smart enough to realize the idiocy of that as she matures). But let's be honest -- when it comes down to it, even our "own eyes" often deceive us. One of my favorite lines from A Christmas Carol: Marley's ghost asks, "What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses . . why do you doubt your senses?"

Scrooge replies, "Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you!"

Thus, my frustration with people who insist on relying on their feelings about a matter to determine truth for them. "It can't be wrong when it feels so right!" Baloney. What arrogance.

But that means there has to be another way to determine what's real, what's factual, what's true. I'm sure there's a term for this particular branch of philosophy -- I never studied philosophy, so I don't know it. Feel free to increase my vocabulary, if you can, anyone.

Normally, I love to think about and study this kind of stuff. But on my own terms. When I want to do it, not when it's forced upon me. It's fine for me to question my own beliefs; when others do it, and I'm not up to the discussion, I just want to tell them, "Go to the office, and stop being a smartass!"

But as I said . . no office in the homeschool. So, I have an intellectually rebellious daughter, a radically liberal friend, and a horrible, hacking cough. And it ALL makes my head hurt.


Ona Marae said...

Well, I must claim the radically liberal and I'm still glad to claim the place of friend! If it makes your head hurt, especially on top of a wicked cold, you have the right to skip my blog for a few days so your head will stop hurting...your daughter I can't do anything about! And yes there are four or so major words for ways of knowing in philosphy, but I working hard to forget them so I can't help! LOL

Anonymous said...

I have several books I refer to when I have doubts, or doubters. Lee Strobel has written several good books like "The Case for Christ", "The Case for Faith", and "The Case for a Creator". He did a good job proving the case for the creator of this universe and that we didn't just evolve from monkeys and that there is a strong case for the Bible being factual (of course that does not mean all things should be taken literally). For those who tend to need strong technical reasons, these books do the job.

GJK said...

Thanks, Dave. Those are great books. I actually have a lot of apologetics books -- like I said, it's something I normally get into. I'm just feeling lousy these days . . and neither "Ona" or I are trying to change each other's minds, necessarily . Just trying to understand each other.

Meredith said...

History is tough, and I was never a huge fan of history despite my dad being in love with it. Sometimes I feel like History IS just a bunch of names, dates, and events that we're supposed to memorize...for what?? I've been told that we learn History so we don't make the same mistakes our forefathers it's kind of like Jesus, whether History is fact or fiction, isn't there still something we can learn from it? Would Eastin understand that? Isn't that why we document everything? So we're not reinventing the wheel all the time...and then we can make new observations, discoveries, and theories about the world...SCIENCE! LOL, but that's coming from a science geek...