Archive for October 22nd, 2011

Purchase: Amazon

The author Esther Lightcap Meek teaches philosophy at Covenant Theological Seminary and has written this work as an introduction to epistemology for ordinary people. Her chief thesis is that knowing God is like knowing about ordinary things in life such as the auto mechanic. In fact, knowing the auto mechanic is a repeated illustration thoughout the book. Early in the book, Meek tackles the issue of Cartesian certainty and yet the nagging problem of skepticism, of how both are inadequate and problematic (I am in agreement with her here). She mentions that knowing and longing to know is a very human act. In her theory of knowledge, Meek is trying to account for learning that is more than just deduction. Operating from the presupposition that learning includes discovering new things, Meek makes the observation that logical deduction from certain premises to bring out a conclusion is not enough: humans do learn totally new sets of propositions, not just derived from propositions one already know. What I really enjoy was the author’s use of the Magic-Eye 3-D analogy as it relates to knowledge. We look at something, and we are trying to find subsidiaries, that is, clues. Focus is the goal of our learning, which she defined as trying to get a unified, coherent pattern. Meek stresses intergration (coherence) in the knowing process. This is also where Meek is able to bring in norms and authority in the equation of knowledge, since one needs “direction” in giving the value and “seeing” the pattern in subsidiaries. Her illustration from daily life in this regard, of her concern as a mother being skeptical of breastfeeding her baby for the first time with the “guidance” of the nurse is a beautiful imagery of how we need authoritative guide in the epistemic acts of every day affairs. Here I wished Meek could have discussed more the recognition of patterns: how do we have this knowledge of “patterns” beforehand? Seeing that the book attempts to bring the question of epistemology to bear on the issue of knowing God, I wished she could have taken a more explicit direction like that of Presuppositional Apologetics, where God is invoked as the one who provides the foundation for even identifying patterns and universals, etc., especially since she has been influenced by Presuppositionalists John Frame and James Grier. Meek’s theory of knowledge disavow correspondence theory of truth but embraces contact instead; certainty is disavowed and replaced with confidence. I wonder how different is “contact” over “correspondence,” and also how different is confidence is from non-Cartesian certainty. Overall, a good book, and readers must remember that the author’s intention is not to answer everything about epistemology. The author is certainly taking into account modernism and postmodernism, foundationalism and relativism in her work. One might also have to look pass the repetition about how good her mechanic is—no doubt a good advertisement for Jeff the Mechanic!

Note: After writing this review, I’ve noticed that John Frame has a review of it too.  You can access it here.

Read Full Post »