Here’s a word that you don’t hear very often – epistemology. Don’t worry, just keep on reading. It’s the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions, foundations, and validity.
Why on earth would you want to know that? I think I can convince you why you need to know that. Ready? Here it is: Our current, albeit subconscious, philosophy of knowledge, is destroying us.
We are taught from the earliest age, that we need to know more concepts, facts and information. At all levels of our educational system we examine, memorize, absorb, regurgitate facts, figures and information. The goal of all of this is utility. That is, the usefulness in practical terms that comes from the information that we study so hard to get.
Maybe we need to re-examine our emphasis. Maybe we need to recognize that utility is not the only purpose for knowing. Granted, this kind of knowing has served us very well, but it seems to be failing to save us from the disastrous trajectory we’re on. We need to reconnect with our natural human capacities, which brings wisdom to our use. Our pervasive search for conceptual knowledge, has diminished the importance of wisdom.
Different from some older cultures, we honor our young who have an expert grasp of concepts and ignore our elders who can provide the wisdom that balances decisions. From the Dalai Lama,“ In our increasingly materialistic world…there seems to be something lacking within our hearts”.
And that’s the key. We don’t teach our hearts. We teach our heads. We teach people to learn as much information as they can so they can get the things they want – emphasis on things.
So what’s wrong with that? When all we depend on is information, dis-information can have a much more disastrous effect. It’s like blowing a tire. It’s hard to steer a straight course. If it lasts long enough, we lose our bearings. Sound familiar? We’re approaching most of our national problems from this philosophical basis. I would argue that we could solve more problems if we listened to our hearts too.
We’ve been seduced into believing information is king. If we just come up with the next great idea, we can get through any problem – any crisis – any obstacle. But we are forgetting that wisdom tempers our thinking. So while we try to figure out how to cope by using our heads, many of the answers lie in our hearts. We have honored science, facts, concepts, data and information for so long that we’ve forgotten how to listen to the wisdom that lives in our hearts.
We could solve most of our political problems with a good dose of empathy. Empathy comes from our hearts. It evolves from the wisdom gained by living our lives. Most of us know right from wrong, yet we don’t let that knowledge lead us to doing the right thing. Why? Are we afraid to let our humanity show?
Oops! Who wants that? We’ve learned that to be successful, we must use the knowledge in our heads. Forget our hearts. Yet when we’re on the receiving end, we want it the other way around. We can learn a lot by listening to our hearts. But we’ve been trained to listen to our heads. We are burdened with the lessons learned and shaped by an epistemology that honors facts and figures and not our natural instincts.
Isn’t it time to reject the notion that all we have to do is gather more facts to make things better? Maybe the next great idea is that we change our way of thinking about what we need to know to make us happy and complete as human beings.
The comedian, Louis CK once said, “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” Doesn’t that strike you as a little weird?