Toward a New Epistemology Beyond the Postmodern – Chapter 5

Toward a New Epistemology Beyond the Postmodern

By Lee Karl Palo, © 2005 Lee Karl Palo



[Back to Introduction with the Table of Contents]

[Back to Chapter 4]


Chapter 5

God and Knowing

I. Polanyi’s View of Theology

To begin an integration of Michael Polanyi’s thought with theology, I had the idea to prove the existence of God. If one accepts Michael Polanyi’s theory of personal knowledge as valid as I believe it to be, there are many implications which Polanyi himself was not aware when he developed his theory. Polanyi makes it a point to demonstrate how the development of a new scientific theory quite often entails implications that the developer of the theory could not foresee at the time of the theory’s initial development. Polanyi states: “The mark of discovery is not its fruitfulness but the intimation of its fruitfulness.”1 Polanyi goes on to state how in the formulation of Louis de Broglie’s theory of ascribing “wave nature to ponderable particles” no one could foresee at the time that this theory would imply “that electronic beams would give diffraction patterns similar to X-rays.”2 Thomas S. Kuhn calls such major discoveries “paradigms” in which further research is still to be done, and Polanyi states that there is a necessity to now go back and analyze much of science that can have new implications due to his theory of personal knowledge. The point here is that God’s existence could very well be an implication of Polanyi’s theory of which he himself was unaware.

Firstly when one understands the nature of the universe as comprising ontologically hierarchical levels why would one stop with the level of the human? Of course one can argue that we, as human beings, cannot know beyond the level of the human, else we would cease to be human. Nevertheless that fact has not stopped some from attempting it. Anselm of Canterbury said God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” I would say, along with many others in the Christian tradition, that God is greater than that which can be conceived. This fact does not make it impossible for us to talk meaningfully about something wholly other and beyond the realm of the human. The fact to the theologian is that God has condescended to the level of humanity in the form of, what we as theologians call, revelation. In this case revelation comes through messages given to prophets, or supremely in God’s self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. However this does not mean that we understand God as God is in God’s self. We would say that revelation is watered down into a form palatable to us human beings.3 Thus Theology approximates the true nature of what God reveals to us in its metaphor and analogy. To bring in an analogy: I do not expect my dog to be able to understand me as I really am. During the time of the writing of this thesis my dog Nelson died; he has lived and died without ever understanding why it is that I am (sorry, I mean “was”) so far from him in Kansas City going to Nazarene Theological Seminary. And yet because Nelson did not really understand me does not make me non-existent.

One can now postulate that God is an emergence from reality as we perceive it, over and above it, operating by different principles than the rest of it. As our concept of God implies that there is nothing greater than God, God must therefore be the greatest emergence of a clearly stratified reality. Stop and think about this for awhile…

If you find this conception of God convincing in the slightest I believe it is safe to say you understand Polanyi’s theory. The early part of this thesis has been set up knowing that the Polanyian theory of personal knowledge is radically foreign to most people. So how does one proceed with an integration of Polanyi’s thought with theology in a polemic addressed to everyone? Everyone knows what it is I am reacting against as it is part and parcel of how we think at present (at least on a tacit level). In order to proceed I had to explicate the Polanyian worldview a bit at a time and hope that I could lure the reader out of some of the old ways of conceiving of knowledge. Knowledge and conceptions of knowledge are so basic to who we humans are that it can be said that everyone has a conception of knowledge (to employ Polanyi once more: they are most often tacit). Thinking about knowledge is something few people do (the ones who do are philosophers concerned with epistemology, i.e. epistemologists).

In order to proceed with my polemic I had to provide Polanyi’s theory subtly. Polanyi’s theory, being a radical departure from most other concepts of what knowledge is, could very easily create conflict within someone well versed in those other concepts of knowledge. Conflict in this case could lead to a rejection of Polanyian based epistemology in favor of the status quo. However, by using subtlety I could demonstrate the clear intelligibility of Polanyi’s philosophical theories of knowledge. Hopefully the reader has taken enough time for the theory of personal knowledge to take root. Once this happens I could begin to show some of the inadequacies with some other current epistemologies. When the “two theories” are brought to the surface I could bring them into conflict with each other. If I have done my job the obviousness, the simplicity, the beauty, and the overwhelming superiority of Polanyian epistemology would be the clear choice given the inadequacies of more popular conceptions of knowledge. Now perhaps it can be seen why I created a new conception of God’s existence. This conception of God is a litmus test (i.e. if it makes sense or not) to determine if the reader has come to accept Polanyian theories of knowledge.

If you, the reader, do not buy this conception of God’s existence (which is really more of an argument for the possibility of God’s existence) that is fine. I was hoping for the reader to gain an understanding of this conception of God, and not necessarily to be persuaded by it. If the reader were to find this conception of God even the slightest bit alluring then I am vindicated. I do not buy this conception of God myself, but when I first thought of it I found it quite amusing. Basically the argument, to my mind, is the reverse, in a sense, of the Cosmological argument. St. Thomas Aquinas uses the epistemologically paradigmatic cause-and-effect line of thinking to prove God. I used the Polanyian concept of the emergence of levels to ascend to God. Thomas goes backward to the “first-cause,” while I ascend levels of reality to the greatest level (God). I would say that both arguments suffer the same problems, which I do not wish to go into here in exhaustive detail.

Firstly, Thomas’ “cosmological God” could logically have created the world and then moved away, which is not a Christian affirmation. With my “emergent God” God is wholly dependent on the world, which is not a Christian affirmation (it is pantheism in a sense). In point of fact the closest religious concept to my “emergent God” is the Hindu concept of Brahman, though with a Buddhistmaterialistic bent to it. And, as I already mentioned, this conception of God is really only a possible way of conceiving of God. This entire conception of God’s existence disappears outside a Polanyian framework, unless the reader is a Hindu perhaps. This is why it made such a good test to see if you, the reader, were catching on to Polanyi’s theory of personal knowledge. The more convincing it was, the more likely the reader has come to indwell Polanyi’s conception of epistemology.

Earlier in my thesis I mentioned that I would later defend Polanyi’s theory of the ontological structure of the universe as stratified levels of reality against the claim that it is only that we human beings read that into the universe. It is certainly one thing to assert how human beings come to know things in the Polanyian from-to structure of tacit knowing, but something else entirely to the take this from-to structure and apply it to reality working out its implications for reality (as Polanyi does). One can say that it is mere anthropomorphism, and not really the way reality is. Like my statement defending the from-to structure of tacit knowing, I find that Polanyi’s concept of reality as stratified best makes sense of things. But that argument just sounds weak. Even Polanyi states that the beauty of a scientific theory is a good indicator of its accuracy to reality. I certainly find Polanyi’s theory beautiful in its own way. Basically it comes down to whether or not you, the reader, accept Polanyi’s epistemological paradigm. Truth cannot be coerced, and rabid skepticism will not be denied, much less idiotic stubbornness. In the end one has to choose out of one’s own participation in the philosophical-scientific programme. Even Polanyi says that to declare something to be true is merely to declare that it ought to be accepted by all. One thing that should be clear by now, regarding a Polanyian epistemology, is that knowing is inseparable from doing.4 That how we know what we know (epistemology) is fundamentally linked with the process of learning is also an integral, one might say basic, component in a Polanyian epistemology. Thus, as we shall see in later chapters, factors affecting the learning process are quite relevant to epistemology from within a Polanyian framework.

To begin with an integration of Polanyi’s thought with theology it might be prudent to discuss what it is Polanyi himself has to say about theology. Obviously Polanyi’s theory of knowledge extends to all forms of knowledge, but not all knowledge is of the same type. To utilize Wittgenstein’s concept of “language games,” there are different rules for different games. Different types of knowledge often have unique rules by which they operate. If for Polanyi knowledge is indwelt and can be said to come about from a particular skill, then one wonders what type of skills are employed in the different areas of science and theology. These skills that are developed in a specific area of knowledge comprise the rules that are designed to fit the object of the game/area of knowledge. The scientist theorizes, investigates, and experiments. To Polanyi the theologian worships.5 Obviously the theologian and, to broaden the discussion, the Christian in general does not worship without an object of worship. The object of worship is, of course, the focus of the game. To Polanyi the theologian formulates theology with regards to a given body of revelation accepted by the community of faith as such. However Polanyi follows noted Protestant theologian Paul Tillich’s existential theology for which knowledge of revelation is not open to critical analysis by scientific and historical means. To my way of thinking this opens up a weakness in Polanyi’s thought as regards religious knowledge. It should be noted that I am not the only one to see this as a weakness. Harry Prosch in his book Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition notes, “It appears to me from conversations with other theologians generally friendly to Polanyi’s views that there are many who find the distinction he introduces [between the realities dealt with in science and those in the arts and in religion] questionable.”6 Polanyi, it should be remembered, was a scientist and philosopher, and not a theologian. While following and adopting the thought of a major religious thinker as Paul Tillich demonstrates wisdom for not recklessly jumping into another “language game,” in this case there are many who do not agree with Paul Tillich as to the “rules of the game.”

Polanyi does say that “…tacit knowing is in fact the dominant principle of all knowledge, and that its rejection would, therefore, automatically involve the rejection of any knowledge whatever.”7 This clearly means both scientific and religious knowledge. However religious knowledge is meaningful in a way that scientific knowledge never can be. Polanyi even uses the Genesis creation accounts to help illustrate this point.8 Polanyi would not say that the Genesis creation accounts are factual in the scientific manner of being empirically testable or verifiable, and yet they provide meaning for the creation that science is utterly impotent to provide. To help illustrate the problem Prosch states: “…to reject Polanyi’s distinction because of an assumption that nothing can count as real unless it can be thought to be something existing independent of our thought, and that all human articulations must aim at such realities, is to place the arts, myth, and religion in a most awkward position.”9

The problem, as has been alluded to, can be said to stem from the fact that Michael Polanyi was a scientist first and foremost. Sure there are differences but to draw such sharp distinctions is to forget who it is that made the distinctions in the first place. We human beings, by virtue of the ability to focus our attention, can draw distinctions between things and thus not leave them to a continuous flux of experience (i.e. Buddhist meditation strategy). Surely the emergence of this ability in its higher forms through language in humankind comes even prior to science and religion. My argument for the reconciliation between what Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch have called “tacit knowing” and “tacit meaning” is to put the search for meaning prior to the search for scientific truth. The drive for meaning10 is what brings knowledge into existence. Phrased differently: without a focus of a “game” the “rules” for that game would never come to be. In the act of focusing attention we attempt to ascribe meaning to that which we attend to focally. The drive for meaning is thus tacit. Knowledge itself is a concept that has become meaningful to us, and came about when we reflect on its tacit nature. The problem is when one takes tacit knowledge to be on the same level as tacit meaning. To phrase it another way: science is not at the same level as meaning. Science germinates out of meaning, as does religion, thus one need not say that religious knowledge must never purport to describe something existing independent of our thought. As Nietzsche would say scientific method (scientific epistemology) itself does not exist independent of our thought.11 When we reflect on the tacit knowledge used in the performance of a skill we are not reflecting on something that is independent of our thought, in point of fact it is our thought. That which we focus on through science can be said to have existence independent of our thought. Science, as many would say, has nothing to do with that which exists only in our thought. That which exists only in thought is not by definition empirical. This is also why many scientists do not like psychology for example.

There are many aspects of the arts and religion that do not deal with that which has independent existence from our thought. Psychology, in order to explain behavior, rightly looks to that which has existence only in thought.12 To utilize Polanyi’s theory: the level of thought at which we human beings operate cannot be fully understood in terms of the levels below it. It relies on them for its operation, which is why we can have biological psychology. Biological psychology has noticed that damage to “Broca’s area” of the brain leads to a breakdown in higher language functioning. Thus higher language functioning relies on the biological “gray-matter” for its operation. The line between that which exists only in our thought and that which has existence independent of our thought becomes blurry.

Polanyi, due to his scientific background, sees the arts and religion as not dealing with things that have independent existence from our thought.13 This characterization of religion by Polanyi is not helped by Polanyi’s reliance on Tillich’s existential theology that emphasizes the immanent subjective aspect with little regard for any claim to existence independent from our thought. After all, the importance of religion for Tillich lies not primarily in any claim to realities independent of our existence, but to what religion does in us.

With my placement of the emergence of meaning prior to science and religion, which I believe to be in fundamental agreement with Polanyi’s basic thought, I open up the possibility for religion to be able to talk meaningfully about reality external to our existence. God exists independently of us. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. These two claims do purport to go beyond the thought life of human beings, although their existential reality in us is also very important. The Apostle Paul spends more time on things that do not have existence independent of our thought, and yet he also makes a very significant assertion that if Christ has not been bodily raised from the dead in then the believer’s faith in Christ is vain.14 N. T. (Tom) Wright says, “(Not long ago there was a survey among bishops in my part of the church; most of them said they did believe in Jesus’ resurrection, but some said that whether or not this was a bodily event didn’t really matter—you could believe it or not as you chose. That is a total misunderstanding of what Paul is talking about—and Paul is our earliest witness for the gospel itself.)”15 It is extremely important to note that to many theologians, including the Apostle Paul, much of religious knowledge is predicated on realities independent of human existence. In early Judaism historical events were imbued with meaning that went beyond the events themselves seen empirically, but were inseparable to those historical events. Thus to attack the reality of historical events is to undermine the level upon which the meaning of the supposed event relies for its successful operation. It is true however for some, that historical reality of events that have meaning ascribed to them is not necessary for the maintenance of the said meaning.16 The meaning of said event can then find a foundation from within one’s higher thought life. One could say that the meaning of an event is far more important than the event itself in many instances. The reason (some would say) that Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection were actualized in history is for the meaning intended by the author of the events.

In any case, while I think Polanyi may have drawn too sharp a distinction between science and other aspects of culture he does have a point that there are some differences. The Bible is a source of revelation whose underlying authority is not to be fundamentally (pun intended) questioned, thus setting it well apart from science. How this authority is to be defined and issues as to what the Bible really says are hotly debated in the Church. The Bible is paradigmatic for the Christian in a way that a scientific paradigm is not for the scientist. But as one may well recall, there are some defining “dogmas” in scientific investigation that cannot be questioned without putting into jeopardy one’s status as a scientist.

In the end, Polanyi’s view of theology can be seen to be too closely linked to Paul Tillich’s view of theology. While Tillich does have some important things to say to the discipline of theology his views are hardly representative of all partakers of the discipline. Thus in order to relate Polanyian philosophy to theology other perspectives are clearly called for. The work of T. F. Torrance is a good example of a theologian who takes seriously Polanyi’s philosophical views, but who has been influenced by the other great twentieth century Protestant theologian, Karl Barth. I do not intend to merely replicate Torrance’s use of Polanyian philosophy, rather I intend on presenting my own creative use of Polanyian philosophy. I have found elements of both Paul Tillich and Karl Barth (the twentieth century “prophets” of immanent and transcendent theology respectively) to be very significant.

II. Polanyian Investigations into Theology

There have been other philosophical systems that have attempted to describe God’s relationship to the world, and two of them in particular will be of help with the following Polanyian investigations into theology. These two philosophical systems are Neo-Platonism and Process Philosophy/Theology. While there will be some elements in common with a Polanyian theological-ontology of God there will be some differences.

A very important claim to all three of the great monotheistic faiths is God’s transcendence. God is other than, as well as over and above, the universe. The importance of God’s transcending creation cannot be overemphasized (a point of Karl Barth’s). A significant aspect of process philosophy and theology is that God is related to creation in an integral and inseparable way, and still other than creation (Hartshorne’s concept of panentheism). One of my frustrations with how some of my fellow students have appropriated process thought is that God’s activity with relation to the world is exhaustively described. God is greater than that which can be described (as I stated at the beginning of this chapter). Many theologians acknowledge that whatever language is applied to God can only be metaphorical or analogical; that there can never be a one to one correspondence of language to reality in theology.17 To exhaustively describe God puts God, intellectually, wholly within the realm of the human (thus God no longer transcends the intellect). I find many of the concepts of process thought to be useful, especially how God’s activity with relation to the world is described. Thus my annoyance has to do, not with the description of God’s activity with relation to the world, but with a lack of, what I refer to as, “epistemological humility.”18 As I stated earlier God is beyond human understanding, and my own conception of God’s existence (at the beginning of this chapter) could (if misappropriated) have the very same problem. The fact, to the believer, is that God has condescended to the level of the human in order to actually communicate with us, part of God’s creation. Even then, however, God is still seen as quite beyond the level of the human.

There is some use for a Polanyian conception of reality applied to theology. It is important to make clear to the reader, if the reader has not already figured out, that to me theology is wholly contingent to what God has revealed to us. I would make it a principle for all theologies, not necessarily to restrict themselves to God’s revelations in history, but to take revelation as the starting point for theology. While God is over and above creation, it is a similar claim to say that God also understands reality at a level greater than human beings. Process theology has a concept called “panentheism” (already alluded to) which means that God permeates the universe, all of creation, and yet God is somehow other than the universe. This does indeed imply a dualism of sorts that God and the universe are mutually exclusive. I find it necessary to make this relationship of God to the universe clear. I would apply Michael Polanyi’s concept of the stratification of reality here, though not at all in the same sense as my earlier conception of God’s existence did. In this case I would not say that the level at which God exists is an emergence from lower levels of creation. Understood in this light, God’s existence over and above creation makes more sense. God does understand creation at a level far above that of the human.

That God does understand the universe at a level far above that of the human creates a problem for us human beings that obviously are incapable of fully grasping the level at which God exists. How could human beings ever hope to bridge the gap from finite existence to infinite being? Neo-Platonists understood their “god” (in this case “the One”) to exist at a level far above the level of the human. This created a problem in that the nature of God’s existence precluded God from ever coming into contact with the universe. The level at which God exists in Neo-Platonic thought has eternal unchangeable qualities to it, and as the universe is anything but unchangeable, there would be no way for God to interact with the universe. Obviously if one holds to some idea that revelation is from God’s being in contact with the universe one can immediately see the problem. But is there another way to understand how God interacts with the universe?

It should be noted that the problem of God’s interaction with the universe in Neo-Platonic thought is mostly due to the fact that the universe is an emanation from God. As I mentioned, it is important to remember that God is other than the universe, and to say that God is at a level above and beyond the universe is not to attach God to the universe through successive emanations or emergences. The idea that God is at a level above and beyond the universe is a tool to aid our understanding of God, so it is subject to the same restrictions as metaphor. The process concept of panentheism, while not necessary to theology, is useful in theology to emphasize God’s omnipresence without equating that omnipresence with the universe itself, as I already stated.

Aside from the concept “panentheism” in process theology there is a Polanyian concept that might help us to understand how God can interact with the universe. That Polanyian concept is “indwelling.” As we learn a skill we come to indwell the knowledge of that skill over time. God can, in a sense, be said to indwell the universe in terms of being literally present everywhere. This “indwelling of the universe by God” is kind of the reverse of human learning of a skill leading to indwelling of that skill. When we learn to drive a car in a sense the car becomes an extension of our body. The sense data being provided us by the car in the car’s interaction with the environment is indwelt. As Polanyi says we feel the vibrations and the velocity of the car, not as immediate sensations, but as those sensations relate to the position of the car. At first in the learning of a skill the sensations are novel, in that we do not know how they relate to the task of driving. Later on when we indwell the task of driving, in the performance of turning the car to another street, we can gauge the distance from where we are at the speed we are going, to where the next street is. We know tacitly what all that sense data means for how much we will have to slow down and how far we will have to turn. We know the sense data, from the position of driving the car to the point that we can say we feel the car’s relationship to the environment. In reality we are separate from the car so the sense data can be said to be presented just to us, not to the car. Yet we do not understand the sense data as it is presented to us, but by how it is presented to us in relationship to the task of driving. The feeling of turning as immediate sensation can be received by hopping into a centrifuge, which can create the same sensation of turning, but it does not mean the same thing.

In a way God can be said to indwell all of reality, all levels of reality simultaneously, otherwise God would not be said to be omniscient. God, being over and above creation, understands at a level beyond the highest emergence of creation. Indwelling as applied to God would mean that God, being already present everywhere, understands things individually and corporately as they relate to each other at all different levels. Just as we can be said to indwell the car and perceive things as they relate to the car and yet remain ontologically other than the car, so too can God. The necessity to emphasize also that God understands things and exists at a level over and above the universe brings into being the idea of divine will or providence. It is not enough for God to understand things at all of the levels below God, God must also be able to assimilate all of God’s lower level knowledge into a higher level in order to be able to act upon it as the Bible clearly indicates that God does.

Process thought locates God’s ability to assimilate all of God’s lower level knowledge into a higher level in order to act upon it in terms of individual occasions conceived in the smallest constituent elements. God’s ideal result for an actual occasion works on an atomic scale, thus it is beyond human perception. We as human beings can bring lower level knowledge into a higher level in order to act upon it. We humans, by contrast work in much larger terms (Gestalten) we have formed (by virtue of from-to knowing), while God can work at a microscopic level and beyond. The very nature of Polanyian from-to knowing is the taking of tacit lower-level knowledge and proceeding from that to the level at which it can mean something comprehensively and can thus be acted upon. Process thought talks about God’s interaction with the universe in terms of atomic-moment-to-moment “initial aims” of God. Here we see that God not only understands reality in the way described by process thought, but God also understands reality in terms of all higher levels as well.

Perhaps it would be beneficial for the reader to have some of what has just been said restated. God is ontologically present everywhere in the universe, and yet God is other than the universe. There is also evidence in scripture that God knows the universe at multiple levels of reality. God is said to know the number of hairs on our head, as well as things like when a bird falls to the ground. Jesus uses this to point out how much more significant we human beings are to God than how flowers are clothed.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34 NAS)

Clearly there is at least a tacit understanding that there are indeed multiple levels of reality with regard to the level of significance. The Genesis creation account clearly places the creation of human beings as the most significant part of creation, and yet human beings are an emergence from the dust of the ground through a very personal act of creation by God. While the Bible seems to hint of multiple levels of reality it is not unequivocal. But Michael Polanyi’s theory of the stratification of reality would seem to make sense of much of scripture along these lines. The point I am driving at is that God understands and interacts with God’s creation in very personal ways, and that the thought of Michael Polanyi can provide a useful model for how this can be. It must still be remembered that any model is still a human invention, or God’s condescending to our level of reality in revelations construed as some kind of model for understanding some aspect of the universe.

The choice for what might seem to be an excursus into ontological-metaphysical implicatons of Polanyian thought in Christian theology is helpful in a number of ways. One obviously is that even the word theology implies something about God. With concepts like passion and the conscious attending to particular aspects of reality, presupposing as they do some idea of freedom, the realm of the ethical quickly comes into play. Once one recognizes that it is a very small step from focally attending to something, to acting based on what is being focally attended to, and thus the realm of the ethical enters play. The relationship of knowledge to ethics is the goal to which my thesis has been driving toward. The relationship between epistemology and ethics is closer than anyone has imagined previously. That is the topic for the remainder of this thesis: the relationship of epistemology to ethics, specifically theological-epistemology and ethics.


1 Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 148.

2 Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 148-149.

3 This being a point John Calvin makes that has been subsequently termed as Calvin’s doctrine of “accommodation.” This will be discussed further in a later chapter.

4 As we have seen in the previous chapter this would include the Hebraic conception of knowing as well.

5 See Harry Prosch’s discussion of Michael Polanyi’s views of theology in the aptly titled book Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition.

Prosch, Harry. Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition. Albany: State University of New York, 1986.

6 Prosch, Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition, 257.

7 Michael Polanyi, The Study of Man. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1959), 13.

8 cf. Prosch, Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition, ch. 12.

9 Prosch, Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition, 261.

10 A succinct definition of my understanding of meaning would be: The drive to understand the significance of human life.

11 In Nietzsche’s notes gathered together to form “The Will to Power” he says “Man projects his drive to truth, his “goal” in a certain sense, outside himself as a world that has being, as a metaphysical world, as a “thing-in-itself,” as a world already in existence. (p. 299) The majority of the notes in book 3 of The Will to Power speak to this point.

12 Except notably B. F. Skinner.

13 cf. Harry Prosch’s discussion of Polanyi’s views on religion in Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition.

14 For example 1st Corinthians 15:12-19. For a thorough defense of a literal bodily resurrection see N. T. Wright’s book The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

For an alternative view see chapter 5 of Marcus Borg’s book The Heart of Christianity, in which Borg emphasizes an existential understanding of the resurrection without reference to an historical event.

Borg, Marcus. The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2003.

15 Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge [SPCK], 2003), 210-211.

16 See for example the difference drawn between the “Pre-Easter Jesus” and the “Post-Easter Jesus” in much of contemporary “Historical Jesus” scholarship.

17 Most if not all of the theologians I have encountered during the course of my education hold to a position like this, though I am told there are those who do not.

18 Epistemological humility is understanding that as finite human beings, with finite intellects, no one can ever exhaustively describe the infinite.


[To Chapter 5]




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2 Responses to Toward a New Epistemology Beyond the Postmodern – Chapter 5

  1. Pingback: Toward a New Epistemology Beyond the Postmodern – Chapter 4 | Paradigm One by Lee Karl Palo

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