The Path to Knowledge

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The Path to Knowledge

Recent ethnographies suggest that tribal cosmologies address topics of philosophical relevance and offer valuable insights into the nature of perennial philosophical problems. For example, while postmodern and feminist thought has argued that the verification of knowledge is directly related to political interests, I argue that there are other vantage points not related to such interests that serve as valuable measures for the acceptance of knowledge. Direct empirical verification of the ontological presuppositions that govern the assessment of anthropos in the context sub species aeternitatis empowers an individual to understand his or her role within culture as well. The methodological bounty described in ethnography signals for philosophers to question the categorization of transcendence merely as 'religious experience.' This paper argues that humans may have the capacity both to recognize the divine and to give objective descriptions through symbols and language which allow for the development of methodologies in order to access that knowledge at will.

Many postmodern and feminist thinkers place knowledge into the domain of politics and power. Such insights allow for the deconstruction of social realities and for postulating democratic principles in accepting multicultural philosophies. The recognition of form, however, cannot substitute for content. The educative function of politics reveals important insights into the human condition and allows one, for example, to see postmodernity in the context of historical events, such as the resourceful relationship between reason and capitalism, the transition from living law to positive law (cf. Northrop 1960), and the shaping of thought through liberalism and nihilism. An important feature of postmodern thought is its acceptance of multiplicities of viewpoints. By entertaining disparate claims for truth that originate in diverse methodological and historical origins, postmodernitsts learn to employ creative strategies to solve conceptual disjunctions much like anthropologists must learn to cope with the collapse of their worldviews when 'going native.' Such experiences, however, can be fertile ground wherein new scientific methodologies might have a chance to blossom.

A recent study on tribal epistemologies (Wautischer 1998) demonstrates a type of understanding that stands outside the methodological scope of naturalistic observation. The exploration of human consciousness beyond linguistic thought will caution any philosopher to claim that behavior and intelligence can be understood by referring to deterministic principles. In this context, philosophical discourse continues to fulfill a vital role in educating humanity. It is misleading to assume that philosophical inquiry is primarily a political enterprise. Rather, a philosophical sense of wonder gives value and respect to diversity, gives empathy for other human beings, and concern for other life forms.
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