Oct 042009

Sometimes when I am having trouble visualizing something, I find that it is the words themselves that fail me. Perhaps a word is too embedded in a concept that just doesn’t fit. This is especially true of words we use very frequently, but whose concepts are anything but well-understood. “Light”, “energy”, “force”, and “gravity” are good examples of this.

The greeks have different words for knowledge. There is propositional knowledge, or knowledge-that, and there is knowledge-how. Knowing-that is called  episteme and is what epistemology focues on. Knowing-how requires more theoretical knowledge than knowing-that.

For example, we “know that” light travels at a certain speed, has certain energies, etc. But to this very day, we have no explanation for how it does what it does. In other words, we have a lot of “know-that”, or epistemological, information about light. But we have very little “know-how” information about light.

We do not “know how” light works. We simply “know that” it does. We know that it does X, Y, and Z when A, B, and C are present. We have literally taken lightening out of the sky and made it to sing, yet we have no real theoretical knowledge of it all.

I find this amazing. After Feynman’s QED, and articles like this one, describing all the ways in which we have mastered the behavior of light – slowing it down, stopping it, turning it into matter and back – we still cannot explain how it does what it does.

I have written much more on this in my post on the sound of the color of the temperature of the universe,  and also this post, called the brink, but these are a work in progress and need refinement.

I am still trying to formulate a thought…

That words are maps, and are by necessity, limited. That is to say, there is more than that which mere words alone can say. The menu is not the meal. The Philosopher and the teacher of philosophy could not be more different.

Words are not the things in themselves. And this is what the mystics explore. Knowledge beyond epistemology. Tacit experience that words cannot touch. This is the difference between talking about God and experiencing God. Words can never replace the experience. Therefore, thought alone will never satisfy our desire. It is not in thinking, but in being that we find the peace we seek.

It is the path of the mystic, not the philosopher, that leads home.

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