Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some reflections on The Obvious

So, in my History of Psychology class ("Hist-o-psych," I like to call it), we've been discussing various levels or ways of knowing.  The most superficial (relatively speaking, of course) is explaining, which deals with facts, objectivity, knowledge based on/established in sensory experience, and such. 

The next level is meaning, which often involves existentialism (also nihilism, but we won't go there today)--but basically, it's where you draw or make your own meanings for things/people/events/life, regardless of the facts, because sometimes the facts leave you with nothing to live for.

Finally, we come to relational knowing, which is...about relationships.  This is something that's difficult to discuss, because this kind of knowledge cannot be shared with others; it only comes through experience with the other: learning that person--or rather, coming to know in the way of connaître, as opposed to savoir (the same principle happens in Spanish, and German, and Tagalog, and many other languages).  And when we try to give this kind of knowledge expression, we inevitably fall back on meaning and explanation, because that's all we can do.

And that's where I got distracted thinking about the poem of my previous post.  It seems that we might fall back on explanation and meaning not only to express our relational knowledge to others, but also to reassure ourselves that our relational knowledge is still there.


  1. Hmm. I know that close analysis can ruin whatever it is (a poem, a person) for some. If that's the case, you don't have to take the above seriously, nor do you have to take it into your reading of whatever it is (a poem, a person...). These posts are labeled "havering" for a reason.

    Or, for many reasons, as the case may be.

  2. Scot dialect: to babble or chatter on about nothing of import. See "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," by The Proclaimers.

  3. It applies to story, too.

  4. Whoa, deep ;)

    I think you're right about relational/ emotional knowledge. It seems like it applies to communication in general- we have these feelings, but no way of sharing them with a person directly like we could any of our physical possessions. Instead, we have to express them through a medium, ie language, art, or music. We have to abstract te feelings into more basic symbols (meaning, as you put it) to be decoded by others. That way, hopefully, one person can understand what another person feels inside. Kind of like how a speaker can vibrate all it wants, but unless there's air or water to transmit through, no one can hear the music

    Lol I think that's what you meant, let me know if I'm off in left field

  5. Well, we went over it in class again yesterday, and I think my understanding of it has grown somewhat. First of all, the distinction between meaning and relational knowledge is not as sharp as I made it out to be--or rather, meanings are often born out of relationships.

    Secondly, relational knowledge is not about one having feelings that he struggles to make others understand; that's probably closer to the meaning end of the spectrum. Rather, relational knowledge can only come when two (or more?) parties have a perfect understanding that transcends explanation or even symbols. Have you ever had a "moment" with something (nature) or someone, where everything just clicked? Where your mom or your friend or whoever did or said the right thing, and you both just knew that everything would be all right because you were (extant) together?

    These moments can come in times of great joy and great sorrow, and they come through the grace of God--not whenever we want them, but when He knows that, for whatever reason, we need them. They help us understand His love for us, and--few and far between though they may be--they give us a reason to keep living when explanations and even meaning fail us.

    That was long. Does it make more sense now?

  6. Oh. Note, also, that you can't really describe these experiences to someone who was not involved without falling back on explanation and meaning. Which is maybe what you (Josh) were trying to say. Which is maybe what I (myself, even) was trying to say, at least in part. So, yes, we all may have had it right at one point. Overshooting is fun.