April 13th, 2007

Crying Man

Communication, Knowledge, Bodies and God: Part 10

Limitations of Human Reason

One thing that comes out of Lakoff and Johnson’s analysis, almost as an aside, is that there are limits to what we can know because our reasoning is metaphorically based. That is, because we experience the world entirely through our bodies, we cannot really understand things that cannot be conceptualised bodily. This is not to say that we cannot engage in any kind of abstract thought, but rather that our range of senses, and therefore our conceptual ability, is limited.

By its very nature, it is very difficult to give an example of this—how can I give an example of something I completely fail to comprehend? The nearest I can think is the example of a photon. According to Wikipedia, “the photon is the elementary particle responsible for electromagnetic phenomena”*—in particular, light. We know that photons of light exhibit wave-like properties and particle-like properties at the same time. This is almost impossible to conceptualise because we do not experience anything like this through our bodily senses. Yet, these properties have been well documented. Even this is a poor example, however, since we can conceptualise both light and particles.

Applying this to street-level theology, this may be one of the reasons people find the doctrine of free-will versus predestination so confusing. In our conceptual models of causality, if something is predestined, choice does not exist, hence we do not have free will. The bible holds that we are morally responsible for our choice to accept or reject God. Yet, at the same time, it holds that God predestines some people for salvation (and, by implication, not others).

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