Trusting Reality: ‘Longing to Know’ Turns 20 (Esther Meek)

“Knowing is an activity that all of us are involved in, all of the time,” writes Dr. Esther Meek in her book Longing to Know, which turns 20 this year. “Usually knowing happens without our taking great thought to the process. But sometimes we stop and think about what we’re doing. When we stop and think, what we were doing without much thought becomes murky indeed.”

Think of learning to ride a bike. After a period of assisted practice, something clicks. A person who initially couldn’t balance on a bike can suddenly ride off on their own. The external process of learning to ride a bike—guidance from a parent or a friend, training wheels, brief intervals of unassisted pedaling—are all easily identifiable. But the personal transformation—from not knowing how to ride a bike to knowing how—is more mysterious.

Building on the thought of Michael Polanyi, Dr. Meek challenges conceptions of knowing that have reigned since the Enlightenment, which don’t reflect the way the biblical authors appear to portray how we acquire knowledge. It turns out that, for instance, doing what YHWH commands “so that you may know” looks a lot like learning to ride a bike.

Esther Lightcap Meek (BA Cedarville College; MA Western Kentucky University; PhD Temple University) is Professor of Philosophy emeritus at Geneva College, in Western Pennsylvania. She is also Senior Scholar with The Seattle School for Theology and Psychology, a Fujimura Institute Scholar, an Associate Fellow with the Kirby Laing Center for Public Theology, and a member of the Polanyi Society.

Show notes:

  • 00:26 The bike-riding paradigm of knowing
  • 04:30 Modernism, postmodernism, and Longing to Know
  • 10:40 The nature of science, and “risky confidence”
  • 15:03 How Dr. Meek got into philosophy—”very odd questions”
  • 18:44 Making contact with reality
  • 27:54 Reality is person-like
  • 29:49 Christians allied with modernism
  • 31:20 The need for a stronger doctrine of creation—a metaphysics

Show notes by Celina Durgin

Image created by Rubner Durais

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