A Curious Proposition – to Know Something is it Better to be Separate?

To know something, really *know* something, do you have to have a deeper connection? Do you have to love it, belong to it, to know it?  Or do you do the opposite, and sit outside?
Earthcare - MerchantWe have presumed that objectifying leads us to truth. Curiously this is a metaphysical belief; no ‘objective’ truth.  It is no position that can be tested using the analytical traditions … because the analytical tradition itself starts with the very assumption we ought to question …… It assumes objectivity as a virtue. And you cannot objectively analyse a virtue.
Let’s turn the question around; to know, do you have to separate yourself and objectify? Isn’t that an incredibly curious proposition?

I have sat by a rippling stream and looked for things I don’t even know I’m looking for.  I have felt good inside. I have known children, and land.  I have known dogs and cats. I have known individual trees and forest stands.   I have watched them grow and noticed the immeasurable things that make me frown and smile.  I have gone into landscapes to see what there is to see, without any preconceived focus that sees only what it came to see.  I have known purpose and concern and all the emotions that go hand in hand with attachment.Carolyn Merchant Thesis

It is an incredibly curious proposition to say that it is better for knowing to remove ourselves from all that.

You can more easily measure, yes.  You can measure those things that stand out and say measure me, those things you came to see, so you do not sully your precision by noticing anything else about that tree, that child, that stream.

Chris Perley



This entry was posted in Thought Pieces. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Curious Proposition – to Know Something is it Better to be Separate?

  1. fenemora says:

    I agree with the sentiments Chris, and Buddhists would concur. I think though we should do both (objective analysis as well as experiential knowing), and be purposeful about the consequences. Your text leads us into questioning the philosophy and methodological basis of science, and science has provided vast advances in knowledge, technology and even the ability to share thinking like yours.

    • cjkperley says:

      My increasing concern mirrors Carolyn Merchant’s view. Yes the analytical tradition is one part of knowing that has increased our knowledge of the world. But when Modernity treats objectivity and the disenchantment of life as the ‘rational’ and ‘right’ way to be, rather than a useful approach *within* a broader context of belonging, we can set up horrors. I think we have those horrors alive and kicking now – attitudes toward people & land as grist in the economic mill particularly. ‘Resources’, ‘units’, ‘drains’ – monocultural thinking that is the opposite of wise.

      I spoke recently in a couple of seminars in the South about the need not just to look at land as more than a machine, especially more than an industrial machine for extraction of ‘things’ called ‘resources’ – humans included – but also to re-embrace what some consider the feminist virtues – care, belonging, nurture, healing etc. I raised the question of whether we could actually *see*, let alone *realise* the potential of our people and our land if we see them *only* objectively and dispassionately. Objectification sees mechanisation and commodity, then acts upon the world through that lens. General Haig on the Somme. The rendering of people into slavery and soap.

      I think for a viable future, we need the passionate virtues, and any analytical practices ought to be within that context and purpose. Care first, belong first, then choose what it is you want to look at more closely. Wisdom comes from the connection, not the analysis.

      The alternative is the commoditisation of life, and the equivalent of live vivisection because we blind ourselves to virtue and vice.

  2. Kate Moriarty says:

    As a relative newcomer to your blogs, I have been enjoying your holistic perspective and its applications.
    Unfortunately the Western world seems to have become increasingly obsessed with money, to the exclusion of most else. I think this might be what is leading to the ‘horrors’ you describe in this post.

    • cjkperley says:

      No question Kate. Corporate autocracies that see everything as ‘resources’ and money are the extreme inevitability of Modernity. We disenchant, and lose wisdom. Then we do things that are rationalised immorality. We used to refer to the extremes of Nazism as the example of a mechanised world of horror, but we are on doing the same – metaphorically – live vivisection of our world in other ways. We just don’t have death camps yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.