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From Cognition to Being

Henry Davis McHenry

Part I. Epistemology

What Is Knowing, and How Do We Know?

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1We continue with another small story about the way my child talks. He had been playing outside with his “nanny,” a third-year law student who had been coming over three days a week to help my wife after the birth of our second child. When I overheard a bit of their banter, Andrea was saying “Why do you get to change your mind so often?” I guess Dustin had been re-making the rules to some game they had been playing, whenever it suited his interests at the moment to have different rules—not a fully ethical practice, but the child is only four now and doesn’t know what is required in adult play yet. After only the minutest of hesitations, he answered her question with: “Because I say so.”

2My son the poet, again voicing one of the main things I want to say in this book. Of course he may have been parroting, adapting something he heard his mother say in exasperation once, after all her good reasons faded to persuade him. But his utterance, as heard by his alert father, says something else than that the devil can quote scripture. He and Andrea had been having real fun together, and her question expressed not exasperation, but amusement. So it seems appropriate that I cite his saying to introduce my own. Did he know the rules of the game he was playing? No: he was saying the rules, not just selfishly, but so that the game worked for both players. So our conversation about knowing begins with our picture of language. As I hinted in the Introduction and now confess outright, it is not a conversation that does justice to the two millennia of epistemological theory and flunking since Plato. What I know of our investigations of knowledge and knowing is here to be put at the service of another endeavor than epistemology. I am committed to exploring what it is about knowing that evokes and involves our mutuality, our being-together with our community’s children. Thus I return again and again to examine my own being together with my child, reminding us who teach that, at the moments that matter, teaching is an avatar of loving.

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 1999

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