Tuesday, August 10, 2004

More passages from selected readings. This from "An Interview with Walter J. Ong, Conducted by George Riemer" in An Ong Reader: Challenges for Further Inquiry.

"I realized that though intellectual knowledge has likenesses to all the senses, the Greeks were thinking of it more by analogy with seeing, whereas the Hebrews thought of it more as if it were hearing. We typically think of knowledge like the Greeks. The Greek word idea has the same root as video in Latin meaning I see. We say "I see" to mean "I understand." We speak of ideas as images and viewponts. We describe them as clear, brilliant, and dazzling. Our language is shot through with figures, which “show" our visual bias. We're so immersed in it that we don't realize it's a bias--You know, like everything's wet if you grow up like a fish [....]

"I wasn't aware of how visualistic my own thinking was until I "saw" how the Hebrews regarded knowledge and I "discovered" they were doing something different. Since the Hebrews thought of knowing more by analogy with hearing, learning tended to mean listening to someone. They thought even of things as speaking, not only as showing themselves, but as declaring themselves.

"Yadha' in Hebrew means to know in the sense of to know your way around. It is something that has to do with the human lifeworld and human behavior.

"Knowing for the Greek means to be able to explain. It means to analyze, to take apart, to show the different pieces of. It's a very abstract knowledge. Our Greek visualist bias shows when we try to provide a rational explanation for everything. This can't always be had, and the attempt to set it up becomes more and more suspect the closer we get to the source of life. There is a kind of wisdom you cultivate in not being excessively rational" (80-81).


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