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The Politics Of Knowledge

July 15, 1990

I am writing in response to the reviews of "Tenured Radicals" (by Roger Kimball) and "The Political Meaning of Christianity" (by Glenn Tinder; both in Book Review of April 15).

I was taught that Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Milton, Kant et al were engaged in "the disinterested pursuit of knowledge." To question this was to "politicize" knowledge and invariably "to throw the baby out with the bath water." I was taught that without Christianity, my politics could only be "despairing." To jettison Christianity was to succumb to meaninglessness.

Plato et al were of course heavily invested in their epistemologies. Their pursuit of knowledge depended on an organization of daily life that freed them for the realms of thought; it depended on the divorce of reason from reality. That they thought what they thought was a function of their a- priori politicizing of the pursuit of knowledge.

Jesus succeeded because he represented the will of the Father. Nothing he said or did turned mankind's gaze from the idol, the "out-there," bigger-than-life authority, to the real--which is why a rejection of the God-man is replaced by "worship of the flag, the marketplace, the therapy session, the laboratory, etc." For Christianity, meaning is--by fiat--in the Father, and not in the nature of things.

By analyzing the political structure of the historic pursuit of knowledge and the psychological structure of the political meaning of Christianity, I have come to some interesting conclusions. Reason grounded in dailiness and responsibility can lead to knowledge, and to a knowledge less destructive than that produced by a disembodied pursuit, because not founded on contempt. The search for truth undertaken in autonomy, and not in the name of the Father, can lead to meaning, and to compassion and joy.

On the other hand, that there is a God, and that God is a white man, are the two most depressing thoughts I can conceive of.



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