How Do I Begin to Know? The Question Every Student Asks

Question Mark Squircle

photo: Xurble

w and old students ask honest questions and expect honest answers from professors that affect the way they approach different courses in college and their practical lives. We tasked our guest contributor Professor Dan Chimere-Dan to answer in exactly 300 words one of the basic questions that students ask about their disciplines.

It is not a surprise that this question does not bother many people in ordinary life. We assume the answer. We take it for granted that we are humans and therefore must know things. What a colossal assumption! This is an example of a primary assumption. It is a primitive belief that grounds our thinking about all dimensions of reality. We assume that we can know things, that our senses are reliable and that logic is dependable. We must start  intellectual activities in all disciplines with faith in these and other primary assumptions.

If primary assumptions are the basis of all intellectual work, how do we assess their quality? The truth is that human rationality does not have the means to interrogate or validate a primary assumption. This is because primary assumptions are the basis for rational use of our human faculties. If we are to have a sense of what our eyes look like, a mirror or other  external agents  must be involved. We cannot see our pupil directly. The same is true about primary assumptions. We cannot say anything meaningful about them without the reflective powers of  an external agency, namely divine revelation. Without this external agency illuminating our rationality and interpreting our experiences, we cannot really begin to know anything.

Knowledge that is not anchored in divine revelation is groundless folly. This is in part why foolishness often goes together with a denial of God. We cannot reject or contradict the light of biblical revelation in different disciplines and expect to make true progress in knowledge.

In this and other senses, the fear of the  Lord is the beginning of knowledge. We begin to know when our mind reflects the wisdom of God as the basis for approaching concepts, theories and techniques in our disciples and subjects.