Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 20 (5):847-870 (2021)
AbstractIn search of our highest capacities, cognitive scientists aim to explain things like mathematics, language, and planning. But are these really our most sophisticated forms of knowing? In this paper, I point to a different pinnacle of cognition. Our most sophisticated human knowing, I think, lies in how we engage with each other, in our relating. Cognitive science and philosophy of mind have largely ignored the ways of knowing at play here. At the same time, the emphasis on discrete, rational knowing to the detriment of engaged, human knowing pervades societal practices and institutions, often with harmful effects on people and their relations. There are many reasons why we need a new, engaged—or even engaging—epistemology of human knowing. The enactive theory of participatory sense-making takes steps towards this, but it needs deepening. Kym Maclaren’s idea of letting be invites such a deepening. Characterizing knowing as a relationship of letting be provides a nuanced way to deal with the tensions between the knower’s being and the being of the known, as they meet in the process of knowing-and-being-known. This meeting of knower and known is not easy to understand. However, there is a mode of relating in which we know it well, and that is: in loving relationships. I propose to look at human knowing through the lens of loving. We then see that both knowing and loving are existential, dialectic ways in which concrete and particular beings engage with each other.
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