[The following is an excerpt of a fascinating interview with the Rev. Janice Guthrie, who presided over worship at Knox in August. The interview will be broken into four parts. The following is the second of the four.]
If knowledge is subjective, what (if anything) is objective?
There’s a big controversy in the study of knowledge as to whether anything actually does exist – if there is anything objective, or whether everything is subjective. So, some people argue that there is an objective existence and we agree about what it is. But actually, there are very few things that everybody agrees on. There are people who would then say “Everything is subjective,” that “We don’t really know what is out there beyond ourselves because all we have is information that our senses give us and the way our brains interpret that knowledge.” According to feminist critique (and I came to this through Biblical studies), if men wrote from their perspective, it was assumed that it was the only perspective. But when women began to look at Biblical texts, they began to read them in very different ways. Women’s experience of the world was different than men’s but because men controlled the communications, the information that was out there was not of women’s point-of-view.
Subsequently, people say history was written by the winners, so we have an account of what happened from one point-of-view, but not from another. When historians begin to look at what was occupying women, we get very different pictures of what life was like at various points in time. This is where I find myself on the spectrum of objectivity and subjectivity: I am willing to allow for the existence of an objective world. What I’m not sure of is whether or not it’s possible for human beings to know that objective world because we each have a different perspective of that world.