Sunday, November 15, 2009

alternative epistemology

In light of Beauvoir and our discussion on his work, I've been thinking a lot about alternatives.  People seem to make rules for themselves in life, whether on a personal or ethical level.  These could be anything from wiping your feet before coming into the house, to thou shall not kill.  We create these rules for ourselves and live by them, more or less.  Whether based on nature, reason, or God, we all have these rules and can logically defend them, despite the fact that they can be equally valid, yet completely contradictory.  In the back of our heads, however, we know that we are free beings and that we fabricated our own values.  In other words, we are responsible for our own rules, we made them and technically we can break them.  This presents two questions, the first being just how arbitrary are our values systems and rules?  Could they just as easily be completely different, yet still make sense within society?  The second, and perhaps more important question is why do we stick to them?  If somewhere in our consciousness we are aware that we are free from our own rules because we made them and they really don't limit our freedom as individuals, why do we embrace them and let them dictate our lives?  I recall Dr. J's question as to whether or not we do this because of a lack of alternatives.  At first this concept made a lot of sense to me; there really don't seem to be too many reasonable alternatives to how we live that don't seem absurd.  But after really thinking about it, I realized that the world is literally full of alternative systems of ethics and laws.  The Imbonggu people of Papua New Guinea, for example, have a totally alternative set of beliefs and way of living in the world.  So the alternatives are out there, but why do we still maintain our ways?


  1. I think that everything that is considered the "norm" and everything that is considered absurd, are done so on the level of the majority. If enough people found that eating cereal was better than eating cereal with a spoon then that would be the new way to eat cereal. I think the possibility for things to become completely different and still make sense in society is entirely plausible. I'm sure in almost any woman in any century before the latter half of the 20th and the 21st century would, if given the chance with a time machine, glimpse what women today wear as see it as absurd; however, over time, women started to wear what they wanted to and, especially after the flapper movement, changed the "absurd" into the norm completely. And I think we let them dictate our lives, not because there are no other alternatives, because I agree with you that there are plenty...I think it's just because it's what's more comfortable for us. Although absurd things can become norms it takes a lot of time, conflict, and effort, and a lot of people would just rather stick with B.A.U. because it's easier to.

  2. People don't realize how many alternatives there are out there for them and instead feel stuck in there ways. This can be seen of people who follow religion. Many individuals grow up following whatever religion their parents do and fall into that religion for no other reason. Later in life, they feel this connection to that religion and feel as though it is the only true way as it has been a part of their life for so long. We have the freedom to follow whatever way of life we choose, within reason, and no one way is better than another in essence.


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