Since finishing graduate school, I keep finding epistemological themes across my varied reading interests. My latest essay at Anabaptist Perspectives collects these themes.
I speak of ‘knowing’ rather than simply “knowledge” to emphasize the active character of knowing. To know is to engage the reality that is known. In my doctoral dissertation, I explore the value of skilled physical work in knowing the world around us.
Craft, here defined as skilled physical work of some scope, forms a rich way of knowing the world around us. Craft’s value as knowledge is, however, obscured by certain tendencies in thinking about knowing and value. These lead to the conclusion that craft’s value as knowledge is minimal. This conclusion is largely based on craft’s physical character (achieving physical results through bodily activity) and on its practical character (aiming at meeting wants or needs, usually in a very specific way). I argue against inadequate views of knowledge which sharply separate knowing from doing and unduly prioritize knowing that. I also argue against inadequate views of the interrelations of values which unduly devalue activities done for the sake of meeting needs. In my positive response, I elaborate an epistemological notion of knowing by “participating-with” the object or aspect of reality which we (would) know. The fullest case of knowing by participating-with comes in the sorts of inter-actions by which we can know other people, but we can also participate-with other realities. Craft involves participating with a wide range of realities in the natural, built, and social worlds in ways that are robustly physical and robustly practical. Physicality and practicality enable distinctive valuable modes of knowing and participating with our world. In craft our bodily agency is engaged with the physical world. Crafts also lets us know aspects of reality through our successes, and our failures, at working with that reality to achieve our aims. The final chapter explores various goods of craft knowing through reflection on specific kinds of craft work. Craft allows participatory knowledge of the natural world, the built world, and the social world in which we live and move and exist. Craft also occasions self-knowledge and the intellectual virtues of attentiveness and creativity.