The Fullness of Knowing
Modernity and Postmodernity from Defoe to Gadamer
Publication Year: 2010
Postmodern thinkers have demonstrated the fragmentation of the Enlightenment understanding of the self, society, and nature; for many, however, the postmodern alternatives—the pursuit of individual self-definition, utter skepticism regarding the relation between language and reality, or the embrace of ideological power—are unconvincing. In The Fullness of Knowing, by placing the most promising postmodern insights in dialogue with eighteenth-century critics of the Enlightenment, Daniel Ritchie argues that we can begin to overcome post-Enlightenment fragmentation without abandoning either coherence (as many postmoderns have done) or the valid insights of modern and postmodern thought (as many traditionalists have done).
Published by: Baylor University Press
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Introduction: Unenlightened Writers and the Postmodern World
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This is a book about knowledge. At many points it agrees with the postmodern critique of the Western approach to knowledge since the Enlightenment. Many Enlightenment promises have proven hollow—the promises to build knowledge on a foundation of certainty, to achieve substantial moral and scientific progress...
1. Learning to Read, Learning to Listen in Robinson Crusoe
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At the heart of postmodern theory is the critique of the metanarrative. No explanation outside of a story can give it final authority. All one has is the story. Enlightenment thinkers, from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, approached the truth of narrative from a different...
2. The Hymns of Isaac Watts and Postmodern Worship
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Like the writers who developed narrative theology in response to the perceived shortcomings of Enlightenment approaches to Scripture, advocates of emerging forms of Christian worship are often critical of how our approach to knowledge has narrowed since the eighteenth century. For instance, they value the experience...
3. Jonathan Swift’s Information Machine and the Critique of Technology
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When the Internet first became popular, I started having a recurring nightmare that we would someday arrive at the point where all knowledge was instantly accessible, but no one would know what it meant. A few years into the Internet revolution, Google adopted the first part of this dream in its stated mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally...
4. Christopher Smart’s Poetry and the Dialogue between Science and Theology
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With this chapter the debate over knowledge moves into the mid-eighteenth century, when the challenge and promise of the Enlightenment had more fully entered the consciousness of thoughtful Europeans. These are the decades that saw the publication of that monument of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie (1751–1772), which aimed to assemble knowledge in...
5. Festival and Discipline in Revolutionary France and Postmodern Times
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“Without God, all is permitted.” This chilling refrain runs through Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1880 novel The Brothers Karamazov. It serves as the author’s warning of the willingness of the Enlightenment to eradicate freedom and inflict cruelty in the name of a higher rational goal. As I noted in chapter 4, the evolutionist Richard Dawkins comes close to acknowledging a secular version of this logic. He admits his scientific mode of knowledge...
6. Tradition as a Way of Knowing in Edmund Burke and Hans-Georg Gadamer
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In my teaching I often encounter students who say that we can never escape our prejudices. They are not just criticizing the prejudices of the past as outworn beliefs that have been put behind us. They are also including their own opinions, frequently prefacing their comment with a phrase like, “Speaking from my own biased point of view. . . .” Earlier in my career this troubled...
7. Reconciling the Heart with the Head in the Poetry of William Cowper and the Thought of Michael Polanyi
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In my last physics class—the one that convinced me that I had no higher calling in that field—we derived Einstein’s famous equation e=mc2 from a purely mathematical and theoretical chain of reasoning. I could follow the formulas, but they meant nothing to me because I could not sense the brilliant relationships that the various steps signified. I did not really participate in those classes...
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This book began by searching for approaches to knowledge that are more coherent and humane than the ones the twentieth century inherited from the Enlightenment. By the end of the eighteenth century knowledge had fractured along many different lines—natural science had separated from theology, theology from history, and history from literature, just to name a few of the fissures I have attempted to describe...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010