When I was an undergrad, we had to read the French philosopher Deleuze. I was extremely offended by his suggestion that categories are socially constructed. I took it as a direct attack on Aristotle and biology. I wrote a response by arguing that all intelligent discourse requires categorization. For example, when I see people, I identify them as people and not a bird or fish or a reptile. When I see food, I identify it as food and not a stick. Without this ability to categorize, I wrote, we would not be able to have conversations or eat. I saw poststructuralism not just as an attack on science, but also as an attack on common sense.
It’s take me 5 years to finally understand what the poststructuralists and other anti-moderns were suggesting: the scientific method cannot account for the whole of reality.
When we try to categorize, there is always something that does not fit the box, and it then exposes the fact that the case cannot be generalized as we once thought. This does not mean we cannot categorize; it means that we have to admit that it’s not the whole of knowledge. Take the famous paradox on black ravens.
All ravens are black.
Therefore, all non-black objects are non-ravens.
The second premise is deduced from the first, but what if we find an albino raven? What if we find a pink raven or a purple raven?
Maybe the albino raven does not contain real raven-ness? See, that does not make sense, but if I try to articulate why that does not make sense, I suddenly realize that I cannot define ravenness without socially constructing a category/definition that could still have exceptions (is what makes a raven everything except the blackness? What about ravens without a leg? what if they are missing an organ? what is ravenness?).
In analytical philosophy, we always say that all cases must be generalizable. But we have learned that sexuality is not generalizable no matter how hard we try. First, we thought people were just straight and chose to be gay. Then we learned that people were gay, bi, or straight. At least we could still categorize. Then we finally have realized that there is dozens of ways that people identify their gender and sexual orientation, and it is simply cannot be generalized.
Bringing ravenness closer to home: what about someone born with no male or female genitals? Is the individual not a person? This is obviously false.
According to the scientific method, all cases must support the principle. As I have argued, all cases do not support the principle. We see this with LGBTQ. But what’s interesting to me is that neither does religion always support the principle.
In religion we find cases where people experience miracles, see ghosts or angels, or have visions of Christ. The cases do not support the principle that everything is material, so the cases get categorized under the psychological principle. This assures the secular narrative that the supernatural is not real, and also supports the mental health institutions definition of what equals mental insanity (re: Foucault).
This does not mean that science is bad. The point is that science is limited by our perspective in history. This was what Thomas Kuhn of Harved wrote about in the Structures of the Scientific Revolutions where he argued that paradigms are quietly assumed and come to light with create difficultly; when they do, we have radical shifts in outlook. He argues that we understand science from our point in history, and we don’t see science completely objectively.
The scientific method says that the only justified beliefs (which we call knowledge) is those that support the principle. Anyone who believes a case that goes against the principle is being irrational aka, the person who believes in a spirit.
Perhaps the biggest absurity of the scientific method is that we have to find knowledge before we apply it. This was Heidegger’s critique of modernity. He said that in real life we don’t pull cases aside, test them, find out the truth, and then apply them. We live life, we experience life, and then we understand life. Application does not come after understanding; we apply it, and then we understand.
In science we do not understand apart from sense experience (even if you are a rationalists like Descartes; you still do not know apart from the sense experience). But what Heidegger argues about application is even more clear in the human sciences. We experience a painting. We experience literature. And as I said, we experience life. You can’t *know* the message of a painting apart from the experience of it.
I am not denying that knowledge comes from the principle. I am denying that it’s the only form of knowledge, and I am denying that it is a part from human perspective. If science was the only form of knowledge, we could stop going to plays, music concerts, and would need to close all the history and English departments.
This is why I can be a Christian, but when I articulate this to moderns, I feel like I am talking past them because we are so programmed by the scientific method. I don’t find God apart from experience; I only understand him by living out in relationship with God.
I feel like I always have to include this disclaimer because it’s so engrained in us that atheists only use the scientific method and Christians don’t. But Heiddeger was an atheist; Foucault also was not religious. Most of the postmoderns and anti-moderns were not religious. Likewise, the modern Christian project of apologetics uses the scientific method and is a total failure. Therefore, the problem is modernism, not Christianity or atheism. We are so programmed by modernism that we think we have to use to scientific method to prove all of life. That’s exactly why apologetics is a failure.
It’s good to identify a raven by its blackness. Don’t claim, however, that all ravens are black. It’s okay to look at a sonograms and realize you are having a girl. Don’t say the woman without a vagina isn’t a woman even when she says that she is. Likewise, it’s okay to test theories and toss out ones that don’t work. But you still need to admit that you might not have all the data.