Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Beauvoir continued...

When Beauvoir writes that "the body is not a thing, it is a situation" i am reminded of the "situated knower" of feminist epistemology discussed by scholars like Nancy Tuana and Sandra Harding.

In this approach to knowledge, the "situation" of the person perceiving an event (the knower) becomes part of our critical assessment of his level of objectivity. An individual's age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, education and health are but a few influences on perception of the 'objective' world. Though we should have gotten this message from discoveries in Quantum Physics, the myth of an absolute/fixed/final objectivity is morphing into a more honest and rational approach to knowledge that recognizes the influence of individual circumstances on perception.

Tuana has called this "strong objectivity" - an approach to knowledge that recognizes the point of view/situation/influences on any particular statement of truth. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this epistemology is its emphasis on the body and the impact of embodiment on our perception. Though my explorations of Second Life have been limited so far, i'm sure i'll be exploring many interesting places, but the knowledge i gain will be disembodied, or to be more precise, will only really involve what i can gain from my eyes, the manipulation of my avatar and my written interactions with other avatars - a very limited 'experience' indeed.

But here in Real Life (IRL), just sitting in my chair, slightly tilted back, in a room with crazy red floral wallpaper, bookshelves, a sleeping dog and a window looking out on a gray spring day, every sense of my body is engaged and gathering a huge amount of very fine information, mostly without my conscious direction or effort - a flowing sensory cornucopia.

Now THAT's what I call living!


Danny said...

What you have said in this post is both interesting and complex. In this comment about perception, I question whether or not my own words are affected by my environment. I do like Tuana's idea of "strong objectivity" because I feel like perception is controlled by so many outside factors. In dealing with Second Life, it is strange how interaction is mostly based upon what you see in the virtual world, but at the same time, the environment that you sit in while participating also alters your perspective, either consciously or not... I think I need to take some time to reflect on what you have written - concepts like these are not immediately easy for me to grasp.

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