Enlightenment

I spend a wonderful week abroad, participating in an interesting philosophy summer school. It gave me the chance to work out some questions that might play a role in my dissertation. There was a strong focus on the role of belief systems and what happens when they clash. Although I work on these topics often, they triggered something painful this time.

The literature on this issue sometimes makes use of ethnographers’ claims that they have found a tribe somewhere that, for example, doesn’t “have” classical logic. The question whether these are good examples aside, I realized that all the questions these examples are used to provoke also apply to my relationship to my mother. She thinks of herself and some of her friends as enlightened, believes weird anti-scientific claims and has just recently declared to me that communication was absolutely not necessary for resolving conflicts because every party just had to “go to their heart” and balance out the energies. All this angels and spirits and energies talk and the total lack of cooperation coming with it has been driving me crazy for more than ten years now. I have cried countless nights.

The parallel to exotic “logics” might be neither surprising nor enlightening for anyone but me, but somehow I have just come to grasp it. The fact that me and her might have as much chances of understanding each other as me and someone who grew up with a non-Western belief system that involves witchcraft is painful. Even more so since she did not grow up with an epistemic system (belief system) different from mine, but is especially proud of having overcome “the old way” of thinking. We live in two different worlds. We probably always will. In a way, I lost her.

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