Saturday, March 14, 2009

Road Trips

Road trips are fun. Especially when you're going to visit friends you haven't seen in a while.

Such is the preface to my trip to Mazomanie, Wisconsin. I came here for the weekend to visit the Wicks who are dear freinds of mine whom I haven't seen in almost a year. So, I hop in my brother's car - long story - and six hours later, I'm talking to Matt. It was really good catching up with him this first night.

The ride up here, however, was different than any of my previous road trips in that I posted updates to Twitter, and consequently Facebook, throughout my journey. This new element made things quite interesting. Reading the comments left by friends made things much more interesting than just sitting in a car for a number of hours as had been my practice previously. It made things more enjoyable, and I felt like they were partaking in my experiences.

That's all I want to say for right now; just a quick update. Big day tomorrow filled with coffee, sushi, and exploring Madison.

-Jon Husen

Friday, March 6, 2009

Testimonial Injustice

As a preface to the following, these events do not, in fact, affect me in any sort of pragmatic manner. My contention is a philosophical one, and this is written in order to incite others to think about the implications of their actions to a greater degree.

Earlier this week, a friend beckoned me in saying he wanted to transfer a batch of beer into the secondary fermenter. I thought it was too early, so I told him on how to take specific gravity measurements in order to confirm fermentation had indeed finished. The next day, he informed me of the gravity readings, and I voiced concern that I didn't seem right. He went ahead and did the transfer. Today, he took another reading, and it was indicative of fermentation having not been completed. For the purposes of this writing, the details of brewing do not need to be known; just that fermentation should be complete before the brew is transferred.

Against this backdrop, I believe to have been the recipient of testimonial injustice. Testimonial injustice is the main subset of epistemic injustice which, of course, is in the realm of epistemology, the study of knowledge and how one comes to know things. Testimonial injustice is where one person is telling another something, and the hearer, due to some prejudice, denigrates the level of credibility given to the speaker. This results in a specific form of injustice where the hearer undermines the speaker, specifically in his capacity as a giver of knowledge.

After inciting my opinion, my friend essentially ignored my advice and did what he wanted. This was the incident of testimonial injustice. Without a prejudice, and to an extent the falsification of that prejudice, testimonial injustice cannot occur. The prejudice was that we started brewing together and thus have equal experience. His opinion would be as valid as mine. However, in practice experience alone is not the entirety of what ought to be considered. One might have been exposed to this earlier on, or the other may have done extensive research on the process, or whatever. In this particular case, I have done a great deal of reading and research about this subject matter and have the scientific background in chemistry and microbiology to understand the dynamics of fermentation. This is said not to elevate myself above reproach or anything of that nature, but to establish that I do possess knowledge about this.

After describing the setting and defining terms, one comes to the question "Why is this an injustice?" My position as a giver of knowledge was undermined by the discrediting of my testimony. A knower claims to possess a form of rationality which one uses to gain knowledge. In philosophy, rationality is considered an essential human value that makes us special and distinct from all other organisms. Biblically, I find evidence for this position as well. Testimonial injustice results in the undermining of one's position as a knower and consequently in a capacity - rationality - essential for human value. Even though this a very trivial matter, and thus my position as a giver of knowledge was undermined in a very small capacity, my very humanity was called into question even if only slightly. This, friends, is a grave proposition.

-Jon Husen

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

From my reading this morning and the Mormons

Do not refrain from speaking at the crucial time, and do not hide your wisdom.
For wisdom is known through speech, and education through the words of the tongue.
I read this this morning. I'm not going to say where it's from because I don't want anyone who might read this to bring any preconceived notions about it...but if you know, leave it in the comments and I'll be impressed; so impressed, in fact, that I'll buy you lunch or dinner or something.

This is something I tend to wrestle with quite a bit. Most people know that, for better or for worse, I don't tend to say much. I usually only speak if I think my comments are absolutely necessary, and often I don't say anything even if I do think it's necessary. I'm perfectly content with allowing the conversation to go on without my input; I guess having a conversation with me is probably pretty dull.

At any rate, I'm trying to change and be a little more outspoken because there is a time for everything, even speaking, just as it is said in Ecclesiastes, and I'm realizing that I can add more to a discussion than I have previously thought. This was made blatantly apparent this past weekend when some friends and I met with some Mormons. There was tension in the air at times, but overall it was a very good night. My only tangible contribution in the two hour dialogue was a comment about the Dead Sea Scrolls lending evidence to the accuracy of the Bible. The rest of the time I was thinking about different passages of scripture that would apply to whatever topic we were on at the time.

After the Mormons left, the group discussed what had talked about, and it was in this quorum that I expounded on what I had been thinking. At this, a friend asked, "Why didn't you say anything? That would have been really beneficial." Initially, I was taken aback, and didn't have a response. I thought to myself "Really? I didn't think it was terribly insightful at the time..."

My initial hesitance to speaking was due to my not wanting to come across as combative because I really like to get into debating, but that's not the whole story. The next major component to why I didn't speak was because I thought everyone else was probably thinking the same thing and made the same connections I had. I assume this because among my friends present that night, I was probably the least "churched" one there. As far as I know, everyone else had essentially grown up in the church; I didn't start until high school. Given this, my conclusion was that everyone knows at least what I know as far as Biblical knowledge is concerned. The final component to my refrain from speaking that underpins all else is that I am quite insecure about what I know. During my few years on this earth, I have amassed a fair amount of knowledge, but am daunted by the copious amounts I have not even begun to approach. I believe it was Newton who said something to the effect of: I have been but a boy playing by the seashore finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell while the whole ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me. How much more thoughtful was Newton than I? I don't feel like I have any authority to speak about anything, nevermind the ability to compile, organize, and communicate it effectively.

These two experiences, the reading and the Mormons, have shown me that I need to make my thoughts more public regardless of my attitude towards them. Some of what I say may be beneficial; maybe even a lot of it. Some of what I say will be shot down. If I don't allow my ideas to be tested no one will ever know. And, that would not be efficacious for anyone, not the least of which would be myself.

-Jon Husen