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The Mediated Nature of Knowledge: Paul Ricoeur’s Philosophy as a Means of Teaching Students About Science and Religion

  • Nathan H. White
Chapter
Part of the Contemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education book series (CTISE, volume 48)

Abstract

Many in modern Western culture believe that science and religion are pitted against one another, at an impasse due to mutually exclusive and divergent worldviews. This assumption is based upon a problematic epistemological dichotomy in which scientific knowledge is considered concrete and certain, whereas religious knowledge is regarded as existential and experiential. Yet, such a division misrepresents both the nature of science and religion. By highlighting the mediated nature of human understanding, Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy envisages science and religion as approaches to knowledge with potentially compatible epistemological commitments. For Ricoeur, knowledge of the world is always mediated by signs and symbols; these semiotic constructs, such as language and paradigm, enable communication. Indeed, both science and religion use these tools to investigate truth and to transmit knowledge. For this reason, Ricoeur’s epistemological assertions may indicate effective methods for teaching about science and religion. Because teaching methodology ought to arise from understanding of the subject matter itself, viewing science and religion through the lens of Ricoeur’s philosophy suggests the use of particular pedagogical methods, such as visual models, narrative, and other figural means of communication, to explain scientific concepts, religious concepts, and the interaction between these disciplines. This method of teaching, far from detracting from scientific and theological enquiry, in fact mirrors the ways in which humans learn and communicate about the world they inhabit. It is also indicative of means of learning already employed by children and young adults, thereby drawing upon strengths implicit in learners.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan H. White
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Faith and ResilienceLafayetteUSA

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