Moses, Backsides, and the Limits of Knowledge
Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with human knowledge. It investigates the origin, methods of acquisition, and potential limits of knowledge. Basically, epistemology asks the question, “How much can we know?”
“And the Lord said, behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus, 37.21
What God said to Moses applies to all those who seek knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge, scientific, philosophical, or otherwise, is the pursuit to understand creation. But there may be things that, if we knew them, would destroy us. We want to know everything. But we can’t. We couldn’t handle it.
Who doesn’t wish to see the face of God? It doesn’t matter if you believe, “face of God,” means the visage of an almighty force, or the elusive particle that links quantum theory with standard physics. It is a face that may always be inaccessible to us.
Epistemology asks, “What are the limits of our knowledge?” Maybe the hand of creation covering our eyes defines this limit. We are allowed to catch but a glimpse of all there is to know. But a glimpse is better than nothing.
It could be that our minds are shielded from complete knowledge in order to protect our frail mental constitutions. Or maybe God is just a prankster. Like Moses, Einstein, and Socrates you ask, “Please, God. Show me all there is to know.”
And God says. “Sure, I’ll help you. Just open your mouth, and close your eyes, and you will get a big surprise.”
And so you do as you are told by the creator. And when your eyes do open, you realize God has been shoving his butt in your face.
It could be worse. At least its not an ugly butt.