House of Truth– A Visual Aid for the Fact-Value Split

 

The late philosopher and theologian, Francis Schaeffer used the metaphor of a two-story house to describe the way we think about knowledge. You can read more about that here.

We’ve been taught to split knowledge into two parts: facts and values. The lower-story of the house represents facts: data, reasoning, and the hard sciences. The upper-story represents values: ideas, morals, and the spiritual realm. Our culture today tells us the only place to find truth is in the lower story.  Is that true?

There are many things that we know to be real that cannot be found in the lower-story. Here are some…

 

If we only accept things in the lower story as ‘true things’, we remain cramped down in the lower story, living in only half of the house.  When we embrace facts and values, the whole capacious structure is available to us.

This “House of Truth” is meant to be used as a visual aid to help students understand the epistemological division that we are bombarded with today. It goes something like this: If we can see, taste, touch, smell, or hear something, it’s real, but if we can’t use our five senses to investigate it, it’s not. I would challenge students to understand that we must embrace both facts and values as ‘real’ in order to flourish and to be fully human.

It’s challenging to try and show philosophical concepts using three-dimensional objects but I’m hoping this will be helpful for students, especially visual learners. If they can understand this concept, it will greatly benefit our art and literature discussions.

I started with the medium sized chip-board house, painting it with two thick coats of white acrylic paint.

The lower-story was painted black and the upper-story and roof was painted with shimmery glitter to reflect color. Black makes me think of limitation, rigidity, and all things finite. Reflective surfaces remind me of freedom, boundlessness, and joy. I chose a tin metallic paint because I was thinking about the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz and how he had desperately wanted a heart. The Tin Man wanted a heart and the Scarecrow wanted a brain. They both desired to have the full range of human knowledge.

Data symbols were placed in the lower-story and pieces of iridescent glass from and old TV set were glued onto the upper-story, to reflect and allow the viewer to see ‘beyond’ the surfaces.

The glass heart was the perfect visual representation for the vast spectrum of human emotions that belong to the upper-story. This might be the most important element in the entire project. This summer, I’m taking the final three courses of my graduate program at Biola University and have the pleasure of taking an entire course focused on the masterful work Kingdom Triangle, by distinguished American philosopher, J.P. Moreland. I attended additional lectures via live stream these past two days. He spoke of the human heart at length, in ways I’ve never heard it spoken of before. Please allow me to include an excerpt from his book:

Scripture emphasizes the nature and role of the heart in a life of peace, hope, and joy, The term “heart” has many uses in Scripture, but its basic meaning refers to the deepest core of the person. The heart is the fundamental, sometimes hidden fountain at the deepest recesses and absolute center of a person, from which springs one’s more real feelings, one’s most authentic thoughts, one’s actual values and take on life. In this sense, it is obvious that the heart is the deepest aspect of one’s soul, one’s inner self, and it is not to be equated with the organ that pumps blood.” (page 159)

For young learners, I thought it might be helpful to include the images of the two Wizard of Oz characters to remind them of the importance of the the brain and the heart when talking about knowledge. It was fun to create assemblages for each side of the roof. The Tin Man can serve as a symbol for heart knowledge (values) and the Scarecrow as a symbol for head knowledge (facts).

I included a small mirror over the front door. If the eye is the window to the soul, then one look in the mirror may be all that’s needed to convince us that we are much more than molecules in motion.

Light represents knowledge, so I installed fairy lights in the roof.

With this visual aid, I will be making a persuasive case to students that the historic Christian faith provides the basis for all types of knowledge, both in the upper and lower story. I’m convinced not only of the importance of epistemic unity but of the urgency with which this idea needs to be passed on to younger generations. In the sound words of my ethics professor, Dr. R. Scott Smith, “The fact-value split, which is the entrenched mindset we in the West have inherited, is false and must be rejected vigorously. Instead, we need to embrace the truth that we can have unified knowledge of reality in ethics, religion and science, and even in all the disciplines and areas of life.” (In Search of Moral Knowledge, page 358)

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my latest project! Have a blessed week!  ~Scarlett

6 Comments

  1. Wow – watching this come together has stimulated so much thought during my own studies! I love this, and all the intentionality in it.

  2. This is amazing Scarlett! Love it so much.

  3. Laurie Brown

    It was worth the wait, so neat!

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