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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Heart-Thinking: An Archetypal Epistemology For The Humanities And The Sciences

Kenneth L. Wilson.

In an age of science and technology, those who love the humanities must admit that what was once the ‘wunderkind’ of Western Civilization has fallen on hard times. We suggest that root causes for such Civilization-wide change can only be found in fundamental changes in how humans approach their world, i.e. in epistemology; and that only when an epistemology for the humanities is made comprehensible to the rational epistemology of science will the humanities rise once again to claim their rightful place in the sensibilities of the Westerner. The problem is that the (three century old) dominance of Kant’s distinction between “the” critical reason and “the” aesthetic judgment threw the very concept of epistemology into an irreconcilable duality – scientific strategies of knowing versus artistic insight – to become the main obstacle preventing a true appreciation of the humanities. Progress in social scientific understanding of cognition is now advanced far enough that we can begin to see the contours of an archetypal epistemology, grounded on the universal qualities of the human being, from which both the scientific and artistic epistemologies can be derived. We suggest that this epistemology, called “heart-thinking” or “multilevel integrative thinking” can be consciously used by both artists and scientists to generate their respective works in the future, and should this occur it will no longer be justifiable to separate the two approaches in any fundamental way. In this paper we briefly characterize this epistemology and demonstrate its power to penetrate behind both the scientific and artistic consciousnesses through a comparative analyses of an empirical scientific report on race and class in the United States and a well known artistic work, Michelangelo’s ‘Last Judgment.’ The differences in kind that have been assumed to separate art and science resolve into specialized approaches within the same archetypal epistemology thereby reconciling art with science.


Kenneth L. Wilson  (United States)
Associate Professor
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Wilson is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Wilson received his degrees from the University of Iowa the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Wilson has published more than thirty professional research papers which have appeared in leading social scientific journals such as the ‘American Sociological Review’, ‘American Journal of Sociology’, ‘Social Forces’, and the ‘Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’. Dr. Wilson also served as department chair at UAB and at Florida Atlantic University.

  • Epistemology
  • Heart-thinking
  • Knowing
  • Art & Science

(Virtual Presentation, English)