A few weeks ago I was studying when I heard breaking news from the television in the next room. I needed a break anyway, so I sat down to watch Herman Cain’s wife tell “her story” for the first time. I concentrated on her words to see if there was any ambivalence to them, but all I saw was a woman defending her husband. My wife, passing through the room, paused to watch the story. After about ten seconds there was a look of decisiveness on her face. After another ten seconds she simply said “he’s guilty” and left the room.
Later we saw another woman come forward with allegations more serious, more specific, and with some corroborating evidence. My wife saw that story, too, but she really didn’t need to. She didn’t need to because she had conclusively assessed the situation weeks earlier by watching Ms. Cain. This time she simply muttered “I knew it.”
That bothers me, because that’s not the way we are supposed to know. We have proven, acceptable ways of knowing, like the elegant syllogism in the form of “Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Therefore Socrates is mortal.” We have laboratories designed to measure cause and effect in its many physical manifestations. We question witnesses by “Do you recognize this picture? Did you take this picture? What is in this picture? Exhibit 1 is offered into evidence.” In these ways we together acquire knowledge and together work our way up from ignorance. That’s our Western heritage, but apparently the preservation of our Western heritage is of no great consequence to my wife.
So it’s up to me to preserve our heritage by trying to explain what happened in my living room. I’m pretty sure, though, that this kind of thing isn’t limited to my household. I’m thinking there’s an undiscovered tribe in South America where a woman is sneering at the tribal leader thinking “I just know he’s guilty!” It’s like when the ladies just know that another woman in the church is pregnant before males have a clue. I don’t confine this kind of thing to one gender, though H.L. Mencken opines that there is a distinctly female epistemology:
Women decide the larger questions of life correctly and quickly, not because they are lucky guessers, not because they are divinely inspired, not because they practice a magic inherited from savagery, but simply and solely because they have sense. They see at a glance what most men could not see with searchlights and telescopes; they are at grips with the essentials of a problem before men have finished debating its mere externals. They are the supreme realists of the race. Apparently illogical, they are the possessors of a rare and subtle super-logic.
So he thinks it’s “subtle super-logic.” If I can build on this – and I must for all our sakes – perhaps my wife and others have a knack for speedily assessing various kinds of subtle data like tones of voice, body language, “glow,” etc., properly weighing them, and then flying down chains of logic at hyper speed.
No, I’m not convinced by my explanation, either. But I’m not fully committing to Plato, VanTil, Dooyeweerd, our judicial system, or anything else that can’t explain my wife.