Elf and the Real Spirit of Christmas Epistemology

The 2003 Will Ferrell Christmas flick Elf is about nothing so much as conceptual frameworks and how cutting the cloth of the world to fit their patterns can and does do real violence to those “others” who lie at the edges where we make our dissection. When the movie turns to the old holiday saw of how belief in the fiction of Santa Claus is necessary to actually seeing and feeling the Christmas spirit, I saw an opportunity for a long, hard look at “epistemology, fast and slow.” This lengthy piece carefully sifts through language, consciousness, and narrative to argue that religions and religion-like worldviews are totalizing discourses that do a fundamental violence to the practice of slow, rational epistemology in an effort to sell a product before the buyer has even had the opportunity to carefully examine its make, worth, and side effects. Those of us who eventually nonetheless manage to do this due diligence usually find, by way of response, attempts at gaslighting calculated to make us doubt the integrity of our epistemological processes and the novel conclusions they give rise to. This holiday season, dare to believe that daring to believe is itself not all that daring at all, and certainly not nearly so as daring to doubt, question, distrust, and dissent. To paraphrase from another great Christmas “classic”: If you believe in Father Christmas, children, like your Uncle Satan does, then don’t buy the festering turds of religious and “New Age” narratives before stopping to take time and look, listen, and really see and hear, the proper foundations for satisfying, slow epistemology in this, our fast-paced world of quick-and-dirty heuristic shortcuts. To take the long, circuitous view, click here for more.        

 

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