A standard, albeit potted, way of characterizing the dominant modes of thought for ancient, modern, and postmodern intellectuals is in terms of the relationship between being and knowing. The concept of “being” has to do with metaphysics: what kinds of things exist and how do they relate? The concept of “knowing” has to do with epistemology: what can we know and how can we know it? For the ancient thinker, as the story goes, issues of being were primary and knowing secondary. In the modern era, this relationship was reversed: knowing determines being and not vice-versa. With the so-called postmodern era—an era I think has largely passed—neither being nor knowing are primary: rather our shared use of language determines what we can know, which in turn determines what there is.
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