Hey, I have an idea. What is an idea?
Well, I learned in class this week that the word "idea" in Hebrew is translated pani, which literally means "face." Interestingly, the first philosophical texts were always in the form of dialogue- learning always involved relationship with the other. "Ideas" were not fixed, they were born, lived, changed, died and were reborn in conversation. But for political and religious reasons involving power and control, it was necessary that "Ideas" be concretized and solidified into unchanging dogmas. It is at this point that an "idea" (a face) becomes an "idol" (note the same root word). Now we can transmit ideas without relationship, outside of the context of conversation. Independent learning, self-help and mass indoctrination is the experience of the "educated" individual. Idolatry occurs when a "face" (an idea or a doctrine) is concretized or made a convention to be passed along for future "encounters"- which is no encounter at all. Jewish ethicist Emmanuel Levinas worked to bring back the "face" into knowing- working towards the postmodern principle that truth is found in relational context.
Anyhow, I find it exciting to think of the theological invitation of getting back to a relational understanding of ideas and learning. What do you think?