Luke Clossey

Published On


Page Range

pp. 333–354


  • English

Print Length

22 pages

12. Ways of Knowing

  • Luke Clossey (author)
Telling the story of how Christians learned to stop worrying and embrace the probable, this chapter considers how thinkers evaluated the certainty and truth of Jesus revelations, both canonical and contemporary. The latter included revelations made to women, with gender rendering their accounts especially unreliable, or, in the plain ken, especially trustworthy. Some writers used Jesus as a tool to demolish the claims of reason; others found in Jesus the compelling certainty they sought. Throughout the East, from Greece to Russia, hesychasts combined the Jesus prayer with breathing techniques to compensate for the instability of knowledge. Jean Gerson raised a difficult question: Should a priest celebrate the eucharist—that is, affect the presence of the body and blood of Jesus—after a nocturnal emission? His investigations led to the development of a plain-ken approach that celebrated a messy probabilism as an acceptable answer to uncertainty, first in ethics, and later more generally. In these ways a plain-ken vision of history, a messy world of contingency, arose between what was necessarily true and what was impossible.


Luke Clossey

Associate Professor of Global History at Simon Fraser University

Luke Clossey is an associate professor of global history at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. His first book, Salvation and Globalization in the Early Jesuit Missions (Cambridge UP, 2008), won the Canadian Historical Association's Ferguson Prize for best work of non-Canadian history; a chapter from it won a paper prize from the World History Association. His writings on global religion, the history of ideas, and history methodology have appeared in the Journal of World History, the Journal of Global History, the Journal of Early Modern History, the Sixteenth Century Journal, Global History Review 全球史评 论 , History Compass, the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature, and The Cambridge World History.