Friday, 3 February 2017

Thought 445: The More You Know the Less You Think You Know

"For this is [a] factor that distinguishes the thinker: only through his knowledge does he know to what extent he can not know essential things." 
- Heidegger, Nietzsche
If my experience is anything to go by, I would say that the more you know, the less you think you know. 

Put differently, as one gains in knowledge, and therefore in a variety of angles on topics, one finds that competing interpretations cancel each other out, that opinions, however informed, will likely be overcome in time or even proved wrong, that definite knowledge on many matters, especially of a historical, philosophical or esoteric nature, is impossible to acquire for certain, that the acquisition of knowledge itself depends on linguistic, intellectual and symbolic representations which themselves are prey to the limitations of reason and are by nature a handy simplification, not to say falsification, of reality. 

Socrates was wisest among the Greeks for the simple reason, as he himself claimed, that he did not think he knew when he did not know, i.e. that in openly admitting he knew nothing he was wiser than those 'experts' who thought they knew something, when in fact their knowledge did not bear deep scrutiny, revealing itself to be flimsy and incoherent. 

Of course this is not to say that knowledge does not exist at all, for information that is critically evaluated, and not information itself, is how knowledge comes about but this still does not tell us what knowledge is. 

As ever, pet if controversial philosopher of mine, Martin Heidegger, was perhaps onto something when he stated in his Introduction to Metaphysics that to know is the ability to learn, or rather, to know is to be of such a resolute and disciplined mindset as to be able to learn on a sustained and repeated basis. 

Knowledge in this case would seem to amount to lifetime learning and learning always involves an element of unlearning false beliefs and misinformation. From a more conspiratorial angle, one could argue that to know is to unlearn mind control in the form of, among others, institutionalised belief systems that are artificial, inauthentic and contrary to natural law.  

These points bring me back to a concept I devised in my first blog post on ScruffyOwlet's Tree: conscience. Taken literally and morphologically 'con' (the Latin prefix meaning 'with') and 'science' (from the Latin verb scio, sciere, to know) amount to 'with knowledge' and by liberal extension 'the knowledge of your knowledge'. 

It is through the exercise of one's con-science, one's knowledge of knowledge, usefully systematised in the science of epistemology, that one finds the truth in the proposition that the more one knows, the less one thinks one's knows and therefore the less one seeks to impose beliefs, i.e. things one holds to be true, onto others. 

Much rather than convincing others of certain beliefs, the aim of enlightened teachers should be to help their students raise their consciousness - and therefore their conscience - so as to be able to better discern truth from falsehood and therefore more effectively avoid negative consequences for themselves and others. For thoughts, emotions and actions based in and induced by falsehood, not to say inner division and duality, can and usually do lead to pain and suffering.