When we look out at the immensity and diversity of the natural world we can identify most of the things and processes that we see there. We are not, therefore left to guess and play hit or miss with our sense of a mystical play. We are not so confused at what is clear and naturally present because we are in posession of some knowledge. This, I will claim, is a good thing in the ultimate sense of 'the good'.
There may be a 'good' that human beings across history down through time immemorial could achieve as a kind of sense of great inner-joy and over-flowing pleasure which could even be described as divine. But this innate sense of 'the good' is now added to even moreso by the state of the art in scientific knowledge and information regarding the natural world. The world is given to us on a modern platter and this amplifies and stimulates the sense of gratitude that once was reserved untill before eating meals with a thanking of goodness.
Knowledge is good in itself. It is a healthy pair of eyes on a clear summer day. It frees and liberates humanity. It should not be taken for granted.
The question of the nature of knowledge is a question that is like the posession of knowledge itself. It is seeking for a great crystal unity which like knowing what things are, is also a kind of good. To ask such a question is an exercise in healthy thinking.
Now the rationalist answer to the question of the nature of knowledge: i.e. that knowledge is generated from within; is perhaps not so far removed from the opponents of rationalism who propose an alternate solution in the sense that both questions aim at some good witch is the solution to a question which perplelxes the mind as to what is its nature. It's like that Star Trek show where the machine becomes intelligent and seeks out its maker: we all seek for god, we all seek to know, we all seek for love that will make us complete and happy. And that is what the quest for knowledge is at bottom: a desire to remove some blemishes from the mind's eye to behold a beauty and wholeness of the self, the world, the cosmos and humanity's place as well as to salve its discord: we want to go home to a clear summer's day.
I harbor an inclination to believe that we see only what is intense, and miss much with a significance we cannot recognize. What do we see or sense of the natural world? We know only what we know as important, and having consequences. But, can you calculate what part of the natural world we can sense? Without the whole who can reckon the part? The more sensitive we build our senses with technology the more we feel. Is there an end to it, or is just that where ever we look we see? Well then, gaze as you will at nature, but glance at your own. What do you feel? How do you feel? Where do you feel you are? Why do you feel you are? The most profound part of our world we can never cut off an throw on the scales. We live in a world of emotion and profoundly essential moral concepts. How does one balance their existence with a spirit level? The nature we must contend with, and reconcile within all to live is human nature. Where is the science of human kind out of all the sciences that try?
The good is for each to decide. No man can determine good, nor truth for another. It is for personal good achieved in a social fashion that brings people together in government. Can the state empower a few to destroy the people? Sure, and is it not easier to turn good into bad than bad into good? Every social reason has its own momentum of belief and preconceptions. It is unfortunate that so often people have to be in misery and dejected poverty to reach the point where rebellion no longer frightens them. It is sad that social change cannot quietly go about happening, and does not wait to be carried on as an act of deparation. Some times one part of the population benefits more from technology and knowledge than another, and injustice becomes entrenched. How do you change that?
Spare me the platitudes. All is not for the best in this best of worlds. Knowledge is not good in itself, but good is what we can do with knowledge if we are good. That is why the essential question to humanity is not what we know but how shall we use what we know for good. Then, What exactly is the good? Forget war and remember over population? Remember law and forget justice? Remember ideas, and forget humanity? What is the key to our survival? What it the abode of our happiness? I may well agree that technology has the power to free humanity. Certainly, and to enslave. Only with a government over technology -that follows complete consensus can we all know the good at hand. For so many, it is a cause of bitterness if they must walk while another rides, or if they should ride while another flys. Many of our people, and too many of our children suffer a poverty of wealth, honor, and opportunity. In what sense are they better than serfs, since they must work longer for less to show. There was no peasant not uplifited by the general peace and progress of his society. Where is the peace and progress in ours?
Knowledge does begin in the mind so far as any can see. We are built for the very thing the world presents to us: Patterns. We are color sensitive, and rythem sensitive, texture sensitive, taste sensitive and pattern sensitive. We are evolved to our environment. But is it not true that our selves live in our stomach? If I think of myself objectively, I am as an object behind my eyes and forehead, only because that place hurts when I must think. Instinctually, because of the need to protect organs we locate our beings generally south of where they may be. Still, I like that you are seeking a motivation to secure knowledge. Why? The need to know is an emotional need. In my case that need is perverse since I spent a great part of my life afraid I was retarded. Maybe I am a savant. It is certainly easier to prove stupidity than alacrity. In any event, Why we need to know is a part of the meaning we attach to knowledge. I do not fear my knowledge. I fear much knowledge because it is poison without antidote. What meaning do I give knowledge? What good is your knowledge must come before my answer. It must serve a humane purpose for me to think well of it.
It is a quality of mind that some people have, like the ability to play music, or paint. Understanding is an art given first to natural talent, and I can see where some have it, and have it at an early age while others do not and never will.
What part of understanding is a sympathy for life and a sense of the terrible stuggle of life I cannot say. I can say it is not in books alone for very few books should give to all a sense of the fatal tragedy we call our lives, but from which people only take dry facts and figures, and the statistics of a corpse.
The need to know is an emotional need. In my case that need is perverse since I spent a great part of my life afraid I was retarded. Maybe I am a savant. It is certainly easier to prove stupidity than alacrity
Hey hang about fellas! How's a bloke meant to keep up with you two?
Fido. I'll confine myself to addressing your responses to my comments:
1. Whether it be 'understanding' or any other capability, "my experience" thus far - as a psychology graduate (though I mention that not as a claim to authority, but as a context), is that while there may well be individuals who entirely lack a certain attribute, and no amount of effort will lead to any improvement in performance, these are generally very rare. On the whole, most people can do most things to greater or lesser degree. This suggests that the biological/physiological structure relevant to the performance of any ability, is present and operational in the overwhelming majority of human beings. The degree of functionality is however highly variable. Thus, some excell with little or no apparent effort - and with effort perform at a level all bit incomprehensible to those of lesser capacity. But even the majority 64% or so, can generally improve; even if, after a while, diminishing return of effort means they stop short of exploring their inherent ability to its limit. This, I suggest is very much the case with 'understanding' (although, I shall, in point 2. ask for clarification of what you mean by that term).
2. So, to 'understanding' and what you meant by the word? My reading of what you stated led me to think you may have been referring more to the so-called intuitive levels of perception and response, which seldom making it into the slow-lane of encoding for language, lead to outcomes that seem beyond representation in formal, linguistic expression.
As for the general tone of your writing, that is to say the sense that I experience when I reflect on what I have read, I perceive a distinct sadness, or hurt, or even anger: . And so I return your blessing, peace.
Hot damn! Don't know how I did it, but I just managed to delete all that I had written. What a bummer!
Fido. Don't know if it is of much consolation, but I too, up until very recent times, considered myself to be a pretty miserable flop in the human achievement stakes. The change to an unconditional acceptance of myself (and others), in the sense of simply being a person - neither worthwhile nor worthless, is so recent I won't make any claims as to its permanence. But so far so good! If I may make so bold, go easy on your sense of self. OK, so you stuffed-up but good, possibly in every which way, but you're still about, reaching out, trying live as 'good' a life as you know how. That's quite some achievement. Sadly, there are many for whom Night falls fast (Kay Redfield Jamison, 1999).
There are many things in your post to which I would like to respond; too many for this occasion. I especially don't want to go about making unsubstantiated assertions. I will therefore start with a statement of what I think are fundamental premises to which all other remarks will inevitably relate.
THE LAWS OF EXISTENCE:
(And by 'Laws', I do mean, immutable and inviolable!)
- DIFFERENTIATION: It is not, I suggest, possible for human beings to conceptualise existence, save as dualistic. By this I mean for every 'is', there must be an 'is not'. Even at a quantum level, or whatever the most fundamental level existence might have, there must be the possibility of differentiation.
- REPETITION: Differentiation alone is chaos. Essential to any possibility of relationship is re-cognition, that is to say, the possibility of 'same as'.
- GRADATION: Differentiation of repetition leads to dimension, to relationship, but is still insufficient.
- RATE-OF-CHANGE: Gradation of gradation allows for the ordering of variation, of change i.e. acceleration and deceleration.
That will have to do for now, but I shall return! And when I do, I'll seek to illustrate the above with reference to your comments - as well as Liebniz's letter.
we seem to subtract ourselves as the essential element of reality
but until recent times we were not consciously conscious
Self consciousness interferes with education, if not with every experience. We learn best when we are not aware of it occuring, when we are blind to inner reality, and can see only reality in the larger sense.
Fido, I shall have to ask your indulgence:
In what sense do mean this? Do you mean that we talk of (and presumably conceptualise) reality in a way that talks of our 'self' as a given, that we do not include 'our' self as an element of the reality we examine? Are you suggesting that, in considering all possible 'essential elements' in our assessment of reality, we omit (or subtract) that of our self - and yet 'ourselves' are essential to any perception (of reality, or anything else for that matter)?
Am I right in taking it that, by "consciously conscious" you refer to that which you sub-sequently call "self consciousness"? If so, how recent is "recent times"? How did you determine recency?
I'm unsure as to what you think there is in self consciousness, that interferes with education. Are you referring to the way in which self consciousness is, I think, very often (if not always) integral with value judgements about self and other, leading to inhibitions or barriers against unqualified acceptance of what is encountered? Hmm. That's a bit of a tangled torrent of words. Guess it would be best if you could expand on what you initially stated.
Thank you for the thoughtfulness of your responses.