Monday, February 19, 2007

Wendell Berry

Knowledge, Knowing and Ignorance

"The modern scientific enterprise apparently is directed toward the goal of complete knowledge. But if you had complete knowledge, if you knew everything, could you then act? Could you apply what you knew, or would you be paralyzed by a surplus of considerations? If you were to map within a circle all possible relationships among all the points along its circumference, you would end up with a black circle—an engorgement of "information" that would not be knowledge, but rather the practical equivalent of the blank circle you began with. Thus the proposition that it would be good to know everything is probably false.

The real question that is always to be addressed is the one that arises from our state of ignorance: How does one act well—sensitively, compassionately, without irreparable damage—on the basis of PARTIAL knowledge?

Perhaps the most proper, and the most natural, response to our state of ignorance is not haste to increase the amount of available information, or even to increase knowledge, but rather a lively and convivial engagement with the issues of form, elegance, and kindness. These issues of "sustainability" are both scientific and artistic."


Blogger Jon said...

"The Wisdom of Uncertainty" Yes. the dividing mind is great for handling facts, and feels it can never get enough, but it has no wisdom. J I Packer said that wisdom is less like knowing the positions and schedules of all the trains on all the tracks, than it is in knowing how to drive your car, with its ability to turn at will and go wherever you want.

Where do you want to go today?
(Sorry, I couldn't resist)

7:46 AM  
Blogger isaiah said...

I agree, Jon.

I want to go to Jamaica!

8:53 AM  
Blogger anonymous julie said...

I'd like to go for a bike ride!

That's probably the best respose to "why be good" I've heard yet.

3:05 PM  

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