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Thread: Is there a path to wisdom?

  1. #1 Is there a path to wisdom? 
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    Is there a path to wisdom?

    How can I know what I do not know? How can I trace that boundary between knowledge and ignorance?

    In the dialogue “Apology” Plato writes about Socrates while in the dungeon just before drinking the hemlock that the citizens of Athens condemned him to be executed.

    In the dungeon shortly before drinking from the hemlock cup Socrates spoke to his followers. He spoke about the accusations against him at the trial. He said that the sworn indictment against him was “Socrates is guilty of needless curiosity and meddling interference, inquiring into things beneath Earth and in the Sky…”

    Socrates further adds that he is accused of teaching the people of Athens, to which Socrates vehemently denies that he is a teacher. He points out that in matters of wisdom he has only a small piece of that territory; the wisdom that he does have is the wisdom not to think he knows what he does not know. Socrates conjectures that he has the wisdom to recognize the boundary of his present knowledge and to search for that knowledge that he does not have. “So it seems at any rate I am wiser in this one small respect: I do not think I know what I do not.”

    For Socrates a necessary component of wisdom is to comprehend what one is ignorant of.

    Am I wise? Do I know what I am ignorant of? I certainly know that I am ignorant of astronomy and music. There are many things about which it is obvious to me that I am ignorant of. Are there things about which I am not even aware of my ignorance? Are there matters about which I think I am knowledgeable of but which I am, in fact, ignorant of?

    When I ask myself these questions I become conscious of a great number of things about which I am ignorant. Does this mean I am like Socrates in this matter? I do not think so. Socrates is speaking about two types of ignorance about which most people are unconscious of.

    I think that Socrates is speaking of our ‘burden of illusion’. People are unconscious of the superficiality of much that they think they know and they are unconscious of a vast domain of knowledge that is hidden from the non critical thinker.


    The uncritical mind has no means for discovering these illusions. CT (Critical Thinking) is the keystone for discovering these illusions. The Catch-22 here is how can one develop a critical mind when they are deluded into thinking they have a critical mind?

    When our educational system has not taught our citizens how to think critically how can our citizens ever pull themselves out of this deep hole of illusion?


    “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”—Mark Twain

    coberstakaDutchuncle


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    Forum Freshman LotusTiger's Avatar
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    Well this is an interesting question. I think the main purpose of this statement " how can I know what I do not know" was to get people to question more the meaning of words and not to assume you know them?

    However let's take a more critical view of all this? First of all when you know something can you have certainty that you know it? This last statement which I made would be a contradiction if it said you cant know something which you know? So the question can you have certainty that you know "something you know" is true. You can. However that does not mean that there are things we only have partial understanding of. But what if we have a false understanding of something. What does that mean? To say you have a false understanding of something could(as one factor) only be true if that something did in fact exist as the statement assumes it does?
    But here's the thing if we do not know something how can we say we have a false understadning of it? We would have to know it to know that? So if Socratis were to say it's right to assume you dont know something even when he's didn't know it would be wrong. Even to assume you are ignorant of something even when you do not know it would be a mistake. So when socratis assumes he's ignorant of something he's "technically" wrong as to know if he's ignorant of something he would have to know it.

    However it's more important that people have this false belief anyway as it makes people question.


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  4. #3  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusTiger
    So when socratis assumes he's ignorant of something he's "technically" wrong as to know if he's ignorant of something he would have to know it.
    I didn't know that.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    there is a difference between knowing you are ignorant of SOMETHING
    and knowing what the SOMETHING is

    for example, someone who doesn't know what a black hole is, you ask them "whats a black hole" and they say "its a hole that's very dark" although this may be correct in one sense, it is clear they do not know what you are talking about, and so they are ignorant of something without knowing what that something is.

    If they said "There is something I do not know. Something I think I could learn one day" you would be able to confirm this as true.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
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    Forum Ph.D. Darius's Avatar
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    This is a far better post than usual, Coberst. Please post more like this. I agree with Socrates, as I usually do, that some wisdom can be attained by simply knowing ones boundaries. Though, in my view, this is but a small (very important) part of a needed "mental framework". Now, what I mean by "mental framework" is the process of thought. So, for example, constantly asking yourself "am I ignorant of this?" would become part of how you process things in your mind.

    My personal framework, and how I derive wisdom, is based on a careful balance of logic, emotion, and experiences. Hell, I may just draw a "mind map" representing it one of these days. Sufficed to say, though knowing ones limit is a key part, there is much more to explore. Though that is a vital key.
    Om mani padme hum

    "In dishonorable things we are not bound to obey any man." - The Book of the Courtier [1561], pg 99 (144 in pdf)
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    Excellent breakdown LotusTiger, but i do contemplate your last statement;

    However it's more important that people have this false belief anyway as it makes people question.

    If you mean the people as a whole, you talk about the believe of a false belief.

    Where it is correct to be false, because the possibility of gaining more is greater. Where the opposite is that you would deny if you thought it as ignorant?

    Doesn't that mean you're dependent on random events. Therefore you don't know where you go because you can't define ignorance when the opposite is true again?

    Wouldn't that mean that knowledge itself is not attainable because its a belief. Or do we decieve ourself in a illusion once more?

    Then the question "how can I know what I do not know" is not valid. Since you're gambling for the correct answer.

    Then indeed Socrates is wrong as well, because he wants to prove a point that contradicts himself as the others that judge.

    Socrates merely tried to understand without being ignorant.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    Wisdom is not knowing the truth it is seeking the truth. Words from wise men are not the truth, they are concepts to ponder, cobblestones on the road that leads there.

    And not these are not words of a wise man, they are more like street signs but beware many a trickster have turned them backwards along the way.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Wisdom is not knowing the truth it is seeking the truth. Words from wise men are not the truth, they are concepts to ponder, cobblestones on the road that leads there.

    And not these are not words of a wise man, they are more like street signs but beware many a trickster have turned them backwards along the way.
    Yes, wisdom is seeking the truth. Ive heard that before just as, wisdom comes with age.

    Thats the thing ain't it, only wisdom can explain those statements.

    Define wisdom
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  10. #9  
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    In the summer of 48 my older brother told me that if I wanted to play high school football I had to ‘get ready’. In his terms, ‘getting ready’ meant running to get in condition for the rigors of football practice.

    In the spring of 09 I want to begin the quest for wisdom. How do I ‘get ready’ for becoming wise?

    Starting with the definition of wisdom as “seeing life whole” seems to be as good a place to begin as I can think of. How do I get ready to see life whole?

    It seems to me that to see life whole I must learn a great deal more than I already have learned but I must start with where I presently am. I am convinced that learning new stuff requires three aspects (a position facing a particular direction) of mind; mentally I must have curiosity, caring, and an orderly mind.

    I claim that curiosity and caring are necessary conditions for understanding. Understanding is a far step beyond knowing. I will not examine a matter for the purpose of understanding it unless I am curious about it. I must care enough about the matter to do the intellectual work necessary to understand.

    Understanding is a step beyond knowing and is seldom required or measured by schooling. Understanding is generally of disinterested knowledge, i.e. disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic (due to the nature of the self) value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.

    Understanding is often difficult and time consuming and the justification is not extrinsic (outside cause) but intrinsic.

    Questions for consideration:
    Is caring necessary for understanding? I think so.
    What is ‘understanding’?
    Is curiosity necessary for knowing? I think so.
    Is curiosity necessary for understanding? I think so.
    Is a knowledge of history required to ‘see life whole’? Absolutely!!
    Is difficulty our duty? I think so.
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