Few People Care about Knowledge for its own Sake

Library from Unsplash CC0 Public Domain

Few are the people who care about knowledge for it’s own sake” Danny Iny from Teach and Grow Rich.

When I read I often encounter state­ments that make me think. It is one of the many reasons I read. Many I add to my notebook, but few go further than the origin­al thought portrayed by someone. This one made me think for a while, then I started to collect some thoughts because I do care about knowledge for its own sake. For example this makes me think about Plato’s Republic — a book written giving an ideal­ist­ic view held by Socrates about how a pure society could devel­op.

 

Idealistic… Knowledge…

Yet in a way this thought has many prongs. I remem­ber a comment, made by someone back in the 1970s or perhaps early 80s, how too many univer­sity courses taught imprac­tic­al curricula, i.e. students gradu­ated having little knowledge that they could take into the workplace. Similar people are today decry­ing that students have almost no theor­et­ic­al knowledge and cannot apply independ­ent thought to solve any problem. The complaint being that courses are now only focused on train­ing for a career in business. A finer balance is clearly required.

Knowledge Pen idea bulb paper from Tookapic CC0 public domainThe purpose of this post is to look at how we use knowledge, not from the academ­ic view, but how we may person­ally devel­op a process of continu­al learn­ing in our lives. Collecting knowledge for the sake of knowledge can provide a person­al found­a­tion to help us at times when a bit of wisdom is needed.

The ability to think is of vital import­ance. Thinking allows us to under­stand the value of certain hypotheses. Know what options are avail­able at each stage. Then postu­late on possible and likely outcomes, the way Socrates did for his theor­ies of possible societ­al devel­op­ment. The value of business is undeni­able, but it is not the only thing acting on a human life. Our society has other needs, it has infra­struc­ture as a frame­work for everything else that is possible.

Looking at the changes in the way people think over the past thirty to forty years it is possible to see that few people have learned to question or challenge the wrong. Too many people who act like sheep, being dragged along by whatever super­i­or force is avail­able. We need to teach people how to think. That think­ing will, of course, start at school age but needs encour­aging through­out a person’s life. To my mind this is how Trump won the US Presidency, support­ing the disen­fran­chised, non-thinkers, who follow whatever hope they can latch onto.

 

Question and Contribute?

All people need a plan to think, question, and contrib­ute to human knowledge through their lives.

Too many simply march in tune to whoever orders them. Orders may seem logic­al, the reason people follow them. Orders need not be direct (such as, a boss telling his employ­ee to do something). They are often implied. What is forgot­ten is that there are many differ­ent perspect­ives. That which is logic­al and sane to one mind is irration­al madness to anoth­er. Many commands are anything but logic­al.

Question from Pexels CC0 Public domainTrouble is, few question anything and even less contrib­ute. In part it could be said that this happens because of a lack of knowledge. but many of these people are highly educated, so should know differ­ent. In business situations it is possible to say that people react in a certain way because they are afraid to lose their job. There is much truth here. Yet for much of the past decade job loss has been par for the course, most people have exper­i­enced being let go because of the finan­cial situation the business finds itself in. The econom­ics should there­fore seem to negate fear of job loss.

The other aspect at play here is many people lack a theor­et­ic­al under­stand­ing of the situation around them and there­fore look to others whom they believe to know more. Trouble is, we all too often see the blind leading the blind.

 

Theory

A bit of theory never hurt anyone. Over the years I have read many weird and wonder­ful theor­ies. Most deserve little atten­tion, some of these are pure works of fiction. But had I not read them I would not have been able to make up my own mind about them. A crucial ability, that of coming to an under­stand­ing a determ­in­ing how to think.

Should we learn knowledge for its own sake? In Mein Kampf Hitler’s main thesis was that there was a Jewish conspir­acy to gain world leader­ship. It seems today that some polit­ic­al leaders have a view that there is an Islāmic conspir­acy to gain world leader­ship? It seems easy to blame others for the problems that exist.

Are there paral­lels? Clearly there are. A little knowledge allows people to make compar­is­ons. This piece is not inten­ded to start a polit­ic­al debate, merely find some paral­lels in think­ing between two eras and trigger the process of think­ing. What can you do if nobody wants to listen? That is a tough question.

Machu Picchu from Pexels

Civilised?

If human­ity is as a whole to become civil­ised then there are mountains to climb and knowledge for its own sake is something we have to accept and embody. Any untried idea remains simply a theory, an option, something that could be tried. Some simply need will to make them happen. People need to gener­ate more ideas, more theor­ies than ever before in every human endeav­our. The example I used above was well-known and polit­ic­al, but there is need for new theor­ems in every branch of thought. Furthermore where there are theor­ies, discus­sion of ideas is essen­tial and all ideas are challenge­able.

Of course there will always be theor­ies or ideas that should exist only in the realm of pure fiction. There are also many fiction­al stories that have a strong message or ideal that needs trans­lat­ing into the real world.

Should we care about knowledge? We can be certain that the path to under­stand­ing goes through knowledge. Clearly science is also one part of discov­er­ing the bound­ar­ies of knowledge. There are however many more realms and direc­tions of knowledge. Exploration, techno­logy, medicine, have all brought new knowledge. Writing is one of these areas. Writers must explore strange new worlds, bring­ing philo­sophy, psycho­logy, and other ‘ologies and ideas to light.

 

Access to Information

Wise Own CC0 Public Domain image from PexelsThe Knowledge Management Institute makes the point “as far as inform­a­tion goes, we’ve got a lot of it. In fact, we have access to more inform­a­tion than any other time in our history, and exponen­tially so”. It could be said that we are drown­ing in inform­a­tion, but inform­a­tion is not knowledge. Knowledge implies we know what to do with the inform­a­tion at our finger­tips.

Do you care about wisdom? You should. Trouble is there are very few that will listen to those having wisdom today. There are too many blind, unknow­ing, unthink­ing, people command­ing the atten­tion of the world. Sadly they have a mass follow­ing who are also blind. Ask one of the follow­ers what they expect to achieve and they are incap­able of saying. Sometimes it seems all the good we have achieved over the years is being abandoned and no-one will listen to wisdom.

We live in a world where we have massive access to inform­a­tion, yet few know how to use it. What is also true is those with wisdom no longer command any atten­tion. I am not saying that we must all become devotees of the Dalai Lama overnight. The point is becom­ing devotees of someone else is a part of the problem. Too many people rely on others to light the path for them, when they need to light the path themselves. Please don’t take my words to the other extent and imply that we should not care about the words of leaders and thinkers like the Dalai Lama. The point here is that every person has the capacity to think for themselves, especially if they constantly increase their knowledge. They should be able to identi­fy solutions.

Even the American Productivity & Quality Center has asked the question “How Wise Are Your Leaders?” Carla O’Dell in talking about the charac­ter­ist­ics of wise leaders states “They don’t sacri­fice our collect­ive future for their current gain”. I agree, wisdom requires a more holist­ic view to be taken. Wisdom is built from data, inform­a­tion, knowledge, and a whole lot more besides. Further Ikujiro Nonaka andHiro­taka Takeuchi in Harvard Business Review state: “in an era when discon­tinu­ity is the only constant, the ability to lead wisely has nearly vanished”.

 

What can People Gain?

In this era, we should not rely on reading to gain knowledge, even the (almost) illit­er­ate can build knowledge through TED, YouTube, the TV document­ary, and other sources. It is how you use that knowledge that matters the most.

John Henry Newman believed “knowledge is capable of being its own end” and “the pursuit of knowledge promise(s) nothing beyond knowledge itself”. In other words build­ing knowledge does not neces­sar­ily lead to wisdom. There are many for whom the only goal of knowledge it to prove they have it, as if they are taking part in quiz night at the local bar, or perhaps becom­ing a contest­ant on Jeopardy. I wish such people good luck, but I have a belief that knowledge has a much deeper meaning.

What you learn today may have no relev­ance tomor­row or the day after, but eventu­ally it will show itself in something you do.

Read on the beach by makunin CC0 Public Domain from PixabayIt seem there are two challenges to knowledge. First access to inform­a­tion and second how to assim­il­ate and use that inform­a­tion.

Universities and great librar­ies, seen as centres of knowledge, are broadly inaccess­ible, unless you are an academ­ic. The Internet provides too much inform­a­tion, most of it irrel­ev­ant to the person having a serious quest for knowledge. Project Gutenberg and others like it. are making old books avail­able, but there are still many obstacles in access­ing certain mater­i­als. Some publish­ers inter­cede claim­ing their rights are being infringed. The path to using and assim­il­at­ing knowledge relies on the need to question and challenge the status quo first and foremost.

I care about knowledge for it’s own sake, but I also care that it has applic­ab­il­ity in some aspect of our lives.

 

Related Work

Other mater­i­al recently published on the subject of knowledge include:

 

 

 

Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee to thank him for consid­er­ing the subject of knowledge in the world today. The images included here are from royalty free public domain sites, like Unsplash, Pixabay and others.

 

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