Isn’t our financial crisis fair warning?
To the self-actualizing self-learner who has studied briefly the high points in human history the prospect of ever comprehending the human condition seems overwhelming. Where to begin? Perhaps some comprehension as to why the ancients could only propose eschatological solutions becomes apparent. Explanations for the human condition can come only from the beyond; perhaps only the will of God can be a starting point.
When we realize this we perhaps will be less condescending regarding the errors of the early thinkers when they began to seek a human solution for a crisis in human knowledge. How to set a coherent path to alleviate the chaotic drift in education and the fragmentation of thought?
The term ‘Renaissance Man’ suggests a wo/man of many accomplishments. S/he is a person who is not a specialist but a generalist, a person who knows a significant amount about many domains of knowledge rather than knowing more and more about less and less as does the specialist.
We might consider two classifications of knowledge similar to Aristotle’s definition. Accordingly one can have a ‘scientific knowledge’ of a matter or one can have an ‘educational acquaintance’ with that matter. Scientific knowledge is the possession of the specialist who knows not just general principles and conclusions of the field but also many of the detailed findings included therein. Educational acquaintance comes with a comprehension of the methods of the subject, not just the details, particulars, and conclusions. A person with an educational acquaintance with a domain of knowledge is a person who is “critical” in that field.
To quote Aristotle “It will, however, of course, be understood that we only ascribe universal education to one who in his own individual person is thus critical in all or nearly all branches of knowledge, and not to one who has a like ability merely in some special subject. For it is possible for a man to have this competence in some one branch of knowledge without having it in all.”
The individual with an educational acquaintance in a field of knowledge is one who is capable of sorting out sense from non-sense in that field.
Some will whine that today, with all of our knowledge, it is impossible for anyone to become a Renaissance Person. I say non-sense! With the world’s accumulated knowledge at our finger-tips anyone who has practiced the art and science of navigating knowledge can quickly gain an educational acquaintance with any domain of knowledge in a matter of weeks rather than a matter of years as would be required in ancient times.
Is a modern day Renaissance man or woman impossible?
I do not think that is impossible. Today becoming a Bacon or a Thomas is, relatively, a piece of cake.