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  1. #31
    Senior Member matmos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    There is a lovely medieval book that addresses this.

    It's called, "The Cloud of Unknowing", by Anonymous.

    And the name of the author seems somehow appropriate.

    I can remember dallying in the sunshine outside the Chifley Library with, "The Cloud of Unknowing", in my hand.

    It was as though the author, anonymous as they are, were speaking directly to me. And it seemed as though the Weeping Willows, the Silver Birches and the flowers all had something to say.

    But as there are so many anonymous members here, I am sure Anonymous is one of them.

    We only have to listen.
    Read the poem by Parmenides. The youth stands at the gates of Night & Day and is a fellow in the know. The gates are presented in the light, not as one might assume, in the Underworld.

    He is told there is much to learn through listening and study (the words in the old Greek for both types of learning are different); but much he will never know. The goddess makes an important point: that knowledge is not being withheld from him.

    The worlds of Night and Day are contraries, but this does not imply separation. Otherwise there would be no twilight.

    It is vital to make distinctions - but foolish to assume separation.

    So the youth exists between mortal and god. But there is no implied division.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffywolf View Post
    The dangerous aspect of it is potentially making the same mistakes over and over again, if you practice using perspective from knowing nothing and treat every situation a new. Experience (both mine and that of others) is more valuable to me, so I'll stick with that in the general sense. Instead of treating every situation from a blank perspective.
    This is not what I mean. Sure, experience teaches us, there is no point repeating mistakes. But keeping as open mind as possible is the only way to clear perception. This means that we must not take the knowledge we have too seriously. It is also knowledge to know this. This is why a child can't see in this way, even though there are similarities. It is not getting rid of knowledge itself but the attitude we have towards knowledge.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffywolf View Post
    "Knowing that you know nothing" despite being a paradox, is attempting to go backwards on that line. How, in practicality, can that ever be considered a good thing? What positive results does it have? I can't think of any. :p
    Human animal has the same capability as all animals to create balance with it's environment, but this balance was broken when we became conscious. So, the technique to counter this is to learn to become spontaneous again. But not in the same way than animals, there is no going back. If you try to let yourself float, your life will automatically find it's way, and it will do it because you are "programmed" to do so as a human being.

    Every invention and attempt to make life easier seems to cumulate into destroying the environment. It seems silly to try to solve something with the same means that produced the problem in the first place.

  3. #33
    Nips away your dignity Fluffywolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nolla View Post
    This is not what I mean. Sure, experience teaches us, there is no point repeating mistakes. But keeping as open mind as possible is the only way to clear perception. This means that we must not take the knowledge we have too seriously. It is also knowledge to know this. This is why a child can't see in this way, even though there are similarities. It is not getting rid of knowledge itself but the attitude we have towards knowledge.



    Human animal has the same capability as all animals to create balance with it's environment, but this balance was broken when we became conscious. So, the technique to counter this is to learn to become spontaneous again. But not in the same way than animals, there is no going back. If you try to let yourself float, your life will automatically find it's way, and it will do it because you are "programmed" to do so as a human being.

    Every invention and attempt to make life easier seems to cumulate into destroying the environment. It seems silly to try to solve something with the same means that produced the problem in the first place.
    The balance wasn't broken. Evolution just drove us into a higher level, where more things matter than just survival.
    ~Self-depricating Megalomaniacal Superwolf

  4. #34
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    "Knowing that you know nothing" is simply a means of expressing the need to inquire after ever-increasing knowledge in a humble fashion, assuming everything that you reasonably think you know can be false due to inherent human limitations of thought and perceptions, and that theoretical systems one reasonably disagrees with can always teach you something. Its an intellectual humility that enables you to, for practical purposes, "know" more than you otherwise would, not an excuse to refrain from taking an educated stand on important issues.

    In short, its tempering knowledge with wisdom.

    I don't get why people are linking this to the rejection of the concept of "self," though....I am in no way advocating that, and I don't remember that Socrates ever did, either.

  5. #35
    mrs disregard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Katsuni View Post
    This's regarded by some religions, and several ideologies, as the stepping stone to all else. After giving it a little thought, I think I've actually already been doing so without realizing it consciously.

    The basic idea, is that yeu know nothing; to understand or learn anything, yeu must first accept this, and understand that yeu truly do not know anything. One cannot correct a problem until the problem has been admitted to and identified.

    Now that being said, we have a starting point to work with, similar to the "I think, therefore I am" starting point. Except... we can't really PROVE we think. We may believe such, but such can also be mere illusion and assumption. I've never truly had my thought process actively work, so much as it just magically comes up with related information and makes conclusions based on the information, but there's no real 'thinking' involved, it just happens. It's quite strange when yeu stop to try to think about the actual process...

    Now that being said, we're stuck with knowing nothing. We can't even prove we exist, nor that we think. Great. So we have nothing at all.

    And therein we can use that to determine that if we don't know anything, then we have no basis to assume that we know whot isn't either; we don't know that magic doesn't exist, that god is real, or that we aren't all linked to some hive mind a la the matrix. We have no clue whot is real, which means anything is possible.

    Therefore, we can only rule based on whot seems most plausible, under the assumption that the information presented to us is accurate.

    Our senses can be deceived, our minds can hallucinate or play tricks on us, our memories are largely just key points that get 'filled in' with guesstimates as needed.

    Due to this, we really can only state whot we believe to be true, given this rather shaky foundation to work with.

    Furthermore, this acceptance of our ignorance of reality as a whole, would put us on much better grounds to deal with people. We wouldn't really have racism because we would be able to accept that we flat out don't know anything about that person; all we have are assumptions. We wouldn't need ideological wars, as we would be able to accept others' viewpoints as merely a seperate interpretation, possibly due to having different information.

    And most importantly, we'd be able to get over the concept of "knowing the truth".

    Too many times we believe we "KNOW" whot god wants. Whot the heavans demand, that there is no afterlife, that we have a purpose and a destiny, and that everyone who disagrees is wrong.

    Once we learn that we really flat out don't "KNOW" anything, maybe we can stop dealing in absolutes that only cause harm, and accept that there may be things out there beyond our understanding, and beyond our knowledge base.

    Or maybe it's just late at night, I'm bored, and felt like ranting. Whichever.
    Utter hogwash. An insult to science and logic.

  6. #36
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    i think its deeper than arguing semantics...although if you argued long enough, you would end up with the same conclusion (whatever that is)

    accept that you don't know anything and let the world be your teacher. do not try to supplement whatever you learn from the world with whatever you think you know (hence the premise that you know nothing).

    clean your slate blank and start afresh

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffywolf View Post
    The balance wasn't broken. Evolution just drove us into a higher level, where more things matter than just survival.
    You think the world isn't unbalanced because of us? Ok, that is more close to true denial of knowledge than anything posted on this thread. Well, ok, I guess we can say that world cannot be unbalanced, ever, even when it turns hostile to life, because life and the condition of earth will even then be balanced, yep...

    But this is besides the point. I have been trying to explain you an attitude towards life, and you have been evading seeing this. So, there is no going anywhere from here, is there?

  8. #38
    Senior Member LEGERdeMAIN's Avatar
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    This is a typical example of a Strange Loop. I know nothing>I know I know nothing>I know I know I know nothing. Eventually you must realize that you must know something.

    I understand why mystics and shamans of diverse skins tend to emphasize this(as well as a bucketful of scientists, philosophers and other paralyzing tentacles) and it's worth meditating on, especially if you enjoy brain exercises or would like some insight in to how relativity and quantum mechanics play a role in everyday life.


    These are a couple of good books dealing with this subject. The first one is recommended reading(or any other book by Hofstadter, for that matter). The second one is a work of fiction: the main strange loop involves several characters suspecting that they are characters in a work of fiction by an author who is also a character who suspects he is a character in yet another novel which, consequently, is a work of fiction by a third author who is probably a character in another novel, and so and and so forth.

    Amazon.com: Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (9780465026562): Douglas R. Hofstadter: Books

    Amazon.com: Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy (9780440500704): Robert Anton Wilson: Books

    Did anyone else begin to see "know" as an odd word after reading the original post? It seemed as if it were spelled wrong and then I starting associating it with wonkavision.
    Last edited by LEGERdeMAIN; 02-17-2010 at 07:50 PM. Reason: mispelled word: begin as beging, probably due to odd "g" key behavior....
    “Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I’m here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba…”


  9. #39
    Was E.laur Laurie's Avatar
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    I know that I will never know "everything" about anything. But not that I know "nothing" about anything.

  10. #40
    Junior Member DMCubic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffywolf View Post
    My problem with the method is that it is radical and useless. Like most arguements you use, most of them are subjective and perspective. Both of these key aspects of our society. Set aside the 'existance principle' for a moment, and I ask you to recognize that these aspects are real because we deem them to be. We created them, in order to guide the continuation of our species along a certain path. They are important factors that we deem neccesary to live in a state of potential harmony. But both have to be based on experience, knowledge and wisdom in order to make things work. The fact we don't live in harmony is only because we lack in our ability to right our wrongs, and come from different upbringings. But even in different upbringings, the fundamental aspects of life and the path we take, are similar to every human being. Potentially compatible.

    So to me it is important to keep what you know and expand on what you know, fervently. To be capable of learning from mistakes made by both you as well as others, and keep pushing the treshold of our existance further and further. And if everyone would do the same the world would no doubt be a better place. Just saying.

    "Knowing that you know nothing" despite being a paradox, is attempting to go backwards on that line. How, in practicality, can that ever be considered a good thing? What positive results does it have? I can't think of any. :p
    You say this method is radical and useless. I completely disagree. Two cases in point: natural science and psychotherapy. Science: it's not the 90% of scientists that stick to the old theoretical structures that advance our knowledge, it's the 10% that question and rock the boat, that think outside the box, to use the old cliche. It's that obnoxious ten percent that lead to things like the heliocentric model of the solar system, plate tectonics theory, and relativity theory. The 90% remainder are the ones that know that their current assumptions are correct. After all, they've built their careers on them. So of course the sun revolves around the Earth. Of course there is no such thing as continental drift. Of course space isn't curved. To be fair, without that 90% of conservatives there we wouldn't really get anything done because we'd have a proliferation of good ideas with no devoted subculture following them up, but that's the only bone I'm inclined to throw them. Without uncertainty and doubt we simply would not enjoy the paradigm shifts that cause the languorous beast of science to lurch forward over time. So when you say you are in favor of expanding on what you know, you need to remember that in principle and in countless historical examples, that advancement has come at the price of our sacred cows, and has rendered irrelevant volumes of results we once took to be true. But you are right - we don't forget what we know entirely every time this happens. We just forget what was based on the flawed assumptions.

    As for psychotherapy, consider the fact that most people have it in their heads as a deeply-rooted assumption that they are worthless, unworthy, unlovable, et cetara. Look at yourself and see if this is not the case for you (and if it isn't, I'm thrilled). How can one get rid of it? The same way you do in natural science. You take a look at objective facts, and you see if they make more sense in light of new core assumptions. So when I feel bad because I got shot down by that pretty girl I chatted up in the bookstore, I don't have to assume it is because I'm worthless or no good, the same way I don't have to assume that when fire burns it's because of phlogiston. Maybe I just splashed saliva on her face and grossed her out without realizing it. The point is, when we have an underlying assumption, we tend to look for evidence that supports it. But the evidence is sometimes tenuous at best, and we find ourselves having to use some thick emotional logic (read: attachment to the assumption) to justify keeping it around.

    As for the statement "I know that I know nothing" being paradoxical, it really isn't if you take it to mean that you understand that all of our thought requires some degree of self-referentiality (check out strange loops a la Douglas Hofstadter, which have been mentioned once already in this thread) and presupposition, including but not limited to implicit ontological assumptions about the nature of the referents of words. So I am adamant in saying that there is no such thing as knowledge in the sense that we can have infallible, unshakable, foundational truths of any sort whatsoever. But hey, life goes on, right? We have a lot of really good heuristics to work with that tell us a whole lot about the general kind of pattern that life follows, and a lot of coherent, consistent mathematical and logical knowledge that only produces pathological results every once in a while.

    Knowing that you know nothing has pragmatic utility because it keeps you from letting culture foist the biases it calls truth upon you, which increases happiness. It keeps you from harboring distorted negative views about yourself, which greatly increases happiness. It keeps you from giving your unquestioning assent to the axioms and defining terms of prevailing scientific theory, which makes you a better researcher. Knowing that you know nothing does not keep you from developing results in science and math. It does not keep you from employing those results. It does not keep you from having meaningful relationships with other people. It just keeps you honest.

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