“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is true knowledge.” -Socrates
As I get older, I find myself knowing less and wondering more. I’m starting to realize that there is very rarely an absolute. Every idea, every concept, every “reality”, has a seemingly infinite number of variables. I’m starting to realize that the best I can hope for in any situation, on an intellectual level, is have a personal opinion. That may seem like an obvious statement. I get that, but what I mean is, it is probably impossible for me to actually “know” anything. Because to “know”, is an absolute, which is impossible. It is impossible to ascertain all information in regards to any particular subject. We just don’t have the grey matter for it. Having said all that, it doesn’t mean there are no absolutes. There are things that are absolutes. I call them “universal truths”, myself. For example, things that occur in nature. Like, the structure of a cell, the way chemicals react to one another, and, here’s a simple one, if you don’t eat for awhile you’ll most likely get hungry. Now, those all are very obvious things and are tangible ideas. We can see and experience them. I guess, we could get into a semantic debate about terms. Like, “What is hunger?”, which is just a perception of a feeling, physical and emotional, but that’s besides the point. The above quote is something, I feel, is a universal truth. It’s so simple, yet so prescient, and in my opinion, one of the smartest things to ever have fallen out of a persons’ mouth.
The above quote is most commonly accredited to Socrates, but if you do a little bit of research, you’ll discover that there is actually a lot of debate in the historical community as to who really said this. This is do to the fact that there is very little known about Socrates as an “absolute historical figure”. Most of what we know about Socrates comes from a few of his students. Most notably, Plato and Xenophon. Most historians say that Plato’s ‘The Republic‘ is probably the closest thing that we have available to us, as far as “historical” Socrates goes. So, the debate is, did Socrates actually say it, or was this Plato’s interpretation of something Socrates said. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter who said it. It could have come from a homeless crack head, and it wouldn’t make it any less true. What it actually means is pretty obvious. Have an open mind. ABOUT EVERYTHING! No one really “knows” anything. Their perception, or opinion, is based on how much information they have on a particular subject, and it’s impossible to find, and retain, every piece of information concerning anything. Unless, of course, you’re a computer, but look how well that sometimes works out. I’m looking at you Skynet…
In my opinion, to “know”, or to “be in the know”, is an intellectually limiting disposition. Because, if you “know” something, then what’s the point of learning more about that something. Have an opinion, of course, but claiming “didactic” knowledge is an absolute position, and flawed. What we “know” is our perception of information, like I said before, and we can never ascertain every piece of information. If I “know” something there is the danger that I will stop trying to learn more about it. We see this stuff a lot nowadays. Especially in the political arena, and political news coverage. This is, to some degree, an unfortunate part of human nature. No one wants to be wrong, and more so, no one wants to admit they could be wrong. Personal pride can be dangerous. It can sometimes make us more than a little narrow minded, and effects our ability to truly have a discussion. If we enter a debate like scenario, and we have no intention of budging from our personal perspective, then what’s the point? Ultimately, we wouldn’t actually be listening to one another, and would be just waiting for our turn to talk. Sound familiar?
If you’re reading this, take it for what it is. A personal opinion. Over the past few years, the quote (maybe) by Socrates has become a personal mantra, of sorts, and is how I’ve chosen to move forward, on an intellectual level, through my life. To be honest, it has made me a lot happier. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have opinions, I have plenty, that’s what this post is, an opinion. Rather, I am always open to things that could augment my opinion, and widen my perception. I have no interest in living in a vacuum of my own disposition. Admitting that I’m fallible is extremely freeing, and makes my thirst for knowledge much more intense, I guess. Only a sith deals in absolutes, and siths kind of suck.