a paradox of knowledge and awareness

The more you know, the more you realize there is even more you do not know.  This is the substance of what a lecturer told us one morning in a large lecture hall at university.  (8:00 a.m. classes were rough for some of us night owls.)

Specifically, he said that when you receive your bachelor’s degree, you know some things and you realize that there is much you do not know.  Later, if you continue your education and earn a master’s degree, you know even more than you knew with just your bachelor’s degree but you are also aware that there is an even larger amount of knowledge that you do not know.  This process continues for those who labor for and achieve their doctorates (PhD). Yes, one at the doctoral level knows much by human standards, but he/she is even more acutely aware of an ever larger body of knowledge that is still beyond their reach (or perhaps, grasp).  With greater knowledge comes a larger awareness of how finite our knowledge is.


China girl painting



This is congruent with a definition of ignorance where ignorance is the state of being unaware of what one is unaware of.  (No, this is not a zen koan – reread these words carefully and think about it for a moment.)  In other words, when you begin to recognize the areas you know nothing about, when you become cognizant of the areas that you lack knowledge in, you are moving out of the depths of ignorance.  Ascending a large mountain, the higher one climbs the more distant and unknown territories one glimpses on the horizon. Albeit these are indistinct on the horizon, but now one knows that these are out there.

All this is humbling to egoistic man who is the center of his very limited universe.

(This idea of becoming increasingly aware of how limited one’s accumulated knowledge is as one becomes aware of an expanding universe of knowledge can be visualized.  It is very analogous to what is seen in a few films on cosmology or astronomy where increasing age and size of the universe is shown as the camera view (of clusters of stars and galaxies) zooms out.  The previous perspective, the prior view, is seen as a sphere now within a much larger sphere of numerous galaxies and clusters of galaxies even further away in space and time.  Our present knowledge and our awareness of what we do not yet know is a small globe within a much larger sphere of possibilities.)

I liked this lecturer as he worked out in the real world and thus was not a lifelong inmate of cloistered academia.  He brought a real world, pragmatic perspective to his lectures.  This class was the only one he gave each term.  By the way, the course was on business and not on philosophy.

No doubt, by now, many of the professors that I had in the late 1970s while an undergraduate have passed over into (as Willa Cather put it at the end of one of her short stories) “the immense design of things”.

Consider, dear readers, that you did not have to attend the classes nor pay the tuition for this college lesson.   🙂

Our featured image above is by kind courtesy of our photographer and is from her holiday in southern China in late May, 2014.  From the Dali Silk Factory, we see a beautiful work of art showing a little girl and a pet dog in humble simplicity.

copyright 2014 – larrysmusings.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s