Tag Archives: Socrates

Gnosis and knowing how little you know

Feeling somewhat exasperated talking to people who pretend to know something significant, when in fact they know just enough to know something, but don’t really know enough for it to matter, I can’t help but think of Socrates’ idea: Wisdom is knowing how little we know. If sounds a bit too abstract, I’ll give a few examples like people reviling Russia’s president Putin simply because that’s how the Western media has told them to think, and an internet journalist (who is sympathetic to Russia) telling he knows better than the Russian leadership how Russia should handle it’s foreign policy and get rid of ISIS in Syria.

I genuinely don’t know enough to make a definite judgement, and I get the same impression from most of these other people don’t know either, except they fool themselves into thinking they do. I’m not trying to be witty or make myself seem smart by being intentionally evasive or anything like that. It’s just that I don’t understand the big picture of global politics, although I’d like to. I don’t know what how I should view Russia and Putin, is it fair in any sense to call them the good guys. Maybe, maybe not. I just don’t trust them. But I can say I “know” the European and American leadership are the bad guys. You can use Socrates against me on this one, if I’m wrong. I still don’t know what ISIS is. It seems it’s a creation Mossad and CIA, but then again maybe it’s just the convenient explanation. Social commentator and world-traveler Morris has said several times the media wants everybody to hate ISIS so maybe there’s something we’re not seeing.

But I don’t wanna get bogged down by politics. Let’s just end it by saying no-one, or very few, know what’s going on, although many like to think they do.

The beginning of wisdom is acknowledging the limits of one’s knowledge. It is sometimes called the Socratic paradox: “I know that I know nothing”. However, from the original mental blank slate you can begin to know “something”, but there is a different between knowing and knowing that you know. That is the dilemma behind all knowledge. We all know “something”. Be a fisherman who knows how to catch enough fish to make a living, a basketball player who understands the physics behind the bouncing ball, and a historian studying ancient history. They all know something about their trade, what they’ve devoted their lives to, but they don’t know everything. The results of their work is proof enough that they have some knowledge behind their actions: catching fish, scoring points, and understanding history. But no fisherman can catch all the fish in the world, no basketball player can score of the points in a match, and no historian can know all of history.

The problem with claiming “I know that I know nothing”, or claiming that “Nothing can be known”, is an assumption that you know something that you do not know. If you know nothing, how could you know claim to know something (i.e. that you know nothing)? It is not truly a paradox, but a logical fallacy, especially since everyone of us knows “something”. Be it your own name, how strawberry tastes like or that Paris is in France. Likewise, saying “Nothing can be known” is nonsense, not a paradox. If you think nothing can be known, how can you claim to know it?

The dilemma with knowledge and ignorance is being able to distinguish between what you really know, and what you think you know. I think we can agree that I know English, since I’m writing this, and anyone reading this also knows the English language. It does not mean I know the meaning of every word in the English language, it does not mean I do not make mistakes or misunderstand some things (especially since English is not my mother tongue), but I know “something” about English. I guess that is the key to true gnosis.

The ancient gnostics had the audacity to claim something can be known, not only of the external, physical world, but also of the metaphysical realm around us. I cannot help but agree with their sentiments. I do believe something can be known, not only of the banal facts like “fire burns” and “ice is cold”, but of the meaning of life, our purpose, of truth and lies, of God and the devil, or Aeons and Archons, of beauty and ugliness, of nobility, of love and other of these concepts our digital age of ones and zeros find difficult to comprehend.

But I’d like everyone to make clear that we can know “something”, but I am very skeptical that we ever know everything. That we can have 100% proof of anything. There’s the distinction. Distinction between a “holy” book or “scientific” consensus on a matter, and actual practical knowledge and understanding of how things really work.

 

 

Links:

Who Was Socrates? – 8-Bit Philosophy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJUuOnsRcvc

Morris’ channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/108morris108/videos

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Suppression by Government and Conspiracy is at the Heart of the Western Civilization

Europeans generally view our identity as Westerners dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. The philosophical tradition of the Greek city states combined with the Roman political might and all that. That is the background for our collective identity, although individual nations certainly have their individual histories, but overall we’ve all been affected by Greek and Roman tradition in one way or another. Simple enough, I assume. Then let’s look at two well-known men from ancient Europe, Socrates and Julius Caesar. Or in particular, their deaths.

Socrates is regarded as the father of European philosophy. He liked to make people question the things they thought they know, and he was put to death by the government for “corrupting the youth” with his ideas. Suppression of ideas and free speech isn’t just some anomaly that happened to happen by co-incidence because of the Patriot act or whatever. It has always been there in Europe from ancient Greece, to medieval Catholic church’s control of thought and speech to modern censorship and forbidding the questioning of the Holocaust etc.

Julius Caesar was arguably the most famous person ever to live in the Roman Empire, and very possibly the most famous political figure ever in the history of Europe. Do you know how he died? He was conspired against and assassinated by a bunch of Roman senators. If you think conspiracy theories are just some modern thing coined by delusional minds I’d recommend looking in the mirror and seeing who really is delusional. The next time you try to brush off information which disturbs your world view as a “conspiracy theory” and laugh, think again. Conspiracy and assassination have always been, and still are, at the heart of European politics.

If you don’t know who these two men were, you’re not a Westerner. It’s as simple as that. And if you’re a Westerner who thinks the government engages in censorship and violation of human rights only in places like China and Iran, I suggest you grow up. And if you’re a Westerner and you proudly “never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories” I suggest you get back to your child-like fantasy garden of Eden with a benevolent computer God where you can be free and innocent in your happy state, and not soiling yourself with knowledge of evil, as the omniscient computer God will take care of you. Not recognizing evil empowers it, so keep your ignorance and your evil in your Utopia.

Oppression, conspiracy and other nasty stuff have always been present in our culture. I cannot fathom how some people can convince themselves this is not the case. I am not saying this means we should throw our hands up in the air and say it’s hopeless, because evil exists. No. I’m saying evil exists, so we must be aware of it and prepared for it. Always.