Todd William

Isaac Asimov on why YOUR Ignorance doesn't equal MY Ignorance...

In every century people have thought they understood the Universe at last, and in every century they were proven to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about out modern "knowledge" is that it is wrong.

Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. "If I am the wisest man," said Socrates, "it is because I alone know that I know nothing." 

The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that "right" and "wrong" are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.

Let me dispose of Socrates because I am sick and tired of this pretense that knowing you know nothing is a mark of wisdom. No one knows nothing. In a matter of days, babies learn to recognize their mothers. Socrates would agree, of course, and explain that knowledge of trivia is not what he means. He means that in the great abstractions over which human beings debate, one should start without preconceived, unexamined notions. Now where do we get the notion that "right" and "wrong" are absolutes? 

Young children learn spelling, for instance, and here we tumble into apparent absolutes. How do you spell "sugar?" Suppose Alice spells it p-q-z-z-f and Genevieve spells it s-h-u-g-e-r. Both are wrong, but is there any doubt that Alice is more wrong than Genevieve? When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is more wrong than both of them put together.


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Source: Relativity of Wrong: Essays on Science by Isaac Asimov

Todd William

About Todd William -

My name is Todd William and I’m an indie author. I like to focus on the positives in life. I’m like kryptonite for cynics. I’m a dedicated father and husband, a science and tech buff, a psychology enthusiast, chess and MMA fanatic, and noble introvert. My biggest fault might just be that I’m annoyingly happy all the time.

I’m addicted to books. I read constantly on a variety of topics, the result being that I tend to know a little about a lot of things yet not a whole lot about any one thing. I lay no claim to superior wisdom. I merely have an unyielding appetite for knowledge coupled with a strong desire to contemplate intriguing thoughts.

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Clifford
AUTHOR
December 14, 2017 at 9:01 AM delete

I have always believed that there is a right and a wrong answer. Sometimes there can be a fine line between a right and wrong answer. But from reading this article, I can see that there are answers which are more wrong than others. It gives you a different view about life if you can start thinking more about your answers and how right or wrong you could be.

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Wendy
AUTHOR
December 15, 2017 at 1:16 AM delete

I think you are a little unfair on Socrates. He had the wisdom and humility to appreciate that there must be knowledge of which he could not even conceive. Perhaps if he had used the term "so little" instead of "nothing", he would have been a bit clearer in his meaning. I am reminded of the "known unknowns etc" speech of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 which was ridiculed by many who did not seem to consider the concept of known- and unknown- unknowns. Yes there are degrees of rightness, very little is absolute. Scientific knowledge involves the formulation of a theory based on the best evidence available, in the knowledge that further evidence may well necessitate modification of the theory. Those in science have the the humility to appreciate the concept of "unknown unknowns". Perhaps Socrates was referring to this as well.

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2 comments:

  1. I have always believed that there is a right and a wrong answer. Sometimes there can be a fine line between a right and wrong answer. But from reading this article, I can see that there are answers which are more wrong than others. It gives you a different view about life if you can start thinking more about your answers and how right or wrong you could be.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you are a little unfair on Socrates. He had the wisdom and humility to appreciate that there must be knowledge of which he could not even conceive. Perhaps if he had used the term "so little" instead of "nothing", he would have been a bit clearer in his meaning. I am reminded of the "known unknowns etc" speech of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 which was ridiculed by many who did not seem to consider the concept of known- and unknown- unknowns. Yes there are degrees of rightness, very little is absolute. Scientific knowledge involves the formulation of a theory based on the best evidence available, in the knowledge that further evidence may well necessitate modification of the theory. Those in science have the the humility to appreciate the concept of "unknown unknowns". Perhaps Socrates was referring to this as well.

    ReplyDelete