sun 23 aug 2009 19:37:24 witte de withstraat
not knowing what knowing is
when you ask a small child "why did you do that?" they often do not seem to know the answer. but they can't tell you they don't know, because they haven't yet learned what "knowing" is.
maybe knowledge is an abstract and rather modern concept.
once kids do learn "i don't know" they often overuse the expression, to excuse themselves from reasoning.
a further difficulty, at least in my time and place, is that we are usually given insufficient leave for ignorance. we are expected to know, or to pretend to know, things that we either do not or cannot know. in my life i have routinely been called upon to predict or to speculate. as i got deeper into adulthood, on principle i began to resist any pressure to pretend i knew what i did not. then i was found uncooperative.
a good example of this is how our taxation system works. as an independent contractor, i am obliged by the state to estimate how much i will earn in the coming year, and subsequently expected to pay the appropriate tax on that amount, whether or not i really earned it. as far as i can tell, there is no way to be taxed on just what i do happen to earn. i am obliged as a businessman to pretend, and to live up to the pretense. to me that seems unreasonable.
i wonder if our underdeveloped relationship with knowledge is connected with our relative immaturity as minds. consider the relative recency of the idea of what knowing actually is. for so many centuries we were bound to superstition and fiction. science, aka "wetenschap" or "knowing-ship" is something new, which only works by first understanding what ignorance is.
i wish we could be somehow better. more healthy and more true.