True Wisdom Is Knowing You Don't Know

It was Socrates who said, "True wisdom is knowing you don't know." My awareness of my ignorance is the source of whatever humility, creativity, and free will I might possess. Ironically, without it I would be lost and the more ignorant I know myself to be the wiser I become. I know I don't know if there is a God and I am truly grateful for my ignorance. I can't imagine a God who would want it any other way.

wuliheron wuliheron
17 Responses Mar 31, 2012

If ignorance truly is bliss, scientists and all other critical thinkers must be the most miserable people on the planet.

LOL, academics are infamous for being workaholics. One study academics did even indicated their own sex lives suffer because they can't turn their brain off. A woman from a Yanomamo-like tribe visited NYC and was asked what it was like to go from the stone age to the big apple. She said what struck her was when she looked out on a crowded street and saw thousands of lonely people. Here was a woman who grew up illiterate without so much as a radio and seeing perhaps two or three strangers and year, yet she had never experienced that kind of loneliness and never imagined people could be lonely in a crowd.

A beautiful piece of writing... I agree with you and with "Socrates" too.
I am in favour of "maieutica" (Socratic debate)

Thank you for the compliment. Like that of Socrates my philosophy also has a humorous side. Technically it's a contextualist form of pragmatic Taoism with the added wisdom of Socrates and Groucho Marx. Contextual philosophies support complex metamorphic observations and can do a complete end run around metaphysics altogether.

I am sure you are a wonderful person! I am honoured to have met you. I know Taoism too. I like western philosophy as much as the eastern one.

I like to think I'm a nice guy, but I'm not any sort of traditional practicing Taoist. Pragmatic Taoism is most closely related to philosophical Taoism, but with less mysticism. Sort of its own humorous Zen school of Groucho Marx narcissism built on Socratic ignorance.

I'm of a slightly different school of thought, myself. I believe that we as humans cannot possibly KNOW whether there is a god, gods, or no god. However, I do think we as sentient beings should always pursue knowledge, whether it be scientific or spiritual. However, the arrogance of theists and atheists alike (ESPECIALLY Christians, though) does tend to make me pretty mad.

What is, is.

I'm an A-theist, Gnostic, non-dualist ... what I really know is that BS makes good fertilizer ;-)

Sometimes it just makes for a nasty smelling mess when people don't use it to fertilize anything.

That's when it becomes fuel ... for dialectical dialogue.

If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
love Socrates

LOL, Socrates' wife was infamous as the most acerbic woman in all Athens.

i bet she was lovely and it's just bad press! men! ;)

i know God exists at the phenomenological level* because God is just our ancient word for "everything" - however, defining this God [the origin of all the various historical Gods] with language is impossible because deepest reality transcends reason and rationality [which is why we'll also never have a mathematically proved grand unified theory of everything] - God is however something that can certainly be experienced - but the problem with such experience is that people tend to confuse the smallest personal glimpse of "God" with an understanding of the whole object - and from this intoxicating error much grief follows, as history has shown time and again

*the most important level of reality that there is for living individuals

i suspect that the modern, educated people who are closest to God today, almost never speak God's name to others

I've deliberately left this philosophy open to mystical and pantheistic interpretations such as yours, but at heart it is a hard-nosed pragmatic philosophy of the "show me" variety. Without getting technical it conforms to the contextual dictum of Wittgenstein, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent".

i presume the philosophy you are referring to here is your own, and with this assumption in place i reply that your chosen dictum is very reasonable

and is one i practice more and more in my personal life, but most certainly not as turtlesplash

Yes, this is my own philosophy. This is the short poetic version, but I give a more detailed account in the thread "Ignorant Wisdom". Technically I suppose you could say it is a my own Pragmatic Taoist interpretation of Socrates using an ordinary language contextual functionalist approach.

i started to read that but i'm tired and will read it tomorrow when i can do it justice, i'm going to bed now - but can i ask you one question on my way out? - what do you think were the origins of the charges of blasphemy against Socrates?

By all accounts Socrates was an extremely moral man of few words. A quiet soft spoken guy who preferred to listen more than talk and demonstrate his philosophy through his actions more than words. Among other things he espoused voluntary simplicity and refused to accept money for teaching. This was an affront to Athenian society which was notably corrupt and materialistic and the fact Socrates was encouraging their youth to question their values was just too much. You might compare him to a modern day Gandhi or whatever who by his very existence threatened the status quo and encouraged even bitter rivals to put aside their differences just long enough to get him out of the way.

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Know thyself.. is the biggest task on earth!

The more you know, the more you know you don't know. I know more now than I ever did as a child and know that the further I go down the path of knowledge, that longer it becomes.

I know when i can't or shouldn't do my body tells me this, but if I stop moving...then I go or do nothing.I too am grateful for my I keep moving and improving everyday.<br />
Socrates was a wise man with so many others in the past, as if they new what are world would be today. Thank You, for reminding me of his ''True Wisdom of I don't know until I try.<br />
Sincerely,<br />

I understand honey. My experience however tells me that I can't "not know". It drives me crazy. Therefore, I must decide what I know and believe. Being without an idea of what is true is the greatest affliction to my soul. I have had to decide what I believe and "know" for lack of a better word. What I do is use what I've learned as a stepping stone to real truth according to my experience. That way, any idea I have on a subject is not merely a black and white thing. I tailor it to my own soul and experience and take what information I've been exposed to and use that to point to the truth that is already present within me. If that makes sense. Sorry, not trying to sound all guruish and elusively wise or whatevs....haha

At one time people believed the truth was the earth is flat and according to the National Science Foundation one in five Americans still believes the sun revolves around the earth. I am much more interested in what I know than what "truth" might be out there. In what is useful to me right this moment and what feels right in my gut than what fits into my preconceptions and expectations about some abstraction people call truth.

very logically coherent. cant argue with that. i can appreciate your way of thinking.

For me the logic and whatnot are merely dance steps I've learned to express myself better so others will understand. I am what I am and that's all that I am. This is more or less who I have always been. Just a little more erudite and, really, nothing special. It took me years to discover that the way I think in many ways is shared by half the planet. Just the other half that I had never known well.


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at the age of 17, i have discovered true humility, never have i felt something so inspiring. Of coarse, it is not with me day in and day out( instinct, and overwhelming emotions interrupt) , but to have experienced it for the first time, and many times after; i can accept everything i do, i don't judge myself; even when i do something that others will judge. I have learned to recognize anger, jealousy, and all sorts of other emotions in such a pointed way. A way that, when i feel them, they aren't inflicted upon others, even thought the subject to my emotion will be another person. What i realized is that, even though it feels like others are the subject, the aren't. Ignorantly, we feed these emotions. So now a days, instead of inflicting jealousy (very prominent emotion of mine) on by "subject" i will meditate, and be one with the emotion; i greet it with gratitude. That way, the baggage of my experiences are lifted.<br />
<br />
What i have realized is, if you don't let ignorance be, wisdom never comes.

Sorry to take so long responding to this, but the post is so personal and elegantly expressed I couldn't think of anything to add. As Taoists like to say, "Many paths, one mountain". We are all climbing this same mountain in our own unique way.

Thank you, and it has taken me long too, i was kind of speechless when i read this the first time..... i still am. It just brings a smile to my face.

I think you are a very good and knowledgeable man and have just opened my mind to some way of being that i belive i have always been but never actually thought in great detail about before so thankyou I dont know anything about Lao and Tzu but i think i will try to find out more i always thought that some of the things the buddists said seemed logical are they anything like that? i love to be enlightened its so much fun

This philosophy has some things in common with Buddhism, but is even more basic. For example, Buddhism entails metaphysical concepts like Maya that this does not require. It's actually more closely related to Pragmatic Taoism and Wittgenstein then anything else I know of, neither one of which is light reading. The idea is to just be as blunt and descriptive as possible without making any speculations or suggestions.

Well thats maybe why it apeals to me then but ive never been any good at being blunt in a way that may upset anyone i do not like to hurt anything but i try to be as descriptive as my education will allow thus far and speculations and suggestions are not exactly true fact i dont think so it kinda makes a bit of sense to be honest im probably in above my head because i hav e just been trying to found out exactly what Quantum physics is all about and all i can gather is that is something to do with how atoms and energy particles react to each other am i on the right track

A "quanta" is a quantity of something and quantum mechanics is the statistical study of quantities of subatomic particles. They exhibit what is called "Indeterminacy" meaning it is apparently impossible to tell exactly what they are and what they will do with precision. However, in large groups of trillions upon trillions their behavior becomes extremely predictable.

I very much agree with this quote, which is why I consider myself Agnostic. Since there is no way to determine whether Atheists or Theists are correct I think the smartest thing to do is admit that I don't know and call myself Agnostic.

Do you Know ive never really thought about it till now but i have never known the difference between those three words now i do so thankyou

We cannot learn until we realize that we do NOT know it already. We cannot fix something that is not broken. The person who does not want to learn that they do not know everything, will not admit his/her humanity and become wise.

Exactly, the more we accept and value our ignorance the wiser and more humane we can become because we pay more attention to our ignorance. A virtuous feedback process that all begins with humble acceptance.

This is great its like finally people are speaking my language although im not as literate as you lot

I think what he means is that it's better to be humble, because there is no way to know everything in life...and being humble in terms of knowing shows that you're human and that you've accepted that you're only human and can only know so much...Satisfaction is ignorance Asking is knowledge my friend..:)

Socrates meant it quite literally and even gave examples. An example today might be knowing that you don't know how to swim is wise. Whether you are humble or not the awareness might make you a little more careful then a toddler when near the deep end of a pool.

yea you are right i think

yes this is true as i didnt teach my children to swim so they have the good sense not to go to near deep water

Instead of using very old ways of looking at things that someome else came up with, why not use your own thoughts on the matter? Knowledge comes from experience and wisdom comes from knowledge. If you were to continue on the path you have described, eventually you will know nothing. How is that wise? Yes, you may learn things that are not relevant in this day and age, but that is the nature of learning.......sifting through what is important to you and gleaning the best. Forgetting what is not important to you may cause you to forget why you believe what you do. That has been the downfall of many religions and philosophies. They simply hear and obey. Never asking the question....why! What makes sense to you today, be virtue of necessity, may not make sense tomorrow.

The idea we could forget everything we know is silly. Lao Tzu is encouraging us to forget our habits.

I'll have to disagree. I feel much more confident in whatever knowledge I can gather that will help me make informed decisions. This includes the choice (free will) to not believe something without sufficient evidence. Until evidence is clearly undeniable, I can with confidence choose to not belive in the likelyhood. I of course will not, because no one can, prove a negative (i.e. that god does not exist). That is why I am not pressured to take a seat on the bench. Until the evidence proves otherwise, I can up to and including this moment, say god does not appear to exist.

The knowledgeable man learns something new every day, the wise man forgets something new every day. Lao Tzu

I dont know how you can forget something you have just learned or what would be the point in learning it but its good to just chill out with nature sometimes