Will to Knowledge


Physics is nature: what we observe. Metaphysics is what we suppose beyond what we observe for sure. All logical discourses come with a metadiscourse. It’s Logic 101.

In its generosity, the New York Times decided to make the preceding statement one of its “pick“. And, yes, it is really Logic 101 (I could teach a basic class in Logic at a prestigious college; the “universe” one has to attach to a logic is essential to Model Theory).

Although true, and purely “scientific” the preceding statement is charged with consequences, very practical consequences. Because it means there is really nothing very special about people “of faith”, with so called “believers”. We all have to have faith, and we have to be believers, just because we use… logic.

Sorry to rob “believers” of the monopoly of respect they feel ought to be directed at them. We are all in the same metaphysical boat.

Little ideas, shattering little ideas… Shattering:

Assad's Damascus, September 9, 2013

Assad’s Damascus, September 9, 2013

French experts think it could take ten years to locate and dispose pacifically of Syrian chemical weapons. Why? It may be the world’s largest arsenal thereof. Special factories will have to be built to b urn them safely (something some warheads can do).

As Paul Krugman observes: “One of the things you have to get used to if you want to debate…is that people will make arguments that leave you floored with their sheer dumbness. The first time you pay attention, you find it hard to believe.”

(Nota bene: I generalized Paul’s thinking a bit by omitting the mutilating precision he adorned his discourse with…)

An example of abominably acute stupidity was the suggestion, by self glorifying people who clamor to be “anti-war”, that the rebels gazed themselves, and their children. That ought to floor anyone by the sheer dumbness. Or does that mean the anti-wars view as natural to gas oneself, and one’s own children? Or does that mean they have such a feeling of racism against anti-Assad rebels, that they feel anti-Assad rebels are that sub-human, that killing their own children is just a tactic for them?

Stupidity is common, genius exceptional. It has to do, in part, with economics. Brain economics. All and any trait of genius always starts with The One, hated and vilipended.

Most brains are organized on the cheap, by just duplicating what other minds proffer. To make one’s mind a center of creation is an expensive habit to have.

New idea accepted means brain reorganized, hence huge energy spent for deconstructing erroneous neural connections, and for building new ones. Thus, when a new idea shows up, commoners interpret it as a potential aggression, or, at the very least, a costly proposition.

That’s one of the reasons why breakthroughs in understanding are always met with hostility.

Without breakthroughs in understanding, all and any economical system, and then society, or even civilization, will collapse. Why? Because there is no steady state: for millions of years, all and any society has exhausted resources, while confronting the hostiles. As the opposition adapts and the world’s old exploitation schemes get old, old ideas lose grip. Or relevance.

Depressed economies tend to recover, for the simple reason that, if they did not, a civilization sized catastrophe would incur. One cannot crash a civilization every few years, so depressions tend to pass. When they don’t, we have what happened when the Roman Imperium crashed, or what happened in the 1300s, or the 1600s… In the West. Or what happened in the  600s in the Orient, or to the Mayas after around the same date, or what happened to China in the 1200s, or 1800s…

Another reason why is The One, The Genius, is hated and vilipended? Because the human animal feel the importance of ideas. It can be described as the Will to Knowledge. It’s an instinct that even Nietzsche recognized as distinct from the Will To Power he was obsessed by. Human beings are technological, otherwise even dogs would eat them. It started with sticks and stones, and improvement thereof. It went on with fire, which allowed to conquer temperate latitudes and vegetable foods. Technology means knowledge, wisdom.

Hence those who can produce the wisdom come to dominate society. Hence the importance of elders all over durable societies. Be it Native American society, China, or the Roman Senate (Senate, from senens, old.) In Sparta, to be elected to the governing council, the Gerousia, one had to be at least 60.

Thus, with humans, the Will to Power and the Will to Wisdom are mixed. They are entangled. The danger is that the former messes up the later. And that was one of Socrates’ main complaints, the one he directed against Sophists (he basically accused them to be prostitutes). This is also the reason of my contempt for for-money universities (Harvard, etc.). The same complaint extends to for-money scientific publications. On that later point, a movement towards ‘open publishing’ has progressed. Some now claim that about 50% of scientific publishing is “open”.

The Will to Knowledge is human. It’s even the essence of man. In the case of Hitler, or Assad, the majority of people did not, does not, want to know. That made them inhuman morally, but also in essence.

If one wants a human civilization, the only that can, and deserves, to survive, the Will to Knowledge has to be preserved as a power in its own right, beyond and above the Will to Power.


Patrice Ayme


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10 Responses to “Will to Knowledge”

  1. gmax Says:

    To be uncurious is to be vile?

  2. Dominique Deux Says:


    On Metaphysics, Wikipedia’s entry is so elegant I cannot resist the pleasure of quoting it.

    “The editor of Aristotle’s works, Andronicus of Rhodes, is thought to have placed the books on first philosophy right after another work, Physics, and called them τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικὰ βιβλία (ta meta ta physika biblia) or “the books that come after the [books on] physics”. This was misread by Latin scholiasts, who thought it meant “the science of what is beyond the physical”. However, once the name was given, the commentators sought to find intrinsic reasons for its appropriateness.”

    Et voilà pourquoi votre fille est muette…

    Socrates WAS a sophist in the word’s modern meaning: one who played word games rather than look, or care, for the reality of things. His fabled maieutics are nothing more than “leading on” questions. Face it: his popularity – essentially with the Church Fathers – essentially came from having informed Plato’s writings, which the early Church found very expeditous to harness to its own wagon so as to give some intellectual varnish to its fairy tales. He was the father of ideology, with Socrates its unwitting but willing grandfather.

    Now to my real question. I can’t figure out if your statement on the French experts’ opinion on chemical weapons dismantling is meant to illustrate your sortie against monstrous idiocy, or the reverse. As for me that opinion deserves consideration on its own, even though it does sound silly. Expert opinions almost always sound silly. That may come from their being silly, or so much in opposition to so-called common sense that, albeit true, the mind rejects them. The devil is that you (as the layman) never know which gives.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Dominique: many issues by you broached here. Let me tackle a few. I agree about Socrates. Still his critique about Sophists (prostitutes, i would abstract), is valid, though it applied to him too (Socrates literally slept with the rich(est) boys who fed and feted him…) . actually in Plato, the top sophist opponent of Socrates does not come out so bad…

      To burn chemicals safely one needs high temp factories. The other method is special warheads. The monstruous idiocy is to deny that there is an existence problem with ASSad’s chemistry (as many pseudo-anti-war have done) while, in truth, the problem is totally gigantic.

      The same applies to Putin. This remarkably stupid man said:”One cannot expect Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, that is disarm, when it is under the threat of attack by France and the USA. Thus France and the USA ought to guarantee first that they will not strike.” In other words, he admits that ASSad chemical weapons are directed at France and the USA.

      But then, of course, France and the USA are entitled by the United Nation charter to take action against this mass destruction threat directed at them, and needs no Parliamentary or Un Security Council approval to do so. Obama and hollande can evoke their (Roman Consular) powers, and strike.

      Whatever was meant initially by metaphysics has become irrelevant, in light of what I said about modern logic.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      From Moliere: “Qui est causée par l’âcreté des humeurs engendrées dans la concavité du diaphragme, il arrive que ces vapeurs… Ossabandus, nequeys, nequer, potarinum, quipsa milus. Voilà justement ce qui fait que votre fille est muette.” suppose to depict horrendous blablabla to conclude whatever.

      However metamathematics, metalogic are not just funny fields out there, after everything else has been said. Quite the opposite: they are at the basis of everything.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:


  3. EugenR Says:

    Yes Knowledge is the basis, but not any kind of knowledge. I lately had an argument with a religious friend of mine, not very knowledgeable. He accused me of using unproven axioms in my argumentation. Of course it is hard to have a real argument with someone who doesn’t understand the difference between axioms, dogma and scientifically verified evidence, or doesn’t understand the difference between evidence and truth.
    It is enough to watch the next document where Lawrence Krauss tries to have an intelligent argument in Pakistan for two and half hour with a “scholar” of Islam about what is evidence and what is story telling.

    It is enough to watch the Q&A to understand that nothing penetrated the pre-designed neurons.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Eugen: There is “learning”, and then “meta-learning”, or how did the “learning” come about?. The failure of learning this distinction is directly attributable to the social sciences, led by philosophy and anthropology, and the prophet of this error is so called “multiculturalism”.
      One cannot accuse the savage from Pakistan.

      Even deeper than “multiculturalism” is the two centuries plus tendency of official philosophy to confuse referencing with thinking (a tendency that has blossomed further with many on the Internet). As a result learning philosophy has become similar to learning Islam: one repeats by rote what the great men said (hence probably Islamophilia!).

      “Multiculturalism” seems to have been first a French thing, but it spread worldwide, like a cancer. The claim is that the culture of the savage is as good as that of the most advanced. So savages don’t need to learn anything, they are already perfect in their naked glory.

      I view multiculturalism interpreted that way, as a crafty IMPERIALISTIC device. (That’s highly counter-intuitive to common intellectuals!)

      I am myself a native multicultural, so to speak. The vicious aspect of it is now smelled by the multitude, hence the progression of the right in Europe. When I said something akin to this on the comments of this site, some gentleman called “Keith”, who used to comment all the time here, seemed to have interpreted this as me approving of the crazed maniac in Norway (nver mind that I had myself been bombed by some of his French colleagues!). He asked me how he could get out of the RSS feed!

      Keith was in need of some meta-knowledge! Actually, I pretty much view myself as a perpetual victim of racism, ever since I left my native Africa (hahaha).

      I have already attacked multiculturalism fiercely. That does not mean that there is only one culture, the Euro-American one. I actually find most of my truth there. But some of my very important truths, I found them straight from Africa. Like my tendency to cannibalize and devour my mental enemies.

      Seriously, as illustrated well in the gas war debate, intellectuals in Euramerica are often more interested by posing (as Obama basically said yesterday).

  4. Paul Handover Says:

    Patrice, there are times when your knowledge, so well expressed in the above essay, undermines my confidence in my own knowledge! For much of your essay was beyond my comprehension.

    However, this was the question, the big question, that you raised for me. Will our knowledge and wisdom turn mankind away from what increasingly looks like global suicide in less than a lifetime?

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Paul; well, it’s easy to answer your question: it’s not as if there were a choice: it’s going to be knowledge and wisdom, or death! I have myself known the feeling of not understanding things at all sometimes in math and physics. What I found out is that there was a lot of hidden meaning,things that were implicitly in the discourse I was trying to understand, that were the real problem. This hidden meaning, once revealed, generally simplified the discourse.

      An example is calculus: it’s hard to understand when one does not know it at all, but much easier if one puts it in drawing (that, by the way, was Newton’s approach!) So specialist will say that doing so oversimplifies calculus, but that’s a sophist’s argument, which I can block at a higher level (and if it was good enough for Newton, it should be good enough for all…)

      BTW, one should not resist the question of considering the Plutocratic Principle: that is that the few deserves it all. If such is the case, why would they want the many? The many force them to share, some of the planet, one way, or another. Thus the unavoidable subconscious question: why not do away with the many? would not a big ecological crisis do that? Intriguingly, that’s exactly the question the attitude of the many in the USA about the Syrian crisis leads to. A case where the Tea Party of the USA, self glorifying anti-wars and the French Communist Party all agree…

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