Posts Tagged ‘Will to Knowledge’


May 18, 2017

Wisdom is taking measures to avoid getting hotter than in 450 million years. ASAP. (I have long brandished ominously that possibility, not just to frighten the Bourgeois, and poke them out of their jet-setter life style, but because there was a solid scientific reasoning behind it. Now, it turns out that the scientific community is starting to realize that there is something to my threats… More details in future essays.)

Wouldn’t that be nice for those who promote ignorance, if wisdom had nothing to do with knowledge?

It is often said that Socrates would have been told by the Delphi Oracle that he was the wisest, because he knew nothing. Actually, that statement, stricto sensu, is an invention. Socrates was not that dumb. Don’t let soporific plutocracy descriptions of Socrates lead you astray!

What Socrates actually said was that, in some particular cases, he was wiser than someone else, because, on that particular matter, he knew enough to know he did not know, whereas his opponent thought he knew, when he shouldn’t have had that feeling (Diogenes and Cicero later made a caricature of Socrates’ fully appropriate considerations, this is where the “error” comes from; I suspect said “error“was perpetuated, and is now repeated ad nauseam, because the erroneous statement that ultimate wisdom is to be as knowledgeable as a barnacle, promoted idiocy thereafter, a help to abusers; in particular, plutocrats).

If all we know is that we don’t know, we, indeed know just enough to know we don’t know: a good beginning to feel motivated by the spirit of inquiry. The assertion attributed to Socrates is just plain stupid, as it identifies wisdom with ignorance. Much of Socrates’ thinking consists into low quality running around in circles adjudication of thoughts, being decisive about nothing much… But not so blatantly!

Verily, wisdom is knowledge. Wisdom is a web of knowledge. Real knowledge, namely relating what’s not obvious to an ant, or a dog. Not knowledge consisting in cataloguing the appearance and location of grains of sand on a beach. So wisdom is knowledge tempered by value.

t There is more knowledge to gather in the sand on a beach than we, or anything, can ever know. But that kind of knowledge is not wisdom, but its opposite.

True, any knowledge comes with a context. Any logic comes with a “universe”. To know something, to know a logic, is to know that context, that universe. One should not be so stupid as believing that whatever one knows has universal value. If one jumps naked through a ten story window, one will die from the fall, at least, on Earth. If one jumps through a window on the asteroid Ceres, and then one will die from trying to breathe in a vacuum, blood boiling.

I will give examples in science and climate. The latter with an eye to policy. I have long advocated that, for climate, catastrophic calculus, computing only with the worst possible cases, was the path to wisdom. Indeed, we now know that, for three out of the five known mass extinctions, the process involved was exactly the same as now the unfolding catastrophe known as the Anthropocene we are contributing to: a CO2 exponentiation, a blow-up of CO2 (propelled, literally, by volcanic activity).

Wisdom then? A carbon tax!

Wisdom is a tax!

Wisdom can be simple. Wisdom can be just a tax!

Patrice Ayme’

Will to Knowledge

September 10, 2013


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