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Knowledge and Wisdom


By admin - Posted on 16 January 2012

“Look. There’s a very important lesson here for you. And that is the difference between KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM. KNOWLEDGE is a collection of facts. Let’s assume that each of those facts is actually true, which isn’t always the case. But, assuming that each fact is true, that fact may only be true for a limited set of circumstances. For example, positive charges do attract negative charges. We also describe plus and minus charges as opposite charges. So, for the case where the opposites are plus and minus charges, the statement is true. But when plus and minus are mathematical symbols, the statement is false. WISDOM, on the other hand, is the ability to sort out knowledge for CONSISTENCY or USEFULNESS on a BROAD SCALE. This is where humans fall apart. Your first response to the ‘opposites attract’ question was normal. And that response is the key to understanding one more key element of how humans learn language. While there is a strong emotional component involved, which all by itself can link to and trigger phrases, we also learn very early to link specific sets of words – TRIGGER WORDS if you will – to larger single phrase groups.”

“OK. I’ll buy that. If someone calls you a jerk, out come your favorite quick comeback lines without even having to think about them. In fact, a lot of times I wish they wouldn’t come out.”

“And that’s how people go through their day. They hear the word ‘Democrats’ on the radio, for example, and their head lights up with a hundred choice things to say about Democrats. Of course, what lights up depends on what side of the political fence they are on. And that is the adult result of where we started as kids. Over time, our brain has established a set of links between trigger words and single phrase groups. SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC. Got it.”

“Scary!”

“Scary is being kind. It’s disastrous! Think about people listening to a political candidate talk. The politicians are experts at knowing what trigger words or phrases are common in society. They select the ones that have the strongest emotional effect for the largest number of people. Then you hear those over and over again, with strong reinforcement for what they want you to believe they mean. Communist! Bleeding heart liberal! Child molester! Civil rights! Abortion! Atheist! And when the emotions of crowds are factored in, there is almost no chance for any kind of true exploration of any issues to occur.

Another scary thing about this phenomenon is how long the human race has known about it. At least, some people in the human race have known about it. Heraclitus told us 2000 years ago, ‘the learning of many things teacheth not understanding.’ And society still doesn’t have a clue this is going on.”

Need for agreed definitions

"Ah! Right. I see. If we all had different images in our heads for the same word, communication would just be gibberish. People might disagree about what a word means, but, in order to have a logical conversation, they have to have a common frame of reference. That is, they need to agree on a basic set of definitions. And once they agree to the definitions, then the definitions become an absolute.”

Logic

“Precisely! And this leads us directly to the definition for LOGIC itself. Let me quote Ayn Rand for this. She defines LOGIC as: THE ART OF NON-CONTRADICTORY IDENTIFICATION. Does that make sense to you?”

"Sure. If a number of intelligent people use logic to figure something out, then they should arrive at a single solution. That is, when they ‘identify’ an answer, there is only ONE answer. There are no contradictions.”

Absolutes of definition.

"Another category of absolutes are the ABSOLUTES OF DEFINITION. In the case of language, once a definition is created, it becomes an absolute that stands on its own. Think of how often people get into trouble when they don’t remember that."

Absolute of abstraction – higher level of comprehension

”Correct. Now, think about what you just said. You’ve added a very profound element to this discussion.”

"I did?”

“Not on purpose, I’m sure. So no extra merit badge!”

He broke into a huge smile.

“Think about what you just said.”

Father V just patiently sat there and smiled. I thought and thought. I couldn’t believe how patient he was being.

“OK, I’ll give you a hint. You said the formula doesn’t depend on the weather etcetera, as long as the basic concepts of the PARTS are correctly defined. Doesn’t that make the formula relative? I mean, the formula refers to other parts.”

"Hmmm. I guess that’s right. I guess it is relative. So, I guess I’m confused.”

“OK. This is not a simple concept. But, no, it’s not relative. Once each of the parts of a triangle are correctly defined, then the formula for the hypotenuse becomes just another definition. So, let me be specific about the profound thing you uncovered. That is, even though a definition refers to other things, the definition, by itself, as a definition, can still be an absolute.”

"Let’s see if I understand that. The length of a hypotenuse can change because it depends on the lengths of the sides. But once we are given that we have a right triangle, and the lengths of the two sides are given, then the length of the hypotenuse can only be one value. It is unique. Which, I guess, means it is absolute. That is, the overall concept of calculating the length is the same, no matter what length the sides are.”

“Precisely! Now let me extend this idea a little using a line segment as an example. First we find a way to describe a line in a general way. Say, it is an infinitely extending one-dimensional figure that has no curvature. Then, let’s define a line segment as a contiguous MEASURABLE section of a line. Now the whole relationship changes. In mathematics, this takes the form of providing an adequate description of what a line segment is, and creating a symbol, called a variable, like the letter ‘L’. The line segment can then be referred to as ‘L’, no matter how long it is. You then don’t need an infinitely big table of numbers to describe every possible length of line. Instead, you need only one symbol. The symbol becomes UNIQUE.

In philosophy, the process of turning an infinite number of lengths into one symbol, like L, is called an ABSTRACTION. If the abstraction is clever enough, the whole infinity of possible lengths for the line segment can be reduced to ONE thing. And if there is only one, then it must be absolute. It is unique and doesn’t depend on anything else.”

"OK. I sort of get that. So, why is that so profound?”

“Because, it gives us an approach for turning relative things into absolute things. In short, language gains a whole new level when bunches of things are collected into more simple representations and can be dealt with in abstract terms. This means discussions using the new abstract terms can cover a lot more ground with a very small quantity of human sounds.”

"And that’s a good thing, huh?”

“Yes indeed! A very good thing, to be sure. When ever communication can speed up and cover more information in a precise way, a lot of advantages go along with it. And secondly, it allows a MUCH HIGHER LEVEL OF COMPREHENSION of life.

For example, there are primitive people who do not have a word for a large group of trees: our equivalent to the word FOREST. They know a lot about individual trees. They may even have individual names for many of the trees that they interact with. But they don’t have a concept to deal with a large group of trees which may include many different types of trees. As human societies became more complex, a much larger vocabulary was needed to deal with all the new elements that created the complexity. So, we had to invent names for these new things. We needed words for different kinds of vehicles, for example, like motor vehicles and horse drawn vehicles. We then needed more words for individual vehicle models. We needed words like cars, trucks and buses, or fleets, or convertibles. To control the complexity, we developed words to refer to the many elements of life COLLECTIVELY.”

"OK. I can see this.”

“BUT! This came at a price. It also meant that NEW MENTAL CAPACITIES were needed to handle the new communications. This requires a new level of thinking ability.”

"Hmmm. . . . OK. I see that. As society gets more complex, we need new tools to deal with it. But I still don’t know if I agree this requires a new level of thinking capability. I mean, I’ve read that humans have not really changed in mental capacity since the cave man days. Maybe those primitive people that live deep in the jungle have never seen trees from a mountain viewpoint. So they never needed a word for a forest. Maybe if you took the same people out of the forest, they could understand the word ‘forest’.”

“I understand your point. And there are always some people in those societies for which that applies. But it’s actually not that simple. There seems to be something else going on with people who are able to comprehend abstraction. Experiments with many of these primitive groups show they only have limited ability to handle abstraction. And, actually, there is a similar observation that applies to people in all societies. Some people just don’t appear to have the ability to deal with abstraction as well as others. It wasn’t a problem for humans when society was more primitive. But as society get’s more complex, the HUMAN ability to handle complexity, which was always present in humans, is becoming more critical.”

"But, you’re just saying that some people are more capable than others, right?”

“No. It’s much more profound than that. But many social taboos have been raised to prevent society from exploring this. In fact, the taboos launched against eugenics research have pushed our ability to understand this phenomenon back into the dark ages.”

...

“The ability to effectively incorporate higher abstractions into language is an important factor in moving society forward. This especially includes logic, which is essentially a higher level of definition, which is essentially a new level of absolutes. If humans are not able to understand absolutes, and if things in life can not be related to absolutes, there will be VERY SEVERE repercussions throughout all world cultures.”

**Single Sentence Logic - a good animal drive gone bad

SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC is actually the bad result of a good human drive. An animal needs to learn to see patterns in the environment to avoid predators and learn how to respond to them if they attack. This capability is very advanced for monkeys and apes For humans, learning language is very important. Even apes have a lot of hand signals and body language. But Single Sentence Logic is bad because people react too quickly to too limited an amount of information in a complex society. The result is jumping to conclusions and doing things for very wrong reasons.”