The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 27 April 2012

The Edge of Knowledge

“Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty”. How very true. A Polish-Jewish British historian of science, Jacob Bronowski, is credited with that quotation.

Just what do we know? What’s more, what don’t we know? Is it important? I think it is (but I don’t know that for a fact!). The first reason that I think that it is important to know that we don’t know is because otherwise we can fall into the trap of believing our own beliefs. From there it is easy to take the next step of believing ourselves to be experts. Another step on and we believe we have a greater knowledge or better understanding than others. The road to oppression, authoritarianism and tyranny then opens up ahead of us.

A second reason is that knowing that we don’t know is a precursor to learning. To be open to learning and the opportunity of something new we have to be prepared to admit that that we don’t know. Too often though, our decisions (personal and political) are made as if we know it all. Decision-making becomes trapped within what we know rather than looking for the questions that arise. Einstein said it well when he noted that our problems cannot be solved with the thinking that created them.

But what happens as we learn? We find that there is yet more to learn. For every question that we find an answer to it seems that dozens more questions then arise. Why is that? A simple model may help to illustrate what is happening.

Diagram 1 is a simple model of what we know. What we know is the area inside the circle. What we don’t know can then be thought of as the circumference of the circle: the edge of the circle or the edge of knowledge.

If we expand our knowledge (Diag 2) by asking questions and getting answers to them, the body of knowledge (the area of the circle) gets larger. But what happens to the circumference of that circle? It too, expands, and we now see that there is a lot more beyond the circle (Diag 3) than we first thought.

If this model is a reasonable one, then is it ever possible for us to know everything?

Perhaps rather than asking that question we might ponder whether an insight posed by Socrates twenty-five centuries ago is more apt. When it was suggested that he was the wisest man living Socrates replied that “the only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing”.

When working for social justice and community development knowing that we know nothing may be exactly the knowledge that we need to bring with us.        

1 comment:

  1. The Bronowski quote is very apropos for this particular piece. I love how this explores the intricacies of the knowledge process.


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