If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: knowledge

John Milton – Paradise Lost (1674)

And O fair Plant, said he, with fruit surcharg’d,
Deigns none to ease thy load and taste thy sweet,
Nor God, nor Man; is Knowledge so despis’d?

John Milton – Paradise Lost (1674)

…Knowledge forbidd’n?
Suspicious, reasonless. Why should thir Lord
Envie them that? can it be sin to know,
Can it be death? and do they onely stand
By Ignorance, is that thir happie state,
The proof of thir obedience and thir faith?

Hence will I excite thir minds
With more desire to know, and to reject
Envious commands, invented with designe
To keep them low whom knowledge might exalt
Equal with Gods;…

(wherein Milton tries to make curiosity the bogeyman by giving one of the most thoughtful passages to Satan)

Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool – Peak (2016)

Deliberate practice is all about the skills. You pick up the necessary knowledge in order to develop the skills; knowledge should never be an end in itself.

(Posted because I find it an interesting claim. I agree with the first part, under the assumption that you are pursuing development of a skill. But that is not always the goal, so the last part is far too sweeping.)

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818)

Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818)

The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him, and was acquainted with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more.

Raymond Smullyan – The Tao Is Silent (1977)

MORTAL: All right, I’ll grant your point! But what I really want to know is do you exist?

GOD: What a strange question!

MORTAL: Why? Men have been asking it for countless millennia.

GOD: I know that! The question itself is not strange; what I mean is that it is a most strange question to ask of me!


GOD: Because I am the very one whose existence you doubt! I perfectly well understand your anxiety. You are worried that your present experience with me is a mere hallucination. But how can you possibly expect to obtain reliable information from a being about his very existence when you suspect the nonexistence of the very same being?

excerpt (“Is God a Taoist?”) appears in The Mind’s I, ed. Daniel Dennett and Douglas R. Hofstadter, 1981

Daniel Dennett – The Mind’s I (1981)

The problems of transferring massive amounts of information between structurally different brains – such as yours and ours – are not insurmountable. The technology that already exists for accomplishing that task may, however, turn out in the end to be the most efficient possible. One of the most recent and advanced examples of that technology is in your hands at this instant.

from the reflections on an excerpt from Justin Leiber’s Beyond Rejection (1980)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894)

“Any truth is better than indefinite doubt.”

from “The Yellow Face”

Christopher Hitchens – Hitch-22 (2010)

It is not only true that the test of knowledge is an acute and cultivated awareness of how little one knows (as Socrates knew so well), it is true that the unbounded areas and fields of one’s ignorance are now expanding in such a way, and at such a velocity, as to make the contemplation of them almost fantastically beautiful.

Bertrand Russell – “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish” (1950)

If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own contrary conviction. The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)