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Philosophical Reflections: I knew that I knew that I don’t know (I think)


One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.  —André Gide (1869-1951)

“Ideas as it is said, are ‘in the air’. The true explanation is  presumably that, at a certain stage in the history of any subject, ideas become visible, though only to those with keen mental eyesight, that not even those with the sharpest vision could have perceived at an earlier stage.” –Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy (1993).

If the world is changing, how can we maintain a static world view?

“Safe spaces” can’t replace or save us from reality, no matter how delusional we choose to construct them.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense news briefing (12 February 2002), We know what we know; we know what we don’t know, we don’t know what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know.

In a rapidly changing world, the part that we don’t know continues to expand at an exponential rate. Thus, any worldview based only upon our immediate experience easily becomes outdated and non-representative of the actual dynamics of the changing world which envelops us.

Dissociation of our intrinsic psychic world in relation to an extrinsic reality, occurs as we lose touch with our innate skills in perceiving and analyzing the changing paradigms that surround us. The train of linear thought which we boarded works well as long as it stays on track. After all, the ultimate goal and aim is to fundamentally exert control over people and processes. However, if this “train of thought” derails and jumps its tracks plummeting off the cliff and into the abyss of truth, the results indeed will be mentally catastrophic; such is the result of the ways of thinking that undermine the very objectives that they are seeking, and which lead many to lose our freedom and capability to make sense of how and why things actually work the way they do in a highly unpredictable, and changing environment.

Luciano Floridi wrote, Visionaries have a hard life. If no one else follows, one does not discover new lands, but merely gets lost, at least in the eyes of those who stayed behind in the cave.  –The Philosophy of Information (2011).

It is also found in the Tao Te Ching, that Lao Tzu provided us a poignant way of looking at the world which surrounds us.

The Way that can be experienced is not true;
The world that can be constructed is not true.
The Way manifests all that happens and may happen;
The world represents all that exists and may exist.

To experience without intention is to sense the world;
To experience with intention is to anticipate the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable;
Their construction differs but their effect is the same.

Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way,
Which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.


The Reason that can be reasoned is not the eternal Reason.– Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching

In essence, it is no longer what we think but how we think that matters. We must realize, if it is possible, that most things do not occur in a vacuum. If the wholeness of any society or system is seen only in its parts, then when its heart is removed, that organism will surely die. Even then, individual parts performing efficiently do not mean that the organism will be able to continue to perform it function effectively.

We tend to forget, that the relationship among all the parts of any living system are dynamic. That is, in a healthy society, like most any living system, it is more a product of the totality of the healthy interaction of all its parts that will determine its success. It is the whole pattern of communication and relationships – not just the individual parts – that ultimately determine the effectiveness any system has in fulfilling its role or function.

However; as seen in the previous example, the action of any individual part can cause one or more reactions from other parts within a system. The reaction that is produced, and the changes that occur can trigger further responses from the system over time, and in a vicious cycle that may end in the absolute destruction of the system, as a whole.

Here we have observed that change doesn’t just happen, it is the result of chain actions and reactions, which are the results of forces from the past gathering momentum and reaching a tipping point. How each system reacts or responds to the level of change that is not catastrophically fatal, will have to adapt and collaborate with other parts to bring about the desired successful outcomes, if it is to continue to exist and succeed.

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