Between Knowledge And Ignorance

“All of us necessarily hold many casual opinions that are ludicrously wrong simply because life is far too short for us to think through even a small fraction of the topics that we come across.” ~ Julian Lincoln Simon, The Ultimate Resource … 

As Plato once stated, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” And although most of us have very limited knowledge on many topics that we have not researched or studied, we still like to think of ourselves as “experts” on them. We feel that we know all that we need to know about something simply because we have been introduced to it or heard others talking about it. In truth, however, no one can be truly expert in more than a few topics, for there is simply not enough time available for us to dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge in more than a few. Not to mention that things are always growing and changing, and if we are not constantly keeping up with the changes, our knowledge on the topic becomes stale.

This is a very harmful habit to fall into, as assuming we are expert in something, or claiming to know something we do not, will in many situations, prevent us from learning things that might be very important to our growth. In addition, we could lead others to harm as well, as they might simply take our word as fact, thereby diminishing their own growth and further spreading ignorance and untruths.

My mother once told me, “a jack of all trades, is a king of none,” and it seems this is exactly what Julian is saying here. Growth, understanding, and the pursuit of knowledge are wonderful aspects of our becoming. But we have to be careful not to carelessly hold dear our opinions without putting them to the test, for much of what we know is second-hand knowledge at best. And the casual opinions we share or hold dear, will serve to form the basis of our credibility with others–or lack thereof.

Be honest with yourself and others when sharing casual opinions; do not be afraid to say “I don’t know.”

Questions to consider:

Is it really necessary that we know everything? Why do we tend to feel that we must be seen as experts on so many different things?

How do we develop casual opinions that are simply wrong?

What messages do we send to others when we express those opinions as fact?

For further thought:

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Filed under Commentary, Food For Thought, Living, Opinion

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