Surely knowledge of the natural world, knowledge of the human condition, knowledge of the nature and dynamics of society, knowledge of the past so that one may use it in experiencing the present and aspiring to the future--all of these, it would seem reasonable to suppose, are essential to an educated man. To these must be added another--knowledge of the products of our artistic heritage that mark the history of our esthetic wonder and delight.
It is true that zeal is the soul of the virtues, but most certainly, Monsieur, it must be according to knowledge, as Saint Paul says; that means: according to knowledge of experience. And because young people ordinarily do not possess this experiential knowledge, their zeal goes to excess, especially in those who have a natural asperity.
The growth of our knowledge is the result of a process closely resembling what Darwin called 'natural selection'; that is, the natural selection of hypotheses: our knowledge consists, at every moment, of those hypotheses which have shown their (comparative) fitness by surviving so far in their struggle for existence, a competitive struggle which eliminates those hypotheses which are unfit.
The notion that "applied" knowledge is somehow less worthy than "pure" knowledge, was natural to a society in which all useful work was performed by slaves and serfs, and in which industry was controlled by the models set by custom rather than by intelligence. Science, or the highest knowing, was then identified with pure theorizing, apart from all application in the uses of life; and knowledge relating to useful arts suffered the stigma attaching to the classes who engaged in them.
Look at the evils of the world around you and protect yourself from them. Our teachers give all the wrong messages to our youth, since they take away the natural flare from the soul. Take it from me that all knowledge is useless until it is connected with your life, because the purpose of knowledge is nothing but to show you the splendors of yourself!
When you study natural science and the miracles of creation, if you don't turn into a mystic you are not a natural scientist. Ye shalt know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. This promise constitutes the heart of my Christian beliefs and my call to natural-scientific research. We will attain to knowledge of the universe through the spirit of truth, and thereby to understanding of our being one with the deepest, most comprehensive reality, God.
We see that God has implanted in all things a natural desire to exist with the fullest measure of existence that is compatible with their particular nature. To this end they are endowed with suitable faculties and activities; and by means of these there is in them a discernment that is natural and in keeping with the purpose of their knowledge, which ensures their natural inclination serving its purpose and being able to reach its fulfilment in that object towards which it is attracted by the weight of its own nature.
[Theodore Roosevelt] was a naturalist on the broadest grounds, uniting much technical knowledge with knowledge of the daily lives and habits of all forms of wild life. He probably knew tenfold more natural history than all the presidents who had preceded him, and, I think one is safe in saying, more human history also.
Some are born with knowledge, some derive it from study, and some acquire it only after a painful realization of their ignorance. But the knowledge being possessed, it comes to the same thing. Some study with a natural ease, some from a desire for advantages, and some by strenuous effort. But the achievement being made, it comes to the same thing.
To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength, to consider that she is to shine forever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge,--carries in it something wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man.
When speaking of a "body of knowledge" or of "the results of research," e.g., we tacitly assign the same cognitive status to inherited knowledge and to independently acquired knowledge. To counteract this tendency a special effort is required to transform inherited knowledge into genuine knowledge by revitalizing its original discovery, and to discriminate between the genuine and the spurious elements of what claims to be inherited knowledge.
So the state founded on natural principles is wise as a whole in virtue of the knowledge inherent in its smallest constituent class, which exercises authority over the rest. And the smallest class is the one which naturally possesses that form of knowledge which alone of all others deserves the title of wisdom.
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