Thursday, July 27, 2017

Commonplace book: Knowledge (Part 2)


[Mrs. Ramsay] was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence, uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships. Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge?
—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse ("The Window")

It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
—Elizabeth Bishop, "At the Fishhouses"

To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge.
—Kongzi, Analects 2.16

καὶ οἱ πρῶτον μαθόντες συνείρουσι μὲν τοὺς λόγους, ἴσασι δ’ οὔπω· δεῖ γὰρ συμφυῆναι, τοῦτο δὲ χρόνου δεῖται.
And those who have just learned something do not yet know it, though they string the words together; for it must grow into them, and this takes time.
—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 7.3, 1147a21

O God, that one might read the book of fate,
And see the revolution of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent,
Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
Into the sea; and other times to see
The beachy girdle of the ocean
Too wide for Neptune's hips; how chance's mocks
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors! O, if this were seen,
The happiest youth, viewing his progress through,
What perils past, what crosses to ensue,
Would shut the book and sit him down and die.
—King Henry, Henry IV Part 2, 3.1.44-52a

The operations of sympathetic understanding or, as it is often now called, "empathy" have been much discussed in the history of moral philosophy, and various accounts have been given of it. But one thing that must be true is that the insightful understanding of others' feelings possessed by the sympathetic person is possessed in much the same form by the sadistic or cruel person; that is one way in which the cruel are distinguished from the brutal or indifferent. But the cruel person is someone who has no preference to give help (he is not someone who has a preference to give help but finds it outweighed by a preference for enjoying suffering). Yet he certainly knows. ... [M]oral thinking demands no sense of "know" except knowledge, and it is a truth, if not a conceptual one, that any knowledge it can use may be turned against it.
—Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, ch. 5

From the Loeb Mimnermus (8 Stobaeus, Anthology 3.11.2)
Μιμνέρμου Ναννοῦς·
                            … ἀληθείη δὲ παρέστω
σοὶ καὶ ἐμοί, πάντων χρῆμα δικαιότατον.
From Mimnermus’ Nanno:
Let there be truth between
you and me; of all possessions it is the most just.

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