Re:Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit?
Sample Student Essay of Score of 6 –
Some questions we need to ask are – knowledge, not that in the abstract sense, but knowledge for whom, under what situations, what kinds, its purposes, and its acquisition. Answers to this question apparently vary depending on how we address this question and from what perspective. Knowledge, collectively for the whole human civilization, is no double valuable and beneficial overall. But for each individual, whose life span is limited, whose personal goal is individualized, whose interest and passion are pitched at distinctive frequencies and wave lengths, knowledge needs to be highly selective. For him, surely knowledge can be a burden rather than benefit.
Bertrand Russell is famous for distinguishing "knowledge by description" (a form of knowledge that) and "knowledge by acquaintance" in his Problems of Philosophy. Gilbert Ryle also emphasizes the distinction between knowing how and knowing that in The Concept of Mind. Gilbert Ryle is often credited with emphasizing the distinction between knowing how and knowing that in The Concept of Mind. Clearly there are two kinds of knowledge – practical knowledge and that of pure theory; the former critical for human survival, later necessary for long term development. Given all practical limitations in each individual’s life, man should master the first before entertaining the second. For example in Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi argues for the epistemological relevance of knowledge how and knowledge that; using the example of the act of balance involved in riding a bicycle, he suggests that the theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining a state of balance cannot substitute for the practical knowledge of how to ride, and at the same time it is important to understand how both are established and grounded. This position is essentially Ryle's, who argued that a failure to acknowledge the distinction between knowledge that and knowledge how leads to vicious regresses. Simply put, when talking about bicycle, one would rather know how to ride before know how it works. Practicality always comes before the theory. Highly pragmatic? Yes indeed. And that is the right sequence of human progression.
Yet human is all too human. He by nature doubts anything universal. He by nature, although highly desirous, distrusts certainty and invariability. For him, every concept, every word, every fact, every equation, every experience, and every piece of knowledge eventually needs to be vilified by each particular situation. He acquires knowledge relevant to himself constantly, nurtures it, trims it, modifies it, and nullifies it. He is Descartes, trusting his own inner faculties and gropes in his own consciousness a priori. He is Hume, taking full advantages of his senses and sensations and nature around him, perceiving and conceiving and engineering and inventing. He is Kant, unstoppable, dreaming, imagining, and transcending. He is Sartre, sadly conscious of nothingness yet tilling and toiling and plodding ahead anyway. He is Shakespeare, wistful yet deterministic eventually, chooses to be with a happy few, lives and smiles and dies – wonderfully, heroically, manly. Knowledge, burden or benefit? Let it be, happily.
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