Quick and Dirty Philosophy: Humanizing Rhetoric

18 Oct

Part II: The limits of Knowledge

Imagination is more important than knowledge; knowledge has its limits, imagination does not. “ – Einstein

There is, and has been, a rift in philosophical studies that was wrought publicly many years ago by none other than Plato himself. This isn’t the rift between techne and episteme – that may be discussed in another post set – rather, this is a rift within knowledge theory and the gaps in knowledge and its uses.

Knowledge itself is based in study and measurement of the world leading to understanding, but also to the definition of the world and its ancillary parts. Knowledge can be both implicit and explicit and to be truly effective in using knowledge, one should have a strong grasp of both. The application of knowledge goes by many names, for example, a biochemist may decide to focus on application and become a biochemical engineer. There are even a few knowledge types whose practical applications have no name. Knowledge types like semantics and semiotics equate directly to common everyday knowledge of verbal and non-verbal communication – for the most part.

Human knowledge is finite. This is not to be contested, it is measurable enough. Those who have exhaustive knowledge in any given field will have inadequate amounts in other fields. Even those who have exhaustive knowledge of a field will admit that they don’t know everything about it. Why? There is no field of study completely independent of others. Herein lies the conundrum. The meshing of critical understanding across fields from one independent and idiosyncratic mind to another will give rise to differences in understanding and modal thoughts processes that need resolution. The resolution to these things would be easily understood by a person having exhaustive knowledge of both fields, but as two imperfect communicators there is a gap of knowledge that must be overcome.

This gap becomes more and more pronounced the less exhaustive the knowledge of a subject on either side until there is a critical gap in which the communicator cannot express to the other party with any reasonable chance of understanding. This is a breakdown in communication that occurs every day between colleagues, between friends, between teacher and student. It’s everywhere!

This is where the human mind becomes interesting. Humans have a faculty called imagination, whereby one’s understanding increases by means of metaphorical comprehension. This amazing faculty has drawbacks. The primary drawback to imagination is that definitions created within the bounds of imaginative understanding can be molded by repeated exposure and by people in positions of trust. This is where rhetoric steps in.

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Philosophy, Writing


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