Razor Edge

Double-Edge-Shaver-Razor-Blade

According to Carlos Castaneda clarity is one of the enemies of knowledge.

This applies to all fields of human activity, including academia.

If you know the answer in advance, there’s no point in arguing or doing a research. A scholar or a a scientist needs to stay puzzled, as well be aware of the limits of his knowledge.

At the same time, however, there must be a sense of commitment, perseverance, and even stubbornness with pursuing a research question. After all, what’s the value of a scholarly investigation if it’s given up easily?

So on the one hand a scholar needs to be determined in his inquiries and views. On the other hand he needs to keep an open mind for a fresh perspective.

Finding a proper balance may not be easy. The term “golden middle” is not appropriate here. Rather, it’s a razor edge, as slightest leaning towards either side can lead to a disaster.

Yet the efforts are worth the result.

After all, razor edge is just another challenge – although a tough one – on the way towards a man of knowledge.

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Confucius On Learning

These sayings from Confucius reflect the values of learning, quest and continuous self-improvement practiced and preached by the Great Teacher. They resonate with Viktor Frankl’s distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Indeed, we can paraphrase an ancient observation and say: I learn, therefore I am.

You cannot open a book without learning something.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.

He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.

If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself

Heart And Reason, Or Two Heads Are Better Than One

It is amazing that all great and accomplished scientists seem to acknowledge the role of non-scientific tools. Some of the most famous quotes in this regard come from Albert Einstein when he recognizes the role of intuition vs. deduction.

There is another one that I really like. It is by Blaise Pascal, another prominent figure of the Modernity epoch. It goes as follows:

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

Very simple and profound.

Quite often this is interpreted with reference to love. I came across lots of images in the Internet with this quote framed in the heart shape.

I believe, however, that as a true scientist Blaise Pascal meant much more than that. What this idea refers to is to the relationship between inner knowledge (heart) and rational thinking (mind).

Two heads are better than one. Similarly, two tools are better than one.

Wrong are those who rely only on logic and deny intuition as a method of cognition. Wrong are also those who refute rational thinking in favor of “inner voice”.

Man has been given logical and intuitive methods as cognitive tools.

So let’s use both of them.

Knowledge Vs. Wisdom

I am now reading an inspiring Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist of the 20th century and a Holocaust survivor. The book conveys a powerful message about the human search for meaning in life.

One of the author’s ideas that stand out in my mind most vividly is the distinction between knowledge and wisdom.

Let me quote Viktor Frankl here (translated from Russian):

Our scientists need something more than knowledge: they also need to have wisdom. And I define wisdom as knowledge combined with awareness of its limits.

“Knowledge combined with awareness of its limits” – isn’t that truly powerful?

A true scientist, scholar, or anyone who claims to have critical thinking must be always ready to change his point of view under the pressure of facts and evidence.

Most people are not ready to do that, as for them it is much more pleasant to know than to seek. Even people with strong intellect may get rigid in theirs views and answers.

Yet every knowledge is limited and reality always comes up with facts “not matching the theory”. In order to notice them, one just needn’t turn away.

To always feel the limits of your knowledge, your discourse, be always ready to review your theories due to new circumstances, be open to the unknown – this is what wisdom is.

I couldn’t agree more on this with Viktor Frankl.

To conclude with the author’s words, check out his famous short video below on the search for meaning. Perhaps this will serve as a motivation to check out his great book.

It Takes Courage To Be A True Scientist

A scientist or a scholar is not necessarily someone sitting in a lab carrying out an experiment or conducting a boring – at first sight – academic research.

Science is about being open to the world, getting excited about unsolved problems, and becoming inspired when seeking solutions to them.

Everyone is an inborn scientist in this respect.

Yet there is an important remark to be made here.

A true scientist – or anyone who claims to have critical thinking – must be always ready to change his point of view under the pressure of facts and evidence.

Most people are not ready to do that, as life teaches us. Unfortunately, even people with strong intellect may get rigid in theirs views and answers. For many it is much more pleasant to know than to seek.

Yet every knowledge is limited and reality always comes up with facts “not matching the theory”. In order to notice them, one just needn’t turn away. As Doctor House said: “A true scientist always seeks evidence to overthrow his theory”. Unlike an average person who looks at the facts supporting his views while ignoring everything else.

To always feel the limits of your knowledge, your discourse, be always ready to review your theories due to new circumstances, be open to the unknown – this is what true science is.

A true scientist, scholar, student – anyone seeking to understand the world – never stops learning, even if his worldview gets mutated, transformed or broken along the way.

It takes balls to be a true Man. It takes intellectual courage to be a true scientist.