Why Knowledge is Not Enough and Can be Dangerous

May 16, 2017

 

My students had difficulty to understand what could be wrong with the triumphal realisation of the „the knowledge society”. Actually, most of the politicians still exclaim their firm determination to bring their countries to the knowledge society. They suggest and imply that by that fact we will be safe and prosperous, - as in some paradise on Earth. Unfortunately, knowledge is not what Enlightenment suggested, - a liberating state and experience and certainly not a panacea for any horrifying difficulties created by the neo-liberal apotheosis. Knowledge can be misused and be the instrument of enslavement and aggression. Besides using the opportunity to explain the nature of the world, I wanted to affirm the value superior to knowledge, - wisdom. Much knowledge in a museum will mean nothing by itself. Used for the benefit of community and unselfishly shared it acquires quite another dimension. A knowledgeable curator is better than an ignoramus, but still useless without responsibility and moral commitment to the community of users. Medical doctors are, unlike curators, a real respectable profession, but also instructive in its own history of the fallacies and ordeals. I have shown the three doctors on the slide as an example of impressive factual knowledge, the mastery of technicalities of medicine, but all three degenerate human beings, - some of the vilest in our species. Their knowledge actually stems from their criminal minds and grew by atrocious experimenting. None of them received the deserved punishment. So, that is what I claimed: knowledge society needs an attribute more and further determination of the quality and purpose of the knowledge to have any usable meaning. (There we would have slid into discussing modern industries of pharmacy and alike, and why any industry is apt to misuse the knowledge if it is dominated by the fascination for profit). Adjusting the explanation, I used the same example to explain why the mere knowledge cannot create professionalism: devotion to an acknowledged, socially committed mission. Any profession, certainly, ought to be knowledge based, but has to depend upon ethics. I have tried to elaborate this in the few chapters of the book „Mnemosophy – an essay on the science of public memory” freely available at this very web site.

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Some rights reserved. European Heritage Association, 2016.