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From the Editor: The Power of Knowing Nothing

Dear Reader,


In case you don’t already see where this is going, let me spoil it for you: Socrates was right. A wise man knows he knows nothing. Your local friendly neighborhood philosophy undergrad would be happy to spend an hour telling you why this true, but that’s not our goal here.

Knowing nothing is a nice little concept but what does it mean? Does a good leader actually “know nothing”?

Here is our perspective on “knowing nothing”:

1. Knowledge is relative.

Compared to a child, we know probably a lot. Compared to the full scope of universal knowledge, we don’t look so hot.

2. Knowledge is seemingly infinite.

What would it take to know everything? Just looking at collective human knowledge, Google estimates that there are over 130 million books in the world. You best find a comfy chair, you’ve got some reading to do…

3. Knowledge is actually constant.

The universe is governed by laws of nature. These laws are unchanging and predictable. Though our understanding of them grows, laws stay the same. The only thing that changes are specific conditions (time, place, etc…). When we understand laws, we can predict how conditions change.

4. Knowledge is a mindset.

You learn only what you take stock in. Your eyes glaze over endless data every day, but you only retain the important things that you can process.

To know nothing is a state of mind, not a literal condition. To live with this mindset, is to accept your limitations. It’s a big world, and the amount of knowledge is daunting, but you’re not alone.

The real power in knowing nothing, is other people. We only know what we know, and we can only learn what we can see, but 130 million books were written by human hands, and that number isn’t shrinking.

Someone who lives like they know everything doesn’t need other people, why would they? They are perfectly content with their knowledge base.

Someone who lives like they know nothing, quickly learns how to find experts who do know to fill in their own knowledge gaps.

Know when you don’t know, find someone who does. When you “knowing nothing” it becomes easier to know everything that you need in life.

Jake Gunnoe
Editor in Chief

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Paulo Miro

Loved this post Jake! Though the thought of knowing everything seems appealing, I enjoyed your thoughts on the benefits of not knowing anything and embracing that mentality. I thought it was most interesting that you suggested that a person who admits to not knowing anything has to rely and surround his or herself with people; whereas a person who is seeking to be omniscient tends to lean towards self-dependency. As we have learned in class, inclination towards the self is a type C characteristic. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

David Brown

Good article. It explains how when we perceive that we know everything, we are not open to allowing others to provide additional information.
When one lives as though they know nothing, they are able to allow new information to come forth. They can now use the knowledge that experts possess to add to their own.

Tej Hendel

Hey Jake, nice post! I gotta say, your bit about how a wise man acknowledges how little he knows was a really nice part to what you’re saying. The other part of your post about how an individual who is at peace with how they know nothing is comfortable with reaching out to others who may know what he does not.

Maggie LaPoint

Thanks for this post! It really puts into words a lot of the thoughts I’ve had about knowledge and its pursuit for a while now. I feel like since I came to knowledge, I’ve learned a ton. However, each time I learn something new, it’s like I’m seeing the tip of the iceberg of a whole world of knowledge I know very little about! While that could seem overwhelming, I think you were right on when you said ” 130 million books were written by human hands, and that number isn’t shrinking.” For everything I don’t know much about, there is an interesting conversation waiting!

Sarah Bunch

I love the lines about how people who think they know everything don’t go to other people for help whereas people who know they don’t know everything accept and actively look for people in their lives. It makes me reflect on the people I know in my own life. Both of my uncles on my mother’s side often refuse to go to people for help. If there’s something that needs to fixed or addressed, they will always try it themselves first even if they make it worse by doing so. And if things go wrong, it takes them a while to admit they’re wrong and seek outside help. I also see this when my dad and I discuss religion or politics with regulars at a restaurant we often frequent. The people who insist they know what they’re talking about are often the ones who don’t, and when we offer them new information, they refuse it because it doesn’t fit in to what they view as the “correct knowledge”. It’s truly a fascinating thing to watch in reality.

Alice Phan

Jake, I would like to first commend you on the structure of your article and how you executed it. Loved how you ended with how we can have the ability to learn something without knowing anything. We just have to seek someone who has the answer. Of course, as you mentioned, we have to first acknowledge that we do not know anything, so that the experts can do their jobs. Great post!

Tamir Shargal

I have lived by the mantra: “ignorance is bliss” for as long as I can remember. I did it while being on a consistent hunt for knowledge and to grasp bigger, more abstract concepts. I concluded that I am at bliss with my ignorance, or with the fact that “I knew nothing,” because all of my previous experiences, or lack thereof, have molded the way that I see and perceive the world and the new knowledge/information that I am bombarded with. Every perspective is unique, and holds value; this is why your point, Jake, that when you don’t know something, or are not an expert of something, you should ask somebody who does know something, or is an expert in the topic/question at hand, is so potent and so relevant. Thank you for a thoughtful article.

Tyler Paplham

I really enjoyed reading through this. I find interesting how you described the idea of knowing nothing and promote it as a good thing. It is liberating to think that we can admit that we do not know as much as experts around us and can instead rely on them to provide the information to us in a way we can understand.

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Every story and individual struggle has a lesson to be shared. The LSA blog, or The Visionary, is a place for all members and readers to share their stories, creative works, or personal reflections.
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