Den Xero (“I do not know”) by Charlie (CEL IV) November 18, 2009

French novelist Anatole France wrote: “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” What don’t you know?


I choose to write on what I do not know, because that is the broadest of the three optional topics.  What don’t know?  I for sure don’t know the answer to the second question, because for every good bit of advice I’ve ever been given, there’s at least one and sometimes three alternative pieces of advice which compete with that one good bit of advice.

In fact, I love collecting contradictory, equal but opposite aphorisms, for example: “look before you leap” vs. “he who hesitates is lost”.  Such pairings are almost as good as oxymoronica such as “the greater degree of civilization, the greater degree of degeneration,” “military intelligence,” and  “Microsoft Works.”  (I’m an Apple fan, myself…)

But what I don’t know is what I know, because I don’t know how you can be certain of anything.  Epistemology is for that reason, to me, probably the greatest of all sciences, and the least certain and conclusive.

Hermeneutics is the study of secret meanings, but if the meanings are secret, how can you prove that your hermeneutic analysis is accurate?  Just for example, Freudian and Jungian psychology are two of the most commonly used species of hermeneutic analyses, but they come o opposite conclusions.  Freudian psychology says (construed very grossly) that our individual psyches all evolve individually due to the micro-environment in which we are born, the details of our upbringing, but from these micro-environments we each develop into certain personality types which conform to gross patterns of behavior which we might call “archetypes”—such as the Oedipus complex, which if you think about it is really, pretty definitely, in plain, ordinary colloquial English—really “gross.”

Jungian psychology posits as its own very general and non-specific hypothesis that it is not the micro-environment of individual development but the library of universal archetypes which shape us, and each individual is kind of a grab bag of different personality archetypes which coincide in a distinctive manner (in each individual) that shapes the individual’s life-pattern as a microcosm of society.  How do I know the little that I know about Freudian and Jungian psychology?  I know the little bit that I know because I have read a little bit, which is more than some people my age may have read, but I won’t be sure how right or wrong my conclusions about Freud’s or Jung’s writings are until I’ve read a little bit more.

All I know for certain is that I’m fairly sure that both Freud and Jung, like me, wait for light, but beheld only obscurity, for brightness, but walked in darkness, and groped for the wall like the blind, groping as if they had no eyes, stumbling as noonday as in the night, and that their writings and brilliant insights will be no more, after a thousand years of history from now, than growling like bears or moaning like doves.  (With all due apologies to the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 59, Verses 9-11).  After all, in their work they gave their heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly (they really did, they were after all mental health specialists, both Freud and Jung), and they perceived that this also is vexation of spirit: for in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.  (With even more apologies to the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem, who wrote “Ecclesiastes” Chapter 1, verses 17-18.

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