alcramer [Alfredo Cramerotti]

Knowledge

Posted in shortEssays/cortiSaggi [English/Italian], Thoughts.Coaching by alcramer on December 10, 2007

Is it really true that knowledge is something superior to other ‘goods’ of life? That is – by far – the most desirable of things? Having the access to an item may represent an advantage; even if is not a goal per se, but rather a tool. The ultimate aim of mankind is happiness, not goods: on this we might all agree. Now, what about knowledge? It seems that is the only good which don’t bring, along with its satisfaction, some disadvantages.

Let’s make two examples: in medicine, for instance: the fact that humans can cure themselves from flu, it’s definitely an advantage. But it also bring the need to cure themselves from any other type of illnesses, even those that once where not contemplated, those that we didn’t care about, because they could not be considered in terms of advantage/disadvantage, but as facts of life. Now, the fact that we can save our life from flu brings also the need to save ourselves from all other types of illness. If we cannot satisfy this need, we perceived it as a disadvantage. The threshold of happiness has been moved forward.

Same thing with transportation: when cars didn’t exist, they couldn’t solve all the problems, which they solve today. But now a car has become the base, without which one has a disadvantage. A car is, so to say, the base to be happy (take it not literally), and once achieved this basic need, we will look forward to ‘step up’ to the next one, maybe a bigger car, or maybe two cars in the family, and so on. This is valid for all the items and services of technical progress: from the satisfaction of a need, springs up immediately other needs to satisfy that we didn’t have before.

The degree of happiness doesn’t depend on which step of the social ladder we are: everyone can feel happy or sad at whatever social level. We cannot say that humanity in the past was happier or sadder than today. Reading, for instance, the ancient texts, it seems that the level of happiness was more or less the same, even with far less items and technological progress.

The fact is that happiness is achievable only in the brief moment of acquisition of an item, or a service: when one was ill, and is cured; when one needed a car, and got it. The only brief lapse of happiness is attainable in the passage from one state to the other, and not from the fact of being in one state. After that, we immediately start to perceive the need of going further onto the next level. That means, the satisfaction of a need brings always the disadvantage of creating another need.

Regarding our first concern, knowledge, it seems that it is immune from such a thing: to know something is a linear process, it doesn’t bring to us the t unbearable feeling of having to progress to the next level. But it does something else. If it’s true that the less one knows, the better s/he lives (because the more one knows, the more s/he perceives the bad things of life), it’s also true that knowledge is something that once achieved, it cannot be undone. To put it in simple terms: we cannot go back to a previous state of ignorance, because we don’t want to. Knowledge is an irreversible (linear) process: who knows, wants not to know less. Nobody wants to decrease his or her level of knowledge, even if it would bring a major happiness. We can try for ourselves: let’s think about a happy person with less knowledge, less acculturated than we are, and then let’s ask ourselves if we would exchange with him or her: we wouldn’t. We are not able to renounce to our knowledge.

No matter its relationship with happiness, knowledge is a progressive entity, it’s ‘oriented’, so to say: it’s not neutral; humans don’t want to renounce to it, whatever it brings along with, even unhappiness. The good thing, on the other hand, is that it doesn’t originate other needs: it’s a type of acquisition, which is more stable. But as soon as we know more, we would never accept not to have it.

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