Thursday, November 07, 2002

Perhaps I should explain the title I picked.

I believe that understanding the limits of knowledge is almost as important as the knowledge itself. I'm not thinking of Godel here, but of simple everyday facts and principles. For example, the recent election provided numerous examples of confident projections with subsequent rationalizations. I know many things about my neighbor, but I don't know a lot of other things, and I never will. A scientist will spend about as much time estimating the error on a measurement as in determining the measurement--sometimes more.

The person I know most about--me--is still capable of surprising me. I think I know what I'll do under stress, but . . .

On the same theme, I refuse to develop a theodicy. To claim that I can tell what was God's meaning in arranging/allowing some event seems a bit presumptuous, absent a direct revelation. I bite my tongue when I hear pious explanations of some deep pain: "It'll help you minister to others" or "It will strengthen you" (ouch). I rather suspect that there can be many purposes for some loss, some of which we are currently in no position to understand.

Nevertheless, I do know a few things. I know something of the physical world, something of human relations, something of how the society works, something of the spiritual world... "Nothing human is alien to me," and I can understand other people's joys and pains. I cannot always find words for some of the things I've experienced, but I can communicate anyway. I reject the solipsistic claim that we can only know what our own senses tell us, and never truly know what another person means. I can communicate, and if you don't believe I can, you verify my assertion by your rejection of my claim.