Against Knowledge


Knowing isn’t our sole access to others and the world.

Plato is charged with banishing the poets, preferring the philosophers who sought knowledge. Whether or not this is fair to Plato, with the Enlightenment, Knowledge was valorized, crowned, as the counterweight to blind faith. It was feted as the key to scientific inquiry. The stance of inquiry was given center stage. But why give knowing such regal standing?

There are two notable ways of facing and engaging the world that are infinitely valuable yet non-knowing — and they’re quite other than faith. These two are acknowledgement and appreciation.

When I acknowledge you as a friend, I’m not in a stance of knowing about you.

I can know all sorts of things about you, or about my neighbor, and never acknowledge either you or my neighbor; never appreciate either of you.

I can know all sorts of facts about Beethoven. But if I appreciate Beethoven’s late quartets, that’s not knowing facts about them. I could know everything factual there is to know about my friend or about Beethoven, yet fail to have an intimate connection. I could fail to embrace either in appreciation or acknowledgment.

If friendship or love are front-and-center, bare knowledge isn’t there.

It’s appreciation and acknowledgment that will hold center stage.

(There’s a Biblical sense of knowledge: knowledge as sexual intimacy. Today we divorce such knowing from the detached observation of scientific, or commonsense knowing.)

Without appreciation and acknowledgment we’d never have love or engagement. In personal relationships acknowledgement and appreciation are front and center, not knowing.

In our relationship to art and music, to nature and the weather, to friends and relatives, intimate appreciation and acknowledgment replace knowing.

I may know it’s cold outside. But when I reach for my jacket and mittens, beyond knowing, I’m appreciating and acknowledging that fact.

This can be like the contrast between the mind and the heart. If so, then in a culture that lets knowledge rule supreme, the challenge is to sing praises to matters of the heart. Knowledge will not be the only claimant to center stage. Appreciating and acknowledging will win central casting.


One comment on “Against Knowledge

  1. Ed Mooney says:

    Gary Whited: you endorse “the possibility of navigating the world from the heart as guide, with the knowing mind as servant to this enterprise of intimacy with all other beings through appreciation and acknowledgment.”

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