Sunday, December 20, 2015

So we're useful after all.

We're living in the technical age, so they keep telling us. Teach your children to code, to use computers. We must be the clever country, and learn all about computer applications. It goes on and on. Okay, I'm glad to have the use of computers and technology, Facebook, blog sites, web pages and all those things. But my area is arts. The two things I did best as school were English and History. The way people talk sometimes, those areas of study are a waste of space. No, we insist, those of us who prefer history and literature to maths and physics.  Literature and history deal with ideas, debates about ethics, about right or wrong. It's not only about HOW to do things. It's also about WHY do things, or even SHOULD we do them. Knowledge without conscience is a dangerous thing. Michael Crichton expounded an important idea when he wrote "Jurassic Park". One of his characters explains that knowledge too easily gained is like inherited wealth, the people who gain it do not properly respect what it took to gain it and they sometimes use it recklessly and dangerously. Since we now learn in a few hours what took people like Isaac Newton years to learn, the human race uses the power that comes with knowledge without proper respect for that knowledge. It's not so hard to understand. If you are good at painting or engraving, you can be an artist or a forger. The difference lies in your personal ethics and conscience. So we keep insisting that our areas of study have a place, but it doesn't seem that people take much notice sometimes.
Then in the newspapers I read something quite stark, which should be a bit of a warning.
A high proportion of the killers fighting for ISIS, or Daesh, have high educational qualifications - ins the sciences. They've studied and learned, they know HOW to do things, and that makes them dangerous, because they do not have a good conscience in WHAT they do with what they know.
So those of us who believe philosophy has a place, who say it's important to study history and see how the past shapes the present, and how things happen; and read the ideas of writers who aim to enlighten through their literature; we stand vindicated. Knowledge is not all it takes to make a good world. Conscience and understanding are needed too. It's now enough to know how to do things. We must also think about why we do things, or what we should do with what we know.


Marshall Art said...

Very important point.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

Andrew Clarke said...
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Andrew Clarke said...

Right on, Art!