Sunday, June 27, 2010

Aldous Huxley's Knowledge And Understanding

Difference between knowledge and Understanding
Huxley makes a distinction between knowledge and understanding in a philosophical way. According to him, knowledge develops when we apply our new experiences into realm of concepts of our old experiences. This interactive nature of experience which strikes with our already acquired experiences triggers knowledge and enhances our vision and concepts. So knowledge is acquired in terms of concepts and is passed through symbols and words. Understanding is contrasted with knowledge in that it never comes in concepts it cannot be passed on to the other people because it is caused by immediate experience; however, understanding later develops into knowledge.  The two are different from each other. Understanding is never inherited or learnt by hard work. It is acquired automatically while knowledge is based on our past experiences. It is mistake to think that knowledge is a part of understanding or the two are interchangeable.  Knowledge may be correct or incorrect or mere meaningless.
Impacts of Knowledge
If knowledge based on mere metaphysical doctrines, and its metaphysical believers seriously act upon it and modify their behaviors accordingly, this false knowledge will lead to devastating effects. This accounts for all the sufferings and grotesque and tragic happenings in the history of man. Knowledge in all forms; correct, incorrect is dirt and rubbish.
Man has to pay the price for living on this planet whose inhabitants suffer from countless problems and deadly ills. Not all problems of mankind can be solved; but those arising from stupidity, foolishness, malice, idealism and delusions can be solved if men resolve to solve them with good sense. These are intellectual and psychological evils caused by false knowledge and can be reconciled. We should not undergo the overvaluation of words; as this leads to religious dogmatic attitude. Other problem is over simplification or generalization branding every thing in the (ALL) or (EVERY) formula and over abstraction which means the rejection or negation or individuals and speaking of them collectively. Such dogmas as all infidels are dammed or all heretics are inspired by evil should be rejected. So dogmatic or ideological concept of knowledge is intellectually devastating.

Scientific Knowledge
Knowledge in the form of concepts expressed through words is to be highly valued in our modern age. For the establishment of an advanced society, highly trained scientists and engineers are important. For national survival, specialized knowledge has become a necessity. In some countries such as America, scientific knowledge has been done away with, but it has not led an increase in understanding any way. Hard work is important for sound knowledge; although some educationists think that children should not be required to work very hard.
Dissemination of correct knowledge is one of the prime objectives of education. But education should also teach the art of living – self realization and social adjustment. Thus applied knowledge is the key to success in life. Huxley doesn’t support classical education because he thinks that the classical education teachers us not what to do, but what not to do. It is not only one or the other form which is compulsory, but a combination of conceptual clarity, objectivity, subjectivity, micro-domain of personal consciousness and macro-domain of mysterious consciousness which will make an educational program perfect.

Language and Education
Although, it is paradoxical, but language is important as the medium of education and training; but it can also be dangerous in education. Dissemination of past experience is a necessity, but it is also a great hurdle in the promotion of education. Our human existence is due to language and we become human beings when we get accumulated conceptualized knowledge. Man learns consciously which is an impossible to an animal. Our emotions and memories are a great obstacle in learning and understanding so we should arise above them. If we want to develop understanding, we must get rid of our culture, language and emotionally charged memories which Wordsworth speaks of and learn to contradict and analyze. We should turn to practical means which may lead from knowledge to understanding. So classical dictum ‘know thyself’ is important because if you know yourself, you will know your environment. Thus you will understand that you are a person related to the world and everything therein in many fold ways. 

Knowledge is defined as a person’s range of information or his awareness gained by experience while understanding is defined as a person’s perception or judgment of a situation. We acquire knowledge when we fit our new experience into the system of concepts or notions based on our old experience. Metaphysical doctrines are the bases of pseudo-knowledge because they cannot be verified in our every day, routine and ordinary experiences. Thus knowledge gained from metaphysics is not the genuine knowledge. Knowledge is as common as dirt and understanding is as rare as emerald. Overvaluation of words has always given rise to dogmatic, extremist and fanatic tendencies and dogmas. So conceptualized knowledge is of great value in pragmatic life today and it is important for the national survival.
Know they self is based on the fact that I don’t invent my thoughts; I just find them.

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