Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

Is it better to know or is it better to ask?

I didn’t really intend this blog to become a place for me to air my many many many random thoughts and philosophies…no, that is exactly what I intended this blog to be.

I didn’t take a philosophy course in college.  For my “Philosophy” credit I took Logic.  I loved my Logic class and would not change to another philosophy credit given the chance, but now that I am older I have been pondering some of those important questions in life.  Like:

  • Why am I here? 
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Is there a god?

I am no closer to an answer than I was in college, but I find the mental exercise rewarding.

Today’s deep question is even more abstract.  Is it better to know or is it better to ask?  Is curiosity more important than knowledge?  Certainly all knowledge ultimately started as a question, but if all we have are questions, then there is little point to asking. 

Let me put this in to an example and use one of those “big phrases” that I am proud to know:

Technological Determinism is a theory that encourages the development of society based on technological advancement.  For example, A nuclear weapon is invented, and society changes to adapt to it.  Cold War, backyard bunkers and witch-hunts parading as patriotism are the result.  In the absence of “the Bomb” none of these societal changes would have taken place (or so the theory goes).  But prior to World War II, the greatest weapons advancement made was the invention of gun powder.  China invented gun powder centuries before the west.  Yet China didn’t descend in to war simple because black powder was around to make it more effective.  This is the best argument against Technological Determinism I have found.  Although technology can “nudge” society in a particular direction, it can not do so in a vacuum.

Back to my example (and why I have taken this detour).  China had black powder, but it took a westerner to ask the question “How can I make this in to a weapon?”.  That is when canons and rifles were invented.  China had the knowledge, but not the question.  Granted, the question and technological innovation that resulted could be considered negative.  But that innovation lead to another question and ultimately the use of combustion to do work (the steam engine) was the result which then resulted in the industrial revolution and everything that we see around us today.  There was a series on TV called Connections that used to explore all of these technological dominoes. 

So, which is more important, the question or the answer?  I don’t think there is an answer to this question (irony intended).  Although there can be answers with no questions and there can be questions with no answers, ultimately the most important impact is made on societies and individuals when the right question gets the right answer at the right time.


February 27, 2008 - Posted by | Random Thoughts

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