The film maker and columnist Errol Morris has written for the New York Times recently on the concept of unknown unknowns. That message is good. The process typically goes something like this: We may not be able to completely master our emotions, but we can understand them and be alert to how they may be both exploited and moderated.
But the complementary industries of risk-management and think-tank policy generation are strangely unaccountable. The movement towards the Unknown requires that the Known be left completely behind. They want to stand with one foot on the Known while groping with the other foot in the darkness of the Unknown so that they may find the point on which to make their next step.
His complaint is a familiar one. How could it be otherwise? Fearful philosophers include Machiavelli and Hobbes, who are pessimists as regards all states of society, while the romantics Rousseau and Marx posit an unobtainable utopia, which amounts to pessimism about the present.
They invite you to explore existential questions, inspire you to think differently, and occasionally aim to awaken the latent world-traveler within you. Nowadays we do not hear so much from priests and bishops about the threat of damnation, perhaps because educated opinion is repelled by such blatant manipulation.
Svendsen is amongst the serene and classical, despite his barbs against our leaders. But this is a mere thought-experiment. Everything that belongs to the Known of today was once Unknown. The corresponding neo-Aristotelian, anti-Freudian essentially humanist view, recognises that we flourish when we conform with what is natural, since what is truly natural is best.
And like FDR, Svendsen says we ought to fear fear, because it undermines so much of what is really important in our lives. They created a form of inquiry and a philosophical attitude that was militantly open ended. Who measures the risks this poses?
Bush and Tony Blair et al hardly compare with other fear-mongerers, particularly that archetypal merchant of fear, Joseph Stalin.
James felt that our attention should be on the outer fringes of what we know. Just as the sky only offers the abundant gifts of flight and ethereal freedom to the young eagle after the bird completely leaves behind the nest he was raised in, every Unknown that stands before us in our life demands that we completely relinquish our footing on the Known.
They are too far out of our box to hold in mind. James and Peirce both assumed that what we knew about reality and even what we can imagine to be true about reality is only a tiny part of the totality of reality. Fear alone is not reason enough to avoid asking important questions.
Their basic ideas had been independently discovered by the Buddha, who developed a philosophy also based on understanding dissatisfaction and controlling the emotions.
And no, these statements are not tautological! Clearly, trust and openness walk hand in hand down the sunny side of the street, while fear and betrayal skulk together in the shadows.
So if I look at an object and assert the truth that this object is blue, then it is safe to assume that I am simultaneously asserting that it is not red, yellow, green, or any other color.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The typical fear and discomfort that surrounds an admission of not-knowing is precisely why I always note that to think philosophically, to ask genuine questions, to resist easy answers, is to possess a certain amount of courage.
And William James railed against what he called vicious intellectualism. The study of fear and the other emotions is not the preserve of psychotherapists or professors of philosophy. So, even if we concede that the status quo is not the best situation imaginable for a lot of people, perhaps even for ourselves, at least it is a known quantity.
The reason James was so bothered by vicious intellectualism was that it tended toward a method of inquiry that resisted stepping outside of its own frame of reference.
We also possess a limited ability to control our emotions, and to improve our ability to do so by practice, such as controlling a tendency to panic from fear.
For the optimists civil society is engendered by trust, reason and respect for the individual, and by shared interests. Instead, it suggests that we continue because the questions are worth asking, and in asking, we might be learning something of a different sort.
Actually, there is no way we can ever know the Unknown unless we meet it on its own terms!
Fear has a stronger biochemical component than some other emotions, and there is little to be done by reason if really strong fear takes hold. Why do people believe what they believe? James and Peirce wanted our thinking to be free. The Unknown obtains its nature through its contrast to the Known.
Progressive religious voices instead usually lend themselves to a polemics of trust.Although appeals to a “fear of the unknown” are expected to function as the other “answers” do, namely, by offering a conclusive explanation for why things are they way they are, a “fear of the unknown” is slightly different.
For one, it may not be wrong. Leaping into the Unknown. The Tomb of the Diver (/70 BC), at Paestum Archaeological Museum, Italy. Yet many fear the Unknown. There are many reasons for this fear: evolutionary ones that have their roots in the ingrained archetypal fear of animal predators or human enemies lurking in the dark.
Why are people afraid of the 'unknown'? The fear of the unknown helps us not exceed our natural limits, leading to a pleasurable existance, while exploration has in no way made our life.
There is a saying that human being always “fear the unknown”, anything that goes against our principles and what we are use to is automatically considered dangerous. That idea is proven so well in the case of Socrates, due to his different ideas or “unknown ideas” of opinion he suffered the ultimate price.
Fear can be disguised as many other emotions such as anxiety or anxiousness. “Butterflies” do not exist; they are really the fear of not knowing how the immediate upcoming events will turn out or affect you and everyone close to you.
Vicious Intellectualism and the Reality of the Unknown Posted by Jeff Carreira on April 21, in Uncategorized | 22 Comments There are things that we know.Download