A Bit of Knowledge On How to Live Well

One way to go about the business of appreciating life is be on the look out for solutions to the question how can I live well. The unravelling of this question, according to Alain de Botton, is the point of Philosophy. 

Philosophy - the pursuit of wisdom based on one's love for it - requires occupying the thin space between ignorance and knowledge; that space where disinterest lies at one end and curiosity lies at the other end. A healthy dose of disinterest and curiosity to the business of living is important because it comes from a willingness to acknowledge that while it is impossible to know everything one can still harbour a desire to know.

The collection of knowledge is the point of thinking. And a useful dimension to this process of thought collection is being able to put the thoughts to use; it's the reason for all the craze about innovation, creativity or "the latest idea". But an important feature absent in the advocation for innovation is the importance of the acquisition of knowledge. At the heart of the movement is a sense that big ideas are churned out from vacuums. One possible explanation for its absence is the difficulty associated with the collection of knowledge. It's a lot sexier to think in terms of ideas coming out of nowhere and resulting in absolute transformation of one's life because it lacks the unpleasant drudgery that is work. James Webb Young put it best in his book titled A Technique for Producing Ideas:
[The collection of knowledge] is not as simple as it sounds. It is such a terrible chore that we are constantly trying to dodge it. The time that ought to be spent in material gathering is spent in wool gathering. Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us. 
Paul Graham, renowned essayist and start up guru, identifies two traits indispensable to the art of living well: resourcefulness and curiosity. Both point to the ability to seek out knowledge. The interesting thing about knowledge is the way it classifies into what can be called the relevant and irrelevant variety of knowledge and how this classification proofs useless to the neurological interactions that is thinking. It's in the way new knowledge can come from the combinations of old ones, vis-a-vis creativity. Though one must have the knowledge before being able to tell apart the irrelevant from the relevant. 

The Socratic Method of Thought points in the direction of how go about sieving knowledge to separate the relevant variety. Anyone interested in this need follow these steps:
1. Look around for bits of knowledge (statements) that many would describe as plain common sense. 
2. Try to find exceptions to the bits of knowledge. 
3. If an exception is found then it must be that the bit of knowledge is false or at least imprecise.  
4. Try to nuance the bit of knowledge so as to take the exception into account. 
5. Keep going on with this exercise, keep looking for exceptions to the bits of knowledge. The truth lies in the bit of knowledge which it seems impossible to disprove, and herein lies the relevant variety of knowledge. 
The difficulty of living can be soothed through the business of appreciating life, pursuing wisdom in a bid for how best to live. A useful consolation rests in what the mind was designed to do: think. Though guidance must be accorded to this wonderful machine in its function. A lot of this guidance comes from feeding it with material, collecting bits of knowledge that open up paths in the quest for how to live well. 


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Post Author: P. W. Uduk 

Photo Source: www.wikipedia.org; www.dcmemorials.com 

Question of the week: Where do you get what you might call valuable bits of knowledge? 


  1. As usual always dropping something special.
    Really agree with you on gathering information to build knowledge instead of just waiting for inspiration. That is one secret to being super creative.


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