The need to know

6.4.05

It should be obvious that all humans have the desire to learn. How much is debatable, but in some shape or other people like to know why things are the way they seem to be. The point of this entry is not about that though, but rather what we choose to learn. Of course one can’t learn everything in one life time and therefore we need limits or ways to filter what we should learn.

The first restrain in learning is that one can only learn of what he/she already partially knows. If something doesn’t seem to exist then there is no way for one to learn about it. (Read Euthydemus by Plato for the debate)

Second, learning what seems most appealing. No one wants to learn of things which might hurt them, or question their believes. There is a considerable amount of writing which talks about this and in the end there is no clear conclusion of whether anyone should ever engage in this type of learning. (Read Kitcher)

And lastly, laziness. If the reward of learning something new seems to be little, people tend to just use some preconceived notation in order to answer their search for knowledge. This can be seen with religion and miracles. It is much easier to say that a strange occurrence is the product of a miracle than to say simply “I don’t know, but I look forward to searching for an answer”. (Just go to church once and you’ll see)

What does this add up to? Discrimination and social misconceptions. People who are not exposed to other cultures for instance could careless about them. This is understandable but will hurt them if they ever meet another culture. Learning about other cultures also brings self-awareness, and one can easily start to evaluate what he/she thinks of him/herself. For this reason people rather be ignorant and assume things instead of actually investing any time in learning.

Do I fit into this category? Yep, I can confidently say that I’m ignorant of other people. Yet for me, US culture is fascinating and I try to learn everything I can. How people live their pre-school years, what college is seen to be, and what married life is supposed to be. If I was not in the US right now I can honestly say that I would have rather just continued making jokes about the culture and really cared less about it, but since that’s not the case things are different. There is a need for me to know since I have to live with it.