August 23, 2022•756 words
Every bit of information we can and could possibly access is composed of perspectives drawn within certain frameworks of context, including what we call facts. It all relies on subjective reference points and definitions. When we look something up, all we're collecting are details created about a phenomenon that could never be sufficiently encompassed or defined.
In one context for example, we call something a human.
In another, we call it a bipedal mammal.
In another, an organism.
In another, a father.
In another, a doctor.
In another, a painter.
In another, a corpse.
All of these can be said to be true about something within certain contexts but none encompass the phenomenon itself. None of it tells us what it really is.
There was a mighty white elephant with a strong trunk and long tusks, trained by a good master, and willing and serviceable. This elephant, led by his trainer, came to the land of the blind. Very soon the rumours went in the land of the blind that an elephant had come to their country. So the wise men and teachers of the blind came up to the elephant and began to investigate him. And when the elephant was gone they met and discussed the animal among themselves.
There were some who said he was like a great thick snake; others said he was like a snake of medium size. The former had felt the trunk, the latter the tail.
Further, there were some who claimed that his figure was like a high column, others declared he was large and bulky like a big barrel, still others maintained he was smooth and hard but tapering. Some of the blind had taken hold of one of the legs, others had reached the main body, and still others had touched the tusks.
In the end they abused and scolded one another over their disagreements, and finally every one of them swore that everyone else was a liar and was cursed on account of his heresies.
Everyone of these blind men was honest in his contentions, sure of having the truth and relying on his own experience. But the elephant trainer knows that every one of them has a parcel of the truth, that every one is right in his way, but wrong in believing his outlook to be the whole truth.
Not one of these sectarians observed that the elephant was white, for all of them were blind who had investigated the truth to the best of their ability.
We take for granted that the things we've learned tell us what things are. We can gather facts about what we sometimes call (for example) the sun and come to think that we know what it is. All we've really learned are perspectives about something drawn from certain reference points and comparatively defined within certain contextual frameworks using certain modes of expression. "The sun is a star." "The sun emits light and heat." "The sun is a spherical object in space." We can create and gather countless definitions but essentially, we still won't know what it is. We'll just have observed and assigned apparent interactions it has within some frameworks available and familiar to us. The thing itself remains vastly mysterious from countless other contextual reference points, many of which are simply beyond our capacity to perceive or communicate. This applies to everything.
This is why knowledge in the typical sense is, essentially, meaningless. It's apparent meaning and value exist entirely within conceptual frameworks of reference which are as subjectively conjured as whatever we come to believe we experience by their acquisition and propagation, which essentially amount to networks of shared ideas and functions. Matrixes of interdependent concepts which may indicate interactions that can be observed from certain perspectives but which have no actual bearing on reality itself beyond their impacts on our senses, feelings, perceptions and beliefs. What's learned and shared are only details within and about the conceptual frameworks that we've created, some of which allow us to manipulate aspects of phenomena but not to know it.
Grasping this is what can lead one to eventually "know only that they know nothing" after a lifetime of gathering knowledge. It's coming to recognize that everything that was thought to be known basically amounts to clouds of vapor in the air - collections of conceptual models, details and perspectives being projected onto phenomena. While the thing itself, whatever it is that's being perceived, remains essentially mysterious and unbounded by whatever limited perceptions have been drawn about it.