Universal Truth #2. Knowledge is Power
Posted by Harbinger451 on April 5, 2016
Know your friends, know your enemies, know your environment and know your limitations!
They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a total lack of knowledge is far more dangerous. They also say that ignorance is bliss, but that’s because the ignorant don’t know what’s coming… better to know what’s coming so you can prepare for and, if at all possible, avoid or at least mitigate it. The more you know about the people and the world around you, the more prepared you are for any given situation and the more power you have to deal with it.
Knowledge is the psychological result of perception and experience as well as the result of learning and reasoning. It can be the (technical) know-how and skill required to do something as well as the sum of actual information that a person (or body of persons) possess.
The possession of knowledge gives you the power to use it. It is undeniable that one’s potential and abilities are improved by knowledge, and through that one’s reputation, influence and authority (and therefore one’s power) are increased.
“A wise man is strong, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.”
The earliest written reference that links knowledge and power is from the Biblical Book of Proverbs 24:5. In its original Hebrew (circa 1st millennium BCE) it reads “גֶּבֶר-חָכָם בַּעוֹז; וְאִישׁ-דַּעַת, מְאַמֶּץ-כֹּחַ”.
The English translation given above is from the King James Version, 1611.
“Your power comes from your knowledge”.
The Persian poet Ferdowsi wrote this as “توانا بود هر که دانا بود” in his epic Farsi poem Shahnameh (Letter of Kings, circa 1st millennium CE) which tells the mainly mythical, and to some extent historical, past of the Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. It is an important text to adherents of Zoroastrianism, the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires from around 600BCE to 650CE.
“Knowledge is Power.”
Although often credited to Francis Bacon it seems the first written variation of this (perhaps now clichéd) phrase appeared in Arabic as “Knowledge is power and it can command obedience”. These words were attributed to Imam Ali (599-661 CE) within the 10th century collection of his sayings The Nahj al-Balagha by Sharif Razi (970-1015 CE).
It is also the standard English translation of the Latin phrase “scientia potentia est” which was first penned by Thomas Hobbes in part one, De Homine, of his Latin rewriting of Leviathan in 1668. It did not appear in his earlier English version of 1651.
The nearest Bacon came to writing anything similar was in a passage referring to God, “knowledge itself is (His) power”, in his own Latin work Meditationes Sacrae (1597) in which it appears as “ipsa scientia potestas est”.
“Forewarned is forearmed.”
(English Proverb, circa 17th century CE)
Knowledge or intelligence achieved in advance of an event or eventuality allows for proper preparation, and therefore the power, to deal with and overcome that (or similar) event or eventuality. That’s why intelligence and information gathering is vital to any endeavour or pursuit.
“Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.”
From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Old Age that was included in the collection Society and Solitude (1870).
Knowledge comes from observing everything you come across and learning from it – look and learn. See what works and what doesn’t then repeat what works and perfect it – practise makes perfect.
“Knowledge is power, geographical knowledge is world power.”
“Wissen ist Macht, geographisches Wissen ist Weltmacht” became a popular phrase in Germany after the 1871 unification and was often used to support efforts for a German colonial empire after 1880. After the disaster of World War One proponents of this geopolitical concept hoped that the Machtergreifung (the Nazi seizure of power) in 1933 would lead to an increased role for Germany as a world power.
It certainly seemed, for a while, that this would be so. Ironic, then, that it was the British mastery of knowledge (through secret technologies (like radar) and superior intelligence and information gathering) that played a major part in the Nazi regime’s defeat by the Allies in World War Two.
The modern German electronic warfare unit, Bundeswehr Bataillon Elektronische Kampfführung 932, in Frankenberg uses the already mentioned Latin phrase “Scientia potentia est” as its motto.
The motto of the Scout movement since 1907 “which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body … by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.” Robert Baden-Powell.
“Through Knowledge, Power.”
The motto of the fictional Druids (an order of historians, philosophers, magic-users, teachers and researchers) in Terry Brooks very successful Shannara series of fantasy novels (1977 onwards) reiterates that power is achieved through knowledge and demonstrates how prevalent the notion has become in modern popular culture.
Is there such a thing as too much, or even dangerous, knowledge?
Lets consider knowledge in terms of the previous Universal Truth “Moderation is the key to Happiness”.
It would suggest that too much knowledge must be a bad or negative thing – this may seem counter-intuitive… but is it?
If we accept that great, or absolute, knowledge has the potential to lead to great, or absolute, power – then we are forced to now consider the oft repeated phrase…
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
With these words – originally spoken by John Dalberg, 1st Baron Acton, in 1887 – we are given the vice that an excess of knowledge will lead to – corruption… so maybe it is possible to know too much.
“I want, once and for all, not to know many things. Wisdom requires moderation in knowledge as in other things.”
This Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) quote supports the notion that too much knowledge can be a bad thing. We need Wisdom to temper our thirst for knowledge and it is with Wisdom that we must use (or choose not to use) the knowledge (and power) that we do have. Nuclear technologies and weapons being the prime example (among many) of potentialy dangerous knowledge and power that require wisdom in deciding their use.
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