Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I found it very interesting to read this PDF, particularly the bit about European society's view towards increase of knowledge. I was aware that back in the day, the Church was the authority on all knowledge, and progression as a civilization was effectively halted in many ways. As the Renaissance came to be, however, and printing in particular was developed, ideas and knowledge were able to spread far more rapidly among people, and there was an increasing emphasis on personal knowledge and discovery. There also had to be a revolution in the mode of thinking; rather than accept new ideas based on the perceived authority of the person who came up with it (think Aristotle, whom my science teachers heartily disapprove of as far as his science goes - many have gone so far as to say Aristotle was the worst influence on scientific development in the known history of the world), people had to learn to trust experiment, the closest element to non-bias we know of.

I digress. The quote that caught my attention goes as follows: "Till about the year 1649, ... 'twas held a strange presumption for a man to attempt an innovation in learnings; and not to be good manners, to be more knowing than his neighbors and forefathers" (John Aubrey, emphasis added). I pondered about the consequences of this apparently society-wide belief; not only was there a general lack of increase in knowledge, but it was also considered socially unacceptable to learn more than those around you!

I wondered if there were any parallels in today's society. (I also discussed this with a roommate - I'm so glad my roommates are generally willing to put up with my discussions.) Understandably, if someone is eager to show off their learning in normal social situations, this is unacceptable. If someone is trying to beat you in knowledge, or out-argue you, in your average social meeting, this is not widely held to be enjoyable.

I especially found the thought of not knowing more than your parents intriguing. Parents typically dislike raising teenagers in great part because teenagers are convinced they know more than their parents. While it is frequently the teenagers who are in the wrong, I wonder if gaining more academic understanding than your parents, even if you were a respectful and respectable adult, was viewed akin to the same way we see teenagers who are often so foolish and arrogant. Also, these days, I would guess most parents would claim that they would want their children to have even better lives than they themselves did, and in today's society the way to that is often through higher education. I wonder how that paralleled in that older society, particularly when you were expected to take up your parents' trade.

I wonder a lot of things. I would appreciate any thoughts and insights on the subject. Thanks :)


  1. After I learn something really cool or new, I call my Dad. He is one of those forever curious learning kind of people. And though I teach him something new, he always offers insights and ideas that I would have never connected because of his experience. So in one way, we will never catch up to our parents knowledge of experience, but we are certainly learning more new and emerging ideas. Good post, thanks!

  2. I agree with the Royal Society: you shouldn't profess to know more than your parents. Although you may know more about the trivial creations of man, like technology, it has been my experience that real wisdom comes solely over the journey through time, and no matter what you do, you will never catch up to your parents' time.

  3. Kristi: I like your comment and I agree with it. Experience is one thing which really, only time will give you. Some people learn more quickly from these experiences than others, but there are definitely things anyone has to live through before he/she can truly understand.

    Meggster: I think an important distinction that could have been made in your comment is between knowledge and wisdom. As far as I understand it, the Royal Society was focused on discovering "trivial creations", and they honestly did know more than their parents did. Wisdom aside, the magnitude of knowledge they attained was larger than their parents. I think this is an easy thing for many people to confuse.