michael, 2010 IMG_4485

Knowing thing that are infinite

“It is very easy to verify,” begins Montaigne’s essay on coaches, “that great authors, when they write of causes, not only make use of those they think to be the true causes, but also of those they believe not to be so, provided they have in them some beauty and invention.” David Bohm reaffirms the concept. Science is scientists seeking beauty and invention before seeking facts. Thought is primarily beauty and invention. The value of thought is contained within these parameters. Logical and experience are in service to beauty and invention. In place of the word invention, I prefer the word imagination. But, it is one in the same.

I am interested here in the idea of knowledge. Philosophers recognise this as the branch epistemology. It is to question of the limits of human knowledge: what we know? how we know? what is knowing? It is uncommon these days to talk about the limits of knowledge. But, this does not mean we should not speak of it.

Borges prefaces his story The Book of Sands with a line from George Herbert: “…thy rope of sands…” It is a perfect line to introduce a story about the infinite nature of knowledge. It contains our infinite inabilities to grasp the infinite nature of our subject: knowledge. The story is about a book without begin or end, a book of an infinite number of pages. It is a monstrous book. The story echoes the sorrow of any creative man who’s creation has made him lonely. Let us remember Borges was the third blind director of the Argentine National Library surrounded by nine hundred thousand books. He wrote a poem: Poem of the Gifts, which began:

No one should read self-pity or reproach
into this statement of the majesty
of God; who with such splendid irony
granted me books and blindness at one touch.

Borges also gave a lecture entitled Blindness. It contains the truism: “A writer lives.” And, then to clarify the point, it is followed by these lines: “A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been give for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments misfortunes, all has been give like clay.” Blindness gave Borges Anglo-Saxon literature and language, the bloody Scandinavian sagas and medieval literature.

It is within this frame that I urge a personal idea of the limits of knowledge. I find it hard to believe knowledge is our experiences as Heidegger argues or that knowledge is logical in the tradition of Aristotle.

Knowledge is imagination. It is a person’s possibility to imagine. This possibility is the platform on which one can imagine another reality. Experience and logic are secondary. One builds imaginations upon imaginations always with an eye on reality. One can only knows what one can imagine.

With no intent to weaken my argument, I will make a final and critical point. We are concerned with a concept not with an absolute rule. All concepts can be reduced to absurdism. When pushed too far, all metaphors break down.

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