• Karl Popper on knowledge and ignorance

    Copyleft: Jaakko J. Wallenius - Creative Commons

    The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance. For this, indeed, is the main source of our ignorance — the fact that our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite."

    - Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963)

    Here are some of my own thoughts on this field of life:

    General knowledge of a person is like a cloud-system. It is inevitably thicker in some places and thinner in some others. In some places, it will disappear altogether, but in some other (normally small) areas, it can reach the ground like a tornado.
    Some people have heavy storm clouds in a few places, but vast clear spaces in most others. On the other hand, some people have a quite even, but a thin layer of clouds all over the place, but it never gets thick.
    Every single person has a different cloud-system. In fact, I can easily guess that we would be thoroughly surprised the real level of these differences. This cloud system moves and evolves constantly; in some places, it gets thicker, but thinner in some others.
    Some people gather knowledge into areas that have a practical use in every-day life, but others gather gems of knowledge from all over the place. Knowledge is just a tool for some, but some people can get immense pleasure from the very act of gathering new knowledge.

    Karl Popper is in Facebook at:

    Karl Popper - Wikipedia
    "Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austro-British philosopher and professor at the London School of Economics. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. He also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. In 1992 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for "symbolising the open spirit of the 20th century" and for his "enormous influence on the formation of the modern intellectual climate".

  • Charles Darwin on rejecting progress in science

    Copyleft: Jaakko J. Wallenius with Creative Commons 2.0

    It is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

    - Charles Darwin, in the introduction to Descent of Man (1871)

    Some of my own ideas on the issue:

    The fact that we cannot answer a question now does not mean that we cannot answer it next year, after two years or after 10 000 years of refining our tools and data. Science has widened its range of explanations in immense ways during the last millennium. It would be pure madness to expect that the range of scientific knowledge would not expand at least in its present rate at least in the near future also. We just cannot know exactly what things can be discovered.
    On the other hand, can adding a supernatural agent really explain anything? Accepting such claims can only support the claim that supernatural agents do exists, which is a totally unscientific, unsupported claim as it is.

    Claiming that something has "god-given" properties will not expand our knowledge over it a single tiniest bit. The same explanation will explain all things that we could ever want. This is true if we accept supernatural as a possible source of explanation. After that, we would not need any other explanations.
    Supernatural is always the simplest possible explanation, and the accepted method in science is to accept the simplest possible explanation. This is not the case, however, if the simplest available explanation is untrue, of course. A theory that does explain everything normally does explain very little. When you can say 'god did it for his unfathomable reasons" you have explained nothing, zero, zilch, nada. One has just added a unneeded level of complexity. It is just a big question mark.

    A real philosophical problem with the theory of 'god' is the problem of reverse-engineering. You have a basic idea like 'god' and you start inventing reasons why this idea needs to be true.When the outcome is always clear, it is easy to start inventing such formulations that can only produce 'god' as a result.
    The nice part is that when you are free to give a 'god' almost any kind of properties. They just need to invisible and intangible. Then one can reverse-engineer one's reasoning so that it will be always just right.

    Charles Darwin - Wikipedia
    "Charles Robert Darwin, FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding."

  • Albert Einstein on violence

    Copyleft: Jaakko J. Wallenius & Creative Commons

    Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.”

    - Albert Einstein in "Mein Weltbild" (1931) [English: My World-view)

    Some thoughts of my own on the quote:

    No one thinks that theft has become extinct from the world just because it has been universally condemned. However, if it would be universally stated that theft under certain circumstances is a good thing, and we cannot ever get rid of theft, and we just need to live with theft, the willingness of people to steal just could be heightened a bit.
    There are strong interest groups which want to make sure that violence is condemned only when wrong people use it. No kind of universal condemnation of violence like that we are used to in the case of theft is simply not possible.

    Few people expect that psychopaths can be changed by anything, but chancing our attitude towards violence just could have an positive effect on normal people. People just tend to go with the crowd.
    The supporters of violence always seem to forget that you need an adversary that wants to use physical violence to have a need for even self-defense. If that person also would think that physical violence is beneath the dignity of a man, there would not be a need for even defensive violence.

    As long as people propagate the belief that violence is good in some form, there will more violent tendencies than in a society where all violence is condemned. Religious or political extremists will never go away.
    However, if violence would be always treated as evil and disgusting thing that one must use just only if hard pressed to by others and in situations where you cannot act with any other means, our world would be a much nicer place to live.

    A culture that glorifies and admires violence will breed more violence. The admiration of violence lowers the threshold of using violence even in situations that would not really warrant it. There is no doubt about it.
    The evidence is everywhere around us. There just are extremely strong and vocal forces in our societies whose interests are best served by maintaining admiration for violence. The need to defend one from thugs is a quite different thing than adoration and wholesale acceptance of violence as an accepted means for conducting a policy. It is funny how this difference is so difficult to see for so many people.

    Albert Einstein - Wikipedia

    "Albert Einstein ( /ˈælbərt ˈaɪnstaɪn/; German: [ˈalbɐt ˈaɪnʃtaɪn] ( listen); 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics[2][3] and the most influential physicist of the 20th century. While best known for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation"), he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". The latter was pivotal in establishing quantum theory within physics."

  • Seneca the Younger on fortune

    Copyleft: Jaakko J. Wallenius & Creative Commons

    We are all chained to fortune: the chain of one is made of gold, and wide, while that of another is short and rusty. But what difference does it make? The same prison surrounds all of us, and even those who have bound others are bound themselves; unless perchance you think that a chain on the left side is lighter. Honors bind one man, wealth another; nobility oppresses some, humility others; some are held in subjection by an external power, while others obey the tyrant within; banishments keep some in one place, the priesthood others. All life is slavery. Therefore each one must accustom himself to his own condition and complain about it as little as possible, and lay hold of whatever good is to be found near him. Nothing is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find comfort in it. Small tablets, because of the writer's skill, have often served for many purposes, and a clever arrangement has often made a very narrow piece of land habitable. Apply reason to difficulties; harsh circumstances can be softened, narrow limits can be widened, and burdensome things can be made to press less severely on those who bear them cleverly.”

    Seneca The Younger(c. 4 BC - A.D. 65) in "On Tranquility of the Mind" (A letter to Serenus)

    My own ideas on the quote:

    One's worries and pain can only become greater with every moment one spends just worrying about them and not solving them if they are solvable. If these worries are not solvable, the best method just might not be to dwell in them. Then the way might be trying to diminish the effect that these worries and pains have in one's life. This is the essence of Stoic philosophy.
    However, there seems to be people who just could not live if they can not complain. They complain about the things that they see as wrong in their lives and around them. Many of them seem to get real relief from this activity. They are a minority.
    Perhaps even most of us could improve our lives if we could let go for a moment and live for the day. We just could grab all the possibilities that life can offer if we could forget our pains and sorrows even for a short moment every day.

    (This piece was refurbished on 12th of January, 2013)

    Seneca the Younger is also in Facebook at:

    "Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca; ca. 4 BC – AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder and his elder brother was Gallio."

  • Karl Popper on misunderstanding

    Copyleft: Jaakko J. Wallenius & Creative Commons

    "Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: there will always be some who misunderstand you."

    - Karl Popper in "Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (1976)

    My own ideas on the quote:

    A major problem in all communication is that what we can write and say is always just the visible tip of an iceberg. Underneath the waves there always lies a vast sea of ideas, history and experience. This vast body of knowledge does help us produce the words that we have chosen to express ourselves in any particular moment. To fully understand our meaning in a complex issue the reader needs to know our way of thinking quite intensively.
    Alas, that is normally just impossible. We just must learn to live with the fact that we will be misunderstood in some way or another in even most of our communication with others. The risk of misunderstanding naturally grows exponentially when opinions differ. The tendency to misinterpret things is always at its greatest in a moment of righteous fury.

    On the other hand, the famous figures of thinking and writing just might be more accessible to us than less known figures (and sometimes even deeper thinkers) because we know more of them and how their thinking has been formed.
    This simple thing of familiarity of a figure just might be the reason why, for example, this darling of all totalitarians or Plato is still kept in so high esteem. This is true when many other (for me, even greater) Greek thinkers like Epicurus, Protagoras, Democritus or Epictetus, are not valued at the same level at all.

    (This piece was refurbished on 11th of January, 2012)

    Karl Popper is also in Facebook at:

    Karl Popper - Wikipedia
    "Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austro-British philosopher and professor at the London School of Economics. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. He also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. In 1992 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for "symbolizing the open spirit of the 20th century" and for his "enormous influence on the formation of the modern intellectual climate".

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