Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wisdom of the East, and West

In Book II of the Analects, Confucius turns to Tzu-lu and says, "Shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to recognize that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to recognize that you do not know it." Just one hundred years after Confucius, Socrates would make the same point in his Apology: "I decided that I was wiser than the man who... thinks he knows something when he knows nothing. Because while I may not know anything, at least I never pretend I do." About twenty-five hundred years later Chief Petty Officer Prendergast told me the same thing when I was learning to become a naval navigator: "The best thing is to know where you are. It's a little worse not to know where you are. But the worst thing is to think you know you are someplace when you really ain't there."

-T.R. Reid, Confucius Lives Next Door

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