The Danger of Knowing?

Who thinks of knowledge as a limitation? Not many people I suspect. Frankly, I quite often find myself telling people that knowledge is power. However, I wonder if knowledge, in a certain context, might be disempowering, and, if it is, what is there to be done about it?

Let’s look at physicians to explore this concept. By and large, medical doctors know far more about illness than those of us not in the medical field. They have extensive training in the ills that can befall human beings. Because of this, they have the tools – such that they exist at this time – to help us overcome disease and infirmity.

Owing to all their knowledge about health and sickness, do physicians live longer than the rest of us? I do not know the answer to that question, but I suspect their life expectancy is not much more than the rest of us, and it might even be shorter. Certainly, I do know of a few physicians whose health habits do not reflect well upon the information in their possession. Isn’t that ironic, considering their level of knowledge?

My answer is, no. It is part and parcel of the human condition. Knowledge and the application of knowledge are two different things. There is often a chasm between knowing what to do and doing it. Knowledge is like a library. It can be a vast reservoir of information. Wisdom on the other hand, is the well-reasoned application of the knowledge we have available to us.

Some of us are knowledgeable. That does not make us wise. And some of us are wise, but that does not mean we apply that wisdom to ourselves. Being knowledgeable and wise and utilizing that knowledge and wisdom to not just to help others but to help ourselves sounds like a reasonable goal. Easier said than done.

I do not believe there is a “danger in knowing” unless we allow that knowledge to saddle us with pessimism or unless we revel in our knowledge to the extent that it leaves us vulnerable to the ills of arrogance and close mindedness. Keep in mind, Socrates was referred to as the wisest man because, he knew he knew nothing.

I think I will stop saying knowledge is power. Instead, I will now say, knowledge can be power. It is the judicious use of knowledge, and an inherent understanding of its limitations, which can empower us.

Image courtesy of [think4photop] /

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.

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