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“As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.” – Albert Einstein
Anyone who has profoundly experienced the increasing circumference of darkness that accompanies one’s intellectual development cannot but feel awe, in its original sense of dread and wonder.
This awareness, creates a paradoxical effect in one’s soul.
Those who feel more dread than wonder, become unnecessarily pessimistic and fearful about any attempts at increasing our knowledge. It is as if, when standing on the border of that circumference that divides light from darkness, they face the endless darkness forgetting how much distance they’ve managed to illuminate with their progress, cowering in front of the abyss, dissuading others from venturing into the unknown.
Those who feel more wonder than dread, become reckless by the excitement offered by the new possibilities of their discoveries and seem to forget the new expanse of darkness that has grown around them. They stand on the border of that circumference looking backwards, proud of the territory their progress has illuminated, risking hubris and inviting nemesis, carelessly encouraging others to join them.
I find myself exhibiting both, oscillating between dread and wonder, committing mistakes and making discoveries due to both fronts along the way.
To make matters even more precarious I confess that when I read Nietzsche write: “However far man may extend himself with his knowledge, however objective he may appear to himself ultimately he reaps nothing but his own biography” and Jung assert: “There is no thinking qua thinking, at times it is a pisspot of unconscious devils, just like any other function that lays claim to hegemony. Often what is thought is less important than who thinks it. But this is assiduously overlooked. Neurosis addles the brain of every philosopher because he is at odds with himself. His philosophy is then nothing but a systematized struggle with his own uncertainty” not to mention all the rest of the quotes in this list (which also contains the references to the above mentioned quotations) detailing the relationship between autobiography, psychology and philosophy, my intuition signals that such thoughts warrant a further dose of modesty with respect to claims of knowledge and wisdom, despite being aware of the distinction between the contexts of discovery and justification.
Perhaps certain truths and values are medicine only for people who share the same constitution while being poison to others1.
I once choked on another man’s truth – please don’t choke on mine.
A similar point is made by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil, section 30.