Philosophy Monday (8).

We continue with five more “philosophical questions about human nature and the human condition”. They are culled from the 205 questions found on

36. Is it better for a person to have a broad knowledge base or a deep knowledge base?

We can take a clue from the way formal education is structured to form an opinion.  The higher you move up in academics, the narrower your field of study becomes. Most PhD holders would be considered experts in their chosen fields, because they focused solely on researching a topic.

That said, it is important to also note that the deep knowledge base acquired at the end of your studies wouldn’t be possible without the broad array of subjects that are required in the early stages of school life.

Knowledge, of course, is not confined to the walls of an institution, and we can obtain it wherever, whenever and however. Time, on the other hand, is to be managed. The type of knowledge we devote our time to is to be properly decided, in view of our career goals and general life goals.

Some people say having a broad knowledge base helps your networking, as you’ll be able to make conversation on any given topic with anyone. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine someone with a deep knowledge base not having a little understanding of general topics. Also, no matter how broad your knowledge base is, you’ll still scratch your head in certain circles.

The bottom line is to draw a flexible line between both basis. That is, you have a deep knowledge base on one instrumental subject, but also try to pick up a little something here and there. As Thomas Huxley puts it, “try to learn something about everything and everything about something”. It is important to be humble, though, because your knowledge can neither be deep nor broad enough.

37. What is the best way to train people to see the gradients in the world around them instead of just a simplistic “this is good, that is wrong” view of the world?

It is necessary to determine if it is indeed more beneficial to see gradients, as opposed to the simplistic view of good and wrong. First of all, using gradients doesn’t mean good and wrong don’t exist. When good and wrong are the two extremes of a line, gradients would be rest of the line. Depending on the matter at hand, an action could be seen in better light when we don’t attribute good or wrong to it.

However, we can end up making unreasonable excuses for actions that are detrimental.
The flaw, however, is not in the way we see things. Our flaw is that we’re seldom constructive in the way we judge matters. As mentioned earlier, even when we’re capable of seeing all the grey areas, we can still end up making wrong decisions.

On a discussion thread on Quora website, Gene Rick wrote that it would help to have “exercises in critical thinking. Guided practice in: identifying connections among concepts, organisms, etc; listing advantages and disadvantages of a thing, event, solution, etc; brainstorming by listing possible actions or solutions, without making judgments until the list is complete and discussions have been made concerning the pros and cons of each proposal”.

As reasonable as that may sound, it is not very practical for every situation. The basis of the matter is to have an open mind on matters that are rashly categorized as either good or wrong. And—depending on the matter—if we’re to learn to do this, we’ll need to realize that we’re ourselves inadequate in many ways. When we realize this, we know that inadequate as we are, it is expected of us not to slam judgement outright.

38. Is intelligence or wisdom more useful?

Both are values that are evident in the implementations of our doings. That’s why we say something is intelligently done, or wisely done, and that’s why both concept are often used interchangeably. But, they’re definitely not the same, and if you like, one is more useful than the other. The core of both concepts are quite different, and the manner of their implementation may vary.

Wisdom is mostly attributed to the application of knowledge for the greatest good. It involves good judgement and has moral leaning. Intelligence involves the ability to grasp knowledge rapidly, and also apply same with equal grace. Intelligence doesn’t necessarily have any moral elements at its core, nor does it require good judgement in implementation. But, an intelligent person may employ these discretions, and they would be counted wise.

We live in a society that has high regard for productivity and high IQs. This is why people chase after intelligence mostly, and even in our daily vocabulary, intelligence is more prevalent. Wisdom is more subtle, and rarely praises itself. It is built in humility, and manifested in humility. Because of this subtlety, it is easy for us to overlook the usefulness of wisdom. However, when we study the affairs of mankind intricately, it will be difficult not to notice the underlying importance of wisdom in the things that unite and preserve humanity.

39. Which of your beliefs are justified and which ones aren’t?

Justification of beliefs can be a laborious endeavour if a trustworthy criteria is not set. Setting this criteria will also require a kind of basis that would probably require another set of criteria; which may all be bias.

This is the problem of epistemology in general. Where do we draw the line of inquiry?
To solve the issue of justification, one of the founders of modern philosophy, René Descartes, expounded on the use of ‘methodic doubt’ through foundationalism.

This is done by recognizing self-evident truths, either by rationalism or empiricism or both, and then building an argument from scratch. Foundationalism contrasts with coherentism, which justifies a belief when it coheres with a system of other beliefs. While both methods have their criticism, it is important to ask the intentions of a person who seeks justification from you.

As a Christian, it would beggar my mind to put myself at the defensive of unscrupulous and undefined enquiry. When called to justify any belief, it would be proper to ask, “justification against what?”

It would be proper to seek the intent of the person asking, and the value they seek to gain from asking. These are requirements that are critical if you were to be an apologist, justifying your belief. Clues to this are found in the way Ravi Zacharias insists on questioning the questioner whenever he’s asked an incomplete question, because “nothing is self-defeating as a question that has been thought through before it has been fully posed”. And it is not your duty to thoroughly ponder the question, if you’re also required to give an answer.

40. What do you contribute back to society?

I suppose it is agreed—by virtue of the thought itself—that we ought to give back to society. Even when you feel like your society hasn’t been so kind to you, you still owe it to God to help this very same society. For the greater good of society and your own wellbeing, it is necessary to give back to society. So, what do you give back to society?

There’s a quote by Pablo Picasso that I’ve already used three times in this series: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”. Some may think that they’ve come to this world with nothing, and everything they have, they got through their own effort and hardwork.

They may conclude that they owe nothing to the society. Well, it is still a self-defeating idea. If you came into this world with nothing, it is true then that something was given to you. Whatever you make of yourself, you make from something that was given to you. And it will be ungrateful not to give back. Therefore, we are expected to give back to society in every possible capacity. There’s no limit to what you can give, because there’s no limit to what you can discover.

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