Monday, December 24, 2007

Truth as the accumulation of scientific facts and propositions, the dream of the Enlightenment philosophes, with the Encyclopaedia as the totality of human wisdom between the covers of a book, is an impossibility since it ignores the contribution to truth made by the enquirer. Truth is an experience. But what is it that is experienced? Doesn’t experience make the possessor wiser? No. Experience, if it teaches anything, teaches its own limitations. The Enlightenment version of experience as the accumulation of knowledge is wildly optimistic and arrogant about the almost endless possibilities of human knowledge….For Gadamer, the best that can be hoped for with experience is not knowledge but insight, insight into the fallibility of human possibilities and their essential limitations. Experience is no more than ‘experience of human finitude.’

…Experience and insight are part of genuine wisdom and it is this that we have lost sight of in the modern world where we are more inclined to speak of the accumulation of knowledge in a so-called ‘knowledge’ society.

…The experienced person proves to be…someone who is radically undogmatic; who, because of the many experiences he has had and the knowledge he has drawn from them, is particularly well equipped to have new experiences and learn from them. The dialectic of experience has its proper fulfillment not in definitive knowledge but in the openness to experience that is made possible by experience itself.


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