Pursuit of Knowledge a Waste of Time? Religio Medici

Thomas Browne wrote this in his work Religio Medici (1643):

“There is yet another conceit that hath made me sometimes shut my books, which tells me it is a vanity to waste our days in the blind pursuit of knowledge; it is but attending a little longer, and we shall enjoy that by instinct and infusion, which we endeavour at here by labour and inquisition. It is better to sit down in a modest ignorance, and rest contented with a natural blessing of our own reasons, than buy the uncertain knowledge of this life with sweat and vexation, which Death gives every fool gratis, and is an accessory of our glorification”[I, 9].

Eternal Duration

“…no matter how precisely we measure the size of the universe, and the speed with which it expands, and how many dimensions we ascribe to it…we will go on banging our heads against the same two limits that the human mind is incapable of crossing. These limits are ‘nothing’ and ‘infinity’. [Cosmologists] will never stop fidgeting between the eternal paradox of the creation of something out of nothing and the idea of eternal duration: the kind of challenge to which our minds, formed as they have been for servicing a finite life, are found to be grossly and sorely unequal, and which all the experience of our senses contradict”

[Quote from the sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman].

The Fragrance of Friendship

Quotes from Chinese classics:

“He who comes with the odour of enmity will invite the clash of weapons. He who comes with the fragrance of friendship will be loved like a brother”.

“Within the four seas all men are brethren”.

Renaissance Men

The historian Eric Hobsbawm (who sadly died recently) has made the point that a number of British scientists of the interwar years, the 1930s and 40s, were very widely knowledgeable across a number of disciplines, including science and the arts. They were “Renaissance men” of the time (do we have any today?). They included J. B. S. Haldane (poetry), Desmond Bernal (lectured on Iranian art), Bronowski (wrote on Blake), C. H. Waddington (had an extra degree in music), Joseph Needham (classics, theology, philosophy, history). Many were leftists in politics (Gary Wersky has described them as the Visible College). Hobsbawm says: “They also tended to combine the imaginations of art and science with endless energy, free love, eccentricity and revolutionary politics” [Fractured Times, 2013, p.185].