Knowledge vs Knowingness

Lead and Gold excerpted a very interesting article by Michael Kelly, the Atlantic editor who was killed during the early days of the Iraq war. In the article, published in February of 2002, Kelly draws a distinction between knowledge and knowingness;:

Knowingness, of course, is not knowledge—indeed, is the rebuttal of knowledge. Knowledge was what squares had, or thought they had, and they thought that it was the secret of life. Knowingness is a celebration of the conceit that what the squares knew, or thought they knew, was worthless.

(go read the entire excerpt)

It strikes me that many trends in today’s society–especially in academia but by no means limited to it–are at least partly about enabling the attitude of knowingness.

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One of Those Things We Forget About the 50’s & 60’s

When I was young, mental hospitals sprinkled the countryside. My parents read Freud in hypochondriac mode and neuroses were part of growing up – indeed, nurtured in certain groups (say among drama majors & yes, creative writers). I don’t know what percentage of the population was housed on those wards, but considerably more than today.

Update: Jonathan Kellerman, a man who went through med school as these changes were taking place, describes the arguments for de-institutionalization by doctors & ideologues such as R. D. Laing and Thomas Szasz. That in this case even those of us on this blog, non-experts, could see the problem indicates how extreme are the problems in contemporary treatment. As Kellerman notes

That is not to say that anyone who pens violence-laden poetry or lets slip the occasional hostile remark should be protectively incarcerated. But when the level of threat rises to college freshmen and faculty prophesying accurately, perhaps we should err on the side of public safety rather than protect individual liberty at all costs.

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O-5 and the Peter Principle

Frequent commenter Tatyana and I have a friendly disagreement. She thinks Putin’s a putz. I don’t. Basically, Putin was a mid-level manager of spies in the KGB. A light colonel. An O-5. I do not find that much of a condemnation, although one could argue that someone who could not rise in their own hierarchy is incompetent.

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Syncopated Rhythms

Way back in college I read this ranting essay written in the 1920s by a conservative preacher, warning of the dangers that the “syncopated rhythms” of Jazz poised to society’s moral fiber. The preacher warned that the inherent sensualism of Jazz would lead to a culture of sexual promiscuity, weakened families and associated social problems. As my professors expected me to, I chortled at the preacher’s fevered concerns. Only years later did a realization strike me:

Our culture did in fact evolve just the way the preacher predicted.

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