Sunday, August 29, 2010

Locke and Key

This is the final installment of a brief 4-part miniseries. If you haven't read Parts 1, 2 & 3, this one might make more sense if you did.

In Part 3, I looked at the concept of improving perfection in terms of tangible property. In this post, I'm going to address the same general theme in terms of intangible things such as ideas and thoughts.

One of the first aspects we need to look at in regards to knowledge is whether or not there is such a creature as NEW knowledge. I am of the opinion that all of the knowledge in the vast cosmos has always been with us. Therefore, nothing in the realm of thought is new. While it may APPEAR new to a person who has never thought of something before, it is timeless information, notwithstanding.

From this standpoint then, not unlike tangible things, all knowledge is perfect. It is what it is and all that it ever needs to be. So, it begs the question I asked before: How can we humans make something that is perfect MORE perfect?

Also, as with the previous post, we can't improve on perfect knowledge; all we can do is alter our perception of it. While there is no question that we CAN improve on our understanding, this understanding doesn't change the perfect nature of that which we seek to comprehend.

If we return to Locke's formulation, that to make improvements upon raw material is what leads it to be considered property, we find ourselves with the same dilemma as before. If we can't improve knowledge, then how can anyone own it?

I suppose it could be argued that all we own are the alterations of knowledge. However, from my vantage point, such an explanation still is problematic. Any idea or conception that you and I can think up is built upon the foundation of the ideas and conceptions of others, both dead and alive. The words that I'm typing right now are not pulled out of thin air. Each one has been used countless times before.

Not only has each individual word been written or uttered before, but the language, grammar, syntax and spelling rules are not original either. Even if no other person has ever put forth the point I'm trying to make right now, it is still built upon the edifice of previous theories and ideas. So, how can I claim exclusive ownership to any of it?

All in all, the concept of property is a human illusion. What we claim as our own belongs to the cosmos. We hold exclusive title to nothing.

1 comment:

  1. But for Locke, we could only approximate certain abstract ideas, like infinity, since we would never have experienced such things. I used to feel this way, but I feel more towards what you expressed in your post - that it is all "out there," to be seized or ignored (hence our "ignorance"). And so as to the question you raised, it is only We who are improved, with any hope, not the knowledge itself. Thanks for the thoughtful post.


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