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This collection of topics, a brief view of life, could be used to teach an adolescent the basics about life.

Know Nothing

To know nothing is to recognize the unjustified certainty in one's life. No one knows absolute certainty.

Knowledge has been defined as:

facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

In most cases this knowledge is not absolutely certain. One person's experience is probably not the same as another's.
There are cryptic quotes by philosophers about I 'know nothing' such as from Socrates:
'To know is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.'

A Zen master could ask a student a question and if the student answered in the form 'I know<something>' or 'I am <something> he would scold the student. He was looking for the student to respond 'I don't know' because an immediate expression of such certainty was inappropriate.

from a Zen proverb:

'To understand nothing takes time.'

This is just an admission it can take time for one's mental discipline to avoid the arrogance of unjustified certainty.

When someone asserts 'I know something' the statement rather implies certainty.

When someone asserts 'I know nothing' the statement implies the  person's knowledge is not based on certainty.

This concept of absolute certainty has relevance in everyday life. For example, if a person is absolutely certain that an acquaintance did something wrong then the person will be reluctant to consider any evidence the acquaintance is innocent. Having absolute certainty is a condition often called being 'close-minded.'

Knowledge is understanding but not necessarily with certainty. Certainty implies an absolute conviction of the truth.
One can understand gravity but not know the subatomic behaviors underlying the force.

There is little in life known with absolute certainty, like 2+2=4.
It has been asserted proof is the bedrock of modern science. That is not true; proof implies certainty.

Science allows people to understand and interpret what they experience; that is not the same as truth or proof. Mathematics provided a common understanding of numerical relationships.
Chemistry allowed a common understanding of nature, by its definition of the periodic table of the elements  and their nucleus and electron shells, properties, isotopes, and then reactions of elements to make compounds. Biology allowed a common understanding of  the life forms on this planet by describing and defining differences and similarities, via named species, genus, family, etc.
Isaac Newton defined laws of  physics to  enable everyone to agree on the basics  of motion like acceleration, energy (kinetic and potential),  force, gravity,  mass, momentum, velocity, work. These concepts have been verified with experimentation and experience (I worked with large machines with many motors). A person gains an understanding of many things with this foundation in math and science because it is all based on real world learning by actual experience. Society has collective knowledge or wisdom that can be taught. Absolute certainty is elusive. For example our ancestors were certain the earth is the center of the universe. That turned out to be false but it was replaced by the certainty the sun is the center of the universe; that is also not true. Even now what seems certain can be overturned
because results of earlier experiments might have had an incorrect interpretation.

Modern science is much more about interpretation than proof because it deals with concepts beyond hands on experience. Quantum physics is an attempt to understand subatomic particle behaviors though  those proposed particles are too small or vague (or still only theoretical) to actually see with current technology (to verify a theory). Einstein attempted to describe what happens when an observer moves at or near the speed of light, though no one has done that.  Einstein abandoned the recognized force of gravity and tried to replace it with a space time curvature concept that is not as intuitive or as verifiable as Newtonian physics. There is still a debate about his space time concept. Cosmology is an attempt to interpret observations far beyond our experience, beyond our planet to the galaxies.
Space exploration in recent decades has provided much data about the solar system, to be the basis for describing objects in space beyond our reach, to support cosmology.
Modern science continues to seek interpretations and to develop an understanding of new discoveries, many beyond our direct senses. It is difficult if not impossible to establish certainty without verification.

To know nothing is to recognize the uncertainty inherent both in human experience and its interpretations and to accept the natural chaos of life.

Date created Feb. 2019
Last change 02/02/2019

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