Letters to the Editor

This little nugget of...well...let's just call it a nugget, comes to us from the Bedford Gazette letter to the editor section today. Gotta love my hometown paper:
"It seems wisdom in this country has been replaced with an unhealthy reverence of knowledge. But knowledge is only facts and figures, a tool not the answer"
On the first read, this just makes you cringe, doesn't it? What is wisdom? It seems that maybe in this sense it's synonymous with dogma or, possibly, received tradition, which, in this letter writer's mind, is dichotomously opposed to knowledge. He goes on to say that the US government would do well to heed to the "good counsel" of the Bible, so apparently this is where wisdom lies and knowledge (presumably falsifiable scientific claims) leads us astray of this (or at best acts in an instrumental fashion). After all, knowledge consists of only facts and figures and those can't guide us in our political/moral motives.

Sounds a little scary, "an unhealthy reverence of knowledge," but is there a charitable reading to be made of this? It might be possible to read a Humean insight into what we find here, that one can't derrive an ought from an is. Maybe reason, that which produces demonstrative knowledge, is only instrumental. If that's the case, in some sense, knowledge is only a tool and cannot provide "the answer" to questions of what we ought to do. But even so, can wisdom in the sense of tradition or religious teaching? Certainly not in Hume's view, there the passions rule. It seems we can only put a slight varnish on this claim, but never salvage it completely.

What do you think? Utter nonsese, scary rhetoric, or a diamond of "wisdom" in the rough?


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