A memo and an essay

I just read a short 1999 essay by Ray Monk on the importance and relevance of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on the limits of scientific knowledge and the value of the humanistic knowledge. Especially how the humanities have something important to teach us without necessary recourse to, or justification in, science. Science, this essay argues, doesn’t have a monopoly over knowledge, truth, or the human condition. This is not an attack on science or scientists; only on scientism, one of the narrow, ruling dogmas of the day in many so-called “educational” metrics, policies, and curricula.

I share it out of a personal, educational sense of urgency: I think the essay contains and conveys — regardless of whether one has any interest whatsoever in Wittgenstein, philosophy, or the philosophy of philosophy — a few rich moments of insight into the perennial predicament of being a person in an all-too-often depersonalizing world. A world of human resources, of statistics posing as people.

To “know” that 1+1=2 is NOT the same thing as to “know” that I love my beloved. Right? What kind of knowledge counts as “real knowledge,” as an important and worthwhile form of knowing and being, is a serious question that, I think, we already see and act out in our ordinary, daily lives — but, sadly, not in our professional, institutional ones.  

If you’re still reading this long, preachy message: sorry and thank you; I hope to have piqued your interest; here is the link to the essay itself:


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