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Knowing takes work

Knowing takes work May 19, 2015

From John Henry Newman:

The mind ranges to and fro, and spreads out and advances forward with a quickness which has become a proverb, and a subtlety and versatility which baffle investigation. It passes on from point to point, gaining one by some indication; another by probability; then availing itself of an association; then falling back upon some received law; next seizing on some inward instinct, or some obscure memory; and thus it makes progress not unlike a clamberer on a steep cliff, who, by quick eye, prompt hand, and firm foot, ascends, how, he knows not how himself, by personal endowments and by practice, rather than by rule, leaving no track behind him, and unable to teach another. It is not too much to say that the stepping by which great geniuses scale the mountain of truth is as unsafe and precarious to men in general as the ascent of a skillful mountaineer up a literal crag. It is a way which they alone can take; and its justification lies alone in their success. And such mainly is the way in which all men, gifted or not gifted, commonly reason — not by rule, but by an inward faculty. Reasoning, then, or the exercise of reason, is a living, spontaneous energy within us, not an art.

From “Implicit and Explicit Reason,” Sermon 13 in Fifteen Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998).

One key takeaway: do not trust those who suggest that a form of knowing is not possible; it is like saying that a certain route up a mountain is not possible. Perhaps if you take that route, you will find people there that have been enjoying themselves there for quite some time.

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