While searching through the seemingly infinite list of phobias, some commonly known and others extraordinarily obscure, I stumbled across epistemophobia. Essentially, this is the fear of knowledge.
Strange that anyone would be afraid of knowledge, right? Or is it?
We live in a world of broad and varied beliefs. Some are religious, dealing with the complexities of the soul and cosmology, while others deal with history, science, the nature of the mind, facts, reasoning, whatever.
Knowledge is knowing. If one possesses knowledge, we must consider them knowledgable. But what if their knowledge is flawed or wrong? What if their knowledge is a product of their bias and not of observable or commonly accepted fact? Obviously, knowledge can be subjective and, as such, cannot be reasonably called definite in every situation.
Knowledge, in some form or another, has resulted in some of the most horrific tragedies and terrors in the history of mankind. How much knowledge of religion has caused bloodshed in the form of religious violence and war? How much flawed knowledge has accounted for the assumption of guilt in innocent people or countries? How much knowledge has broken apart families, friendships and lovers?
We are all well aware of the so-called Socratic Paradox: “I know that I know nothing.” A similar maxim is attributed to Confucius: “true wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.” The difference here being that Socrates posited knowledge is being in a state of acknowledged ignorance whereas his Chinese counterpart suggested that one could know that which is unknown. The latter seems a little harder to get the head around.
The point of all this being: knowledge is both beguiling and problematic. We are drawn to it in an effort to seem equipped with a greater sense of acumen and erudition but, bearing such, are actively laying hold to something that may utterly change or transform based on an evolving perception of reality. The Cartesian model of I think therefore I am does not presuppose any confirmed knowledge. Thinking is the primary activity necessary to validate it. Knowledge, if you’ll begrudge me a clumsy metaphor, is the train station at the end of the line while the tracks and the movement of the train is the activity of thought.
The popular axiom knowledge is power is perhaps correct but not all power is good and power often corrupts.
The scientist, philosopher and skeptic will tell you that knowledge is the process of thinking, investigating and proving. Beyond that, however, knowledge is still dependent on further discovery and analysis. There is intellectual flexibility here. The danger is when our knowledge is inflexible. That’s when epistemophobia seems to be, arguably, a justifiable affliction to have.