Jacob J. Walker's Blog

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Quote of the Day: “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.”

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The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.

This quote is quite similar to yesterday’s Quote of the Day, and is an idea that is likely to have occurred much further back than any citation that we can find, given that anyone who truly seeks knowledge, must eventually find this truth.

But, I have been able to trace this particular phrasing of the quote back to the Proceedings of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania of 1901.

Although, it is likely that the person there was influenced by Sir Humphry Davy (or someone else influenced by Humphry Davy), who, in his discourse delivered at the Royal Society (30 November 1825) said:

Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown; and in philosophy, the sentiment of the Macedonian hero can never apply, — there are always new worlds to conquer.

Yet, Sir Humprhy Davy might not actually be the originator of the quote about “The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance”, as in 1819, a book entitled Hints on the Sources of Happiness, whose author is only said to be “A Mother” had the following written:

The virtuous are never proud; for the better we are, the more we feel our demerit. The wise are never proud; for the more we know, the more we feel our ignorance. There remain, then, only the vicious and the ignorant to be proud. What is the corollary of this simple logic? Whoever condescends to be proud, tacitly acknowledges inferiority in wisdom and in virtue.

So, in my research on this quote, it is self-evident, that often the more I know about the origins of a quote, the more I know that I don’t know who it actually came from.

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Written by Jacob Walker

October 30th, 2013 at 6:50 am

Posted in Quotes from Others

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