All There Is To Know

A little while ago, I wrote about the Know Nothing Principle as a way to circumvent the emotional tension stemming from differences of opinion. But that’s just one altered perspective, which may or may not work for you.

Colin Wright, of Exile Lifestyle:

Other people’s stupid opinions have just as much merit as your own, in that they are opinions backed by individual experience and a closed body of knowledge. Perhaps they – or you – simply haven’t lived long enough yet to see their error of their – or your – ways.

Colin’s idea is equally effective, particularly if you can’t imagine ever freeing yourself from your opinions. As he says in his post, people’s opinions develop as a result of their own experience and a closed body of knowledge. If you’re going to have an opinion, personal experience is a good thing to go by. After all, you can’t just blindly accept as fact something from another source; you have to investigate that thing on your own, and then decide whether to agree or disagree.

But the second clause is even more crucial. If we take “a closed body of knowledge” to mean knowledge limited to one’s own experience, then people’s opinions become much easier to accept. If everyone had the same experience as you, — the same upbringing, values, exposure, etc. — then they would probably have no trouble seeing, if not agreeing with, your point of view. Someone who disagrees with you probably hasn’t seen what you’ve seen, read what you’ve read, or felt what you’ve felt. Of course they disagree.

But at the same time, as Colin says, you likely haven’t shared their personal experience either, which is what lead them to their opinion. Colin suggests that living long enough might give you the time needed to experience or understand their point of view. Eventually, you may actually change your own opinion.

But what if the topic is incredibly complex? What if it’s so multi-faceted that it’s impossible to gain a truly open body of knowledge? That is, a scenario where you’ve read all there is to read, heard all there is to hear, and felt all there is to feel about a given topic, to the point where you are 100% knowledgeable and thus 100% equipped to establish your own opinion.

In my view, such a scenario is impossible, which is why I find it easier to accept that I know nothing. Remember, we’re not talking about literally believing you know nothing; it’s about understanding the very real possibility that your opinion is wrong and subsequently freeing yourself from that fear.

I don’t feel comfortable fighting for an opinion unless I’m completely confident I know all there is to know about the topic, and in my mind, such a state seems unattainable.

You could just accept this impossibility and formulate your opinions based on the portion of total knowledge you’ve absorbed. I think this is what most people do, but without realizing it. By accepting their personal experience as all there is, they become attached to their opinion and closed to anything that challenges it. But if you become aware that you can’t possibly know everything there is to know about something, that your experience is but a fraction of the entire body of knowledge, and thus understand that your opinion is just as susceptible as anyone else’s, you’ll be less afraid of being wrong and less compelled to fearfully defend your idea. This is a way of keeping our opinions in perspective, which in turn allows us to be content with others’ points of view and avoid the negative energy so often associated with differences of opinion.