Tag Archives: unknown

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?

Meno, from Plato’s dialogue (in Solnit, 2005)

R. Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005)

Oppenheimer: “scientists live always at the ‘edge of mystery’ – the boundary of the unknown. “
Rebecca Solnit, a field guide to getting lost: “scientist transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artist get you out into that dark sea.“

“Let me suggest the beginning toward some resolution of this problem of two cultures by turning to the thoughts of Robert Oppenheimer, one of my most distinguished predecessors as director of the Institute for Advanced Study. Four years before C P Snow’s lecture, Oppenheimer gave a lecture about two cultures; he used the categories of scientist and artist. He concluded that both scientists and artists had become highly specialized, isolated, and to some extent irrelevant to society. And he, like Snow, suggested that both groups expose themselves to other people – both to teach and to learn from those around them. The purpose of this exposure is not to dilute their own efforts, or to take orders from those who do not understand what they are doing. The proper role of scientists and artists, he said, is to “not merely find new truth and communicate it to his fellows, but that he teach, that he try to bring the most honest and intelligible account of new knowledge to all who will try to learn.” This teaching, when successful, is the first set of girders across the gulf between the two cultures. “