Accumulation of limits and imperfections

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In summary, we cannot know everything and find ourselves incapable of responding correctly to everything. We will hesitate or undertake the wrong course of action because of our limited perceptions and distorting interpretations of the world, which affect our knowledge. For if we err most of the time it is because we have limited knowledge on how to interact with the world. This limited knowledge means limited understanding, which reduces our ability to act and react as we always should. And, thus, the wrong decisions we make and clumsy actions we undertake due to our limited knowledge (or faulty information that we mistakenly believe to be knowledge) leads us to err.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the more knowledge we obtain the less likely we are to err. For example, an experienced and trained teacher with knowledge in pedagogy is more likely to be a good teacher, than a teacher who has never taught or been taught. However, I employ the word likely for extensive knowledge does not guarantee we will always be right. Often, our emotions, imagination, intuition, and other “filters” mentioned before will not only distort our perceptions of the world, but influence our actions and thoughts despite our knowledge. For example, the CEOs of Enron who lied and manipulated their financial situation knew that what they were doing was wrong and illegal or erring according to the law if you prefer.

Yet, they dismissed this knowledge for their interpretation of reality due to their logic and values (or lack of) influenced their actions by making them believe they could get away with their crimes. Another example, would be Galileo’s trial. Despite his scientific calculations and observations that the sun not the earth was the center of our solar system, the Church and society made Galileo recant his discovery because of their beliefs which dismissed this knowledge. Thus, they erred.

Some may say, however, that we do not err solely because of our limitations, but because there is such a thing as “bad luck,” in other words, outside circumstances that will cause us to err. These exterior forces could range from the actions of other people working around us to a computer meltdown. These externalities would obviously explain the times we have erred despite our accurate knowledge and perception of things.

However, it would be fallacious to consider our errors due to external forces as erring. We can argue that in fact we are not erring when these outside circumstances come into play because we have no control over them, while erring implies control. To err is to make a choice, to take control of ourselves and make a decision. But we have no control over these outside forces that cause us to fail rather than err. For example, a student who is unable to turn in a TOK essay on time because his printer did not work, is not erring. He did not make any wrong decisions. He failed to turn in the essay, not err.

However, if the student does not submit the essay because he did not want to write it, then he is erring. It is true that we err because we have limited knowledge. However, it is not because we have limited knowledge that we automatically err. In the case of the TOK student, he fails to print his essay because he has no knowledge on how to fix printers. He is not erring, though, because he does make the decision not to print his essay because he has no knowledge on how to fix printers.

Thus, we err because of our limited perceptions, imperfect interpretations, and limited knowledge. As a matter of fact, we will always err because it is in our nature to make mistakes and climb out of the abyss of our errors. To not err would mean that we no longer had the innate imperfection that defines us as human. Yet, it is precisely because we attempt to surmount our imperfections and errors, to indefatigably search for the perfection that we lack, that we as imperfect beings have achieved the greatest feats. In short, our imperfections to overcome and without our errors to learn from, reality would be nothing more than a bland fairy tale with a happy ending. And wouldn’t that be imperfect as well?

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