Throughout history, great philosophers and leaders have debated every aspect of humanity, including the merits and sources of power, happiness and freedom.
For some, they considered knowledge and learning as essential for human endeavour.
Here are 8 of the best quotes about knowledge.
This saying is taken from Plato’s account of Socrates, the Greek philosopher. It has become known as the the Socratic paradox.
It is also connected with a question Socrates posed to the Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, which replied something along the lines of ‘Socrates is the wisest’.
A pupil of Socrates, Plato was a pivotal figure of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy. He was the founder of the Platonist school of thought, and his followers such as Plotinus and Porphyry were influential for St Augustine’s ideas surrounding Christianity.
Plato’s importance to Western religion and spirituality was noted by Alfred North Whitehead:
the safest general characterisation of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
3. Norman Cousins
Cousins was an American political journalist, author, professor and world peace advocate.
He spent his life advocating liberal causes, such as nuclear disarmament. In the 1960s, he began the American-Soviet Dartmouth Conferences, a forum where leading American and Soviet non-government thinkers could gather to discuss peace initiatives.
He also facilitated communications between the Holy See, the Kremlin and the White House, which would lead to the Soviet-American test ban treaty.
Maimonides (1135-1204) was a Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most important Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He lived during Spain’s ‘Golden Age’, in the 12th century, where Jews and Christians lived in peace together under Muslim rule.
He wrote 3 major essays on Jewish law, the most famous being ‘The Guide for the Perplexed’.
5. Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a major figure in the American Enlightenment. He earned the title of ‘The First American’ for his endless campaigning for colonial unity, and acted as the first United States Ambassador for France.
For Walter Isaacson, Franklin was:
the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.
Horace, whose real name was Quintus Horatius Flaccus, lived from 65 – 8 BC. He was the leading Roman poet in the time of Augustus, and as such, his career coincided with Rome’s change from a republic to an empire.
The rhetorician, Quintilian, described Horace’s work:
He can be lofty sometimes, yet he is also full of charm and grace, versatile in his figures, and felicitously daring in his choice of words.
Confucius was a Chinese philosopher born in 551 BC. His five virtues were:
- Ren, benevolence, charity, and humanity
- Yi, honesty and uprightness
- Zhi, knowledge
- Xin, faithfulness and integrity
- Li, correct behaviour – propriety, good manners, politeness, ceremony, worship
8. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking was one of Britain’s most important scientists of the modern day. He served as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009, a post held by Isaac Newton.
Hawking expressed a number of concerns about the modern world, questioning whether artificial intelligence might spell the end of the human race. In 2006, he posed an open question on the Internet:
In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?
Concerns included sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, global warming and other dangers humans have not yet thought of. He stated:
I regard it as almost inevitable that either a nuclear confrontation or environmental catastrophe will cripple the Earth at some point in the next 1,000 years.
He also considered an ‘asteroid collision’ to be the biggest threat to the planet. He suggested the extinction of the human race could be avoided if colonisation in other parts of space were successful.