Saturday, 7 June 2014

Partial Truths and Errors

Following up on my last post, I was thinking today about an incident a couple of evenings ago, when my girl-friend came to pick me up on campus.  “I’m in a little roundabout in front of a construction site,” she said.  Oh, that’s the New SUB, I replied, and headed off for it.

It wasn’t the New SUB, though; it was the Alumni Centre (another new construction).  But not to worry, the two new buildings are right beside each other, so it was easy to find her.

I pondered this later.  Error had led me not astray, but to the right place.  A little learning is a dangerous thing, Pope once said, so perhaps a little error is useful?  I’m not sure that’s what he had in mind; I fear he was one of the devotees of System and warned against partial knowledge in the hopes of bringing people to Full Knowledge, Complete Learning, or whatever.

I certainly agree that a little learning can be dangerous.  I once told this to a class of mine and when they asked for an example thought of my situation arriving in a city where traffic was allowed to turn right on a red light.  Having been raised in a city where red meant stop, period, I suddenly was in a state of partial and thus dangerous knowledge.  I needed to learn that in Toronto cars might be turning on me even when I thought I had the right of way.

So I’m all for fuller knowledge (and not being run over), and I know the dangers of thinking you know before you know, but you can never know all; there are always things to learn; one shouldn’t think there will be a time when your knowledge will be complete.  And sometimes a little error can lead you in the right direction.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with a (non) rebuttal: In BC, a flashing green traffic light means "pedestrian controlled intersection", while in Ontario it signals clearance to make left-turns. Despite this information, my hypothesis is that people who take driving tips from blog commenters remain MORE likely to be in traffic accidents.