To learn means to

To learn means to come to know something new, but but a known thing can be new in two ways. The first way is when we learn a new fact, another way is when we come to appreciate more deeply a fact we already knew. In the first way, we might learn that Helena is the Capitol of Montana, the Pythagorean theorem is so-and- so, that Plato believed all knowledge was recollection, or that all knowledge comes to be from the senses. In the second way, we might understand that having a baby changes your life in the way that a parent of a 18 month-old understands it; or we might understand how the Pythagorean theorem proceeds out of the first things of geometry; or we might understand how crime doesn’t pay in the way a cop understands it.

A few observations about these different kinds of knowledge

-The first kind of knowledge can be understood as “extrinsic”, while the second kind has more the character of something known “from the inside”.

-The second kind has more the character of wisdom than the first does, for it is more characterized by depth. It is also a character of knowledge that should characterize what is called science, for science should be ordered to wisdom.

-Some facts are able to be understood more deeply, while others are not. It’s hard to imagine how in can come to a deeper understanding of the fact that Helena is the Capitol of Montana.

-What is needed most often is not a search for new facts, but a deeper appreciation of the things we already know. There is more fruit in a mediation on the truth that all men are created equal than there is in memorizing a thousand different treatises of political theory.

-What is deeper is dependent on what is shallow- a guy can’t come to appreciate the depth of something unless he holds it before himself long enough to peel away the layers it contains. We get these first things by discipleship, and we develop them by meditation.

-Something like this deepening of knowledge is seen in very good books- we value them for one reason when we read them the first time, and we come to see more in them everytime we read them. The opposite of this are books that, when we read them again, we wonder what we ever saw in them.

-One of the saddest traits of human reason is its resistance to discipleship. There’s nothing as depressing as seeing someone about to make exactly the same mistake you once made, and know that it’ll do do good to tell them they should’t do it. It the frustration of the parent who can’t for the life of him get his kid to believe that he has rules for the sake of the kid. It’s one of the many ways we can confront the weakness and deformity of human reason.
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