The Insufficiency of our Knowledge of the World

Even with the corrective action of the reason, the mechanisms used to cognise and understand the world are weak, insufficient and flawed. Sri Aurobindo discusses the issues involved: “Our world-knowledge is therefore a difficult structure made up of the imperfect documentation of the sense-image, an intuitional interpretation of it by perceptive mind, life-mind and sense-mind, and a supplementary filling up, correction, addition of supplementary knowledge, co-ordination, by the reason. Even so our knowledge of the world we live in is narrow and imperfect, our interpretations of its significances doubtful: imagination, speculation, reflection, impartial weighing and reasoning, inference, measurement, testing, a further correction and amplification of sense evidence by Science,–all this apparatus had to be called in to complete the incompleteness. After all that the result still remains a half-certain, half-dubious accumulation of acquired indirect knowledge, a mass of significant images and ideative representations, abstract thought-counters, hypotheses, theories, generalisations, but also with all that a mass of doubts and a never-ending debate and inquiry.”

Sri Aurobindo goes on to point out that as we have developed these various faculties and the partial understanding that comes with them, we have gained various powers of action in the world, even as we continue to not understand the role and proper use of power. We can see the results of the misuse of these powers in the incredible destruction that we cause to the planet, the eco-sphere, through our one-sided application of knowledge without it being comprehensive, global and balanced to look at all aspects and unintended consequences.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 10, Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge, pg. 529

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