From Knowledge to Wisdom

In his book, The Constitution of Liberty, F. A. Hayek wrote that «knowledge exists only as the knowledge of individuals». In this sense, it is also true when he says that «it is not much better than a metaphor to speak of the knowledge of society as a whole. The sum of the knowledge of all the individuals exists nowhere as an integrated whole. The great problem is how we can all profit from this knowledge, which exists only dispersed as the separate, partial, and sometimes conflicting beliefs of all men».

He also explains – according to the Socratic maxim that the recognition of our ignorance is the beginning of wisdom – how civilization is much more a result of a continued experience rather than a theoretical process conceived by human intellect. It is like an open process that no longer can be misconstrued with erroneous intellectualism based on reasoning capacity outside nature and human experience. In other words, the growth of knowledge in our society is not confined to the expert methods of needed information, but more to the non-explicit knowledge dispersed among countless individuals.

Consequently, too many people, believing or following the “empty intellect”, do not even realize that scientific methods and similar ones can no longer satisfy all society’s needs for organized well-being. Besides, several factors can make their own progress, especially those ones concerned with the human adaptations to environment in which historical and spiritual experience have been incorporated. In most cases, tradition itself is a more powerful factor regarding the spirit of one nation or country, without which the successive generations can no longer integrate the cultural heritage into the pursuit of noble and civilized ends.

Moreover, knowledge is not wisdom. The first one is a process of accumulation in what concerns cultural and scientific information. The second one is a personal creation, a discovery process coming from a singular human being. It might even be said that the very division of knowledge increases the necessary ignorance about spiritual human nature, or even that new intellectual obstacles can emerge and bound a better comprehension of the world around us.

No man, even with the greatest knowledge he could obtain or accumulate, would be capable of direct control of individual efforts to achieve particular things and happiness in life. Even the wisest ruler could not be able of such a thing without creating a stagnant society in which all individuals would be conditioned by a restricted freedom. However, it is always better for all that some should be free than none, especially when historical and philosophical reasons can prove that it is possible to unfree societies to benefit from what they obtain and learn from free societies.

In Portugal, for instance, freedom is just a nominal and formal expression. More specifically, freedom of speech and discussion is only an empty promise, largely worthless, because intellectual liberty is not practiced in school and university institutions. The main reason relies on a superficial or repeated intellectualism, scientifically false and secularly limited by ecclesiastic heritage respecting censorship of cultural information.

In some way, socialism is now conducting a new form of censorship based on intellectual control, a more subtle process early promoted by Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party. The objective, therefore, is to substitute revolutionary proletarians by “intellectual workers” regarding an official socialist propaganda based on Marxist culture. This non-explicit process, firstly suggested by university teachers to higher school and primary teachers, secondly by the students themselfs, has, finally, decayed in Stat omnipotence, denial of liberty, property abolition and priority of will.

To every socialist agent, directly or indirectly conscious of what he really represents in the New World Order, the category of modality, implied in Aristotle’s thought, does not make any minimal difference. In fact, too many intellectuals in Portugal are still conceiving the principle of freedom as an absolute value, on one hand well affirmative, and on the other purely transcendental. To them it can only be one or a unique way, without any concession to human limitations or even to the possibility of making real some social, political and jurisprudential aspects that might elapse from freedom’s principle.

Curiously, the absolute sense concerning freedom can be found in theological, catholic and medieval tradition, later reflected in modern and secular humanism. Among the Portuguese, this type of transition began to occur in the eighteen century, especially due to José Sebastião de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal, who himself, as a despotic Minister of D. José I, expelled the Jesuit Order from Portugal (1759), and, with it, the neo-scholastic system based on the Aristotelian tradition. In short, the new rhetoric of liberty, in its rationalist, anti-theological and anti-religious character, became immediately a desperate pragmatism where freedom was supposed to be for all or, simply, for none.

Another case can be, contextually speaking, found in Japan after the Second World War, namely in what respects the proper reconstruction based on America’s democracy model. For the record, we must remind ourselves that the Allied Powers for the Occupation and Control of Japan were confronted with an ancient culture where the Emperor himself was traditionally considered “a living god”. So, basically, Hirohito was forced to renounce to his divine ascendency at the same time Japan’s modernization took place through the following aspects: a new Constitution in which, according to article 9, the right of belligerency was fully denied; decentralization of political power; religion and State separation; equal and liberal education; a free syndical movement; women liberation; sex equality; free elections; independent judicial power; abolition of noble titles; political, military and economic sanitation and so on.

This was, certainly, the initial plan to set, through democracy and human rights, the necessary reconstruction of Japan after the Second World War. But some Americans soon understood that democracy and human rights could not simply be applied into Japan’s spiritual culture once and for all. Apart from that, a new factor arose: the communist peril.

General MacArthur was one of the first Americans to fully understand this peculiar process, just because he knew how important it was to keep the Imperial Institution as a way of symbolizing the unity of the Japanese nation. Otherwise, the Occupation could be not only interpreted as an American imposition, but also because the communist peril, represented by China, Korea and the Soviet Union, was a real threat for the Free World, including Japan’s new reconstruction. In some way, General MacArthur was indeed the great “saver” of Hirohito, who was also, in turn, undoubtedly an enemy of any form of anarchy and communism.

With the beginning of the Korean War, in 1950, it is interesting to see how America’s administration of Japan took another direction regarding the previous procedures facing social, political and economical aspects, as, for example, a more flexible antitrust legislation against monopolistic companies (Zaibatsu), or a more restrictive legislation to prevent the industrial downfall caused by strikes and syndical movements. In fact, Japan´s economy practically increased during the Korean War, recuperating, by the end of it, in 1953, the production levels as they were before the Pacific War (1941-45).

Morihei-Ueshiba-foto-4In terms of material development, the Japanese people have without doubt won in preventing the communist peril, by becoming one of the great world economical powers. But spiritually, the Japanese people are still wondering how to combine their ancient culture with the materialistic world of the present day. One man, the highest symbol of Japan’s modern culture, Morihei Ueshiba, appeared, instead, as a mysterious force that had effectively the wisdom to preserve, in a new form of light, the union between Heaven and Earth by practicing the heritage fighting skills coming from Budo.

O’Sensei is the Founder of Aikido, “the harmony way of the Spirit”. During the Second World War, Master Ueshiba went to Iwama, a sacred place localized in the Prefecture of Ibaraki, in north-east Tokyo. Once there, he preserved the spiritual tradition of the former Aiki-bujutsu, saving the future of Aikido fromButokukai, the national school for all martial arts, otherwise created in 1897 by the Japanese government.

After the Second World War, he trained many people coming from all planet points, including American Army soldiers. O’Sensei, like no other men in Japan or in any part of the world, could really master the Ki, a vital force containing all beings, forms and creatures in the universe. In spiritual terms, he could also touch without being touched. But, of course, that process was a longue and a profound result of his daily practice in the presence of the Japanese gods, on whom O’Sensei entirely depended, on his way to wisdom.

19Miguel Bruno Duarte is a Fellow in Philosophy and Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. Translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

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