Apart from being able to feed yourself and build shelter what's the advantage of knowing anything?
You seem to be assuming that the only things that we desire are very basic needs such as food and
shelter. However most humans have far more complex needs and desires than this. Love,
companionship, wealth power, security etc are all powerful motivators. Knowledge itself is seen as an
intrinsically good thing by many including myself.
True beliefs about the way the world is tend to be of greater value to us than false beliefs in
interacting with the world than false beliefs and therefore help us to satisfy those other desires we
"Food" and "shelter" are nice vague words, aren't they? Now, just what do they mean? What kind of
shelter do you want? You want clothes? What are "clothes"? Animal skins? Ok, how do you kill an
animal and skin it? What do you do to the skin to make it into "clothes"? Let's see... you kill an animal
with... a spear, right? Ok, how do you make a spear? You "cut" a tree... with what? You put a point on
the tree branch... with what? Your teeth? No... a knife? How do you make a "knife"? Well, maybe you
just hit the animal with a club, how about that? Ok... what animal? Where do you find it? Well, let's
say you've found it and hit it... and you just rip the skin off... then what? You just drape the skin, all
bloody and dripping, over yourself? And how long do you think it would take to rot? Whoops, I guess
you have to treat it somehow... now, how do you do that?
Well we haven't even gotten past clothes yet, pretty crude ones, and we're sort of stuck from our lack
of "knowledge", aren't we... I guess we have to learn how to make knives, to tan skins, that sort of
thing, right? Now, once we've learned to make a knife to kill an animal... guess what, we can use it for
otherthings! Like killing people... like cutting wood, if we make it big enough... and gosh, once we cut
some wood, we can make a boat, a house... but to make a boat, we have to do that thing: "learn", you
know... like, how to make a rudder, a mast, maybe even sails... and after all it would be nice to know
how to navigate just a little, wouldn't it? Maybe make a net to catch some fish? But making a net
means learning again... about knots, about making rope... it just never ends, does it. Once you learn
how to make rope, then you can tie all sorts of things, can't you... I mean, a little fish, what's the harm
in that? It makes some variety with all the meat we've been hitting with our clubs, right? Or are we
using knives yet? Oh, by the way, how do we teach all this stuff to our kids... oh oh... we have to
invent "writing"... oh dear, now it really starts, doesn't it.
I guess we also want "food" like vegetables and stuff, right? But that's just more to learn... plowing
requires a plow... now what's that? How do you make one? How do you use one? You want to dig a
hole... but that needs something like a shovel, and we don't even know how to minemetals yet, much
less smeltthem... so I guess we need wooden shovels... now how do you make one of those without
a metal knife? Well you could chip stone into one, I guess... or use a stone knife to make one... how
do you make a stone knife, anyway?
So "feeding yourself" and "building shelter" require enormousamounts of accumulated knowledge, if
you want anything resembling what you're used to. You want to go into the wilderness and live off the
land? Hey, sure, just don't forget where your axe came from... an iron mine, a smelter, a mold, etc...
all requiring extremelysophisticated technology, supported by all sorts of infrastructure, technological
and economic. Those nice warm clothes, woven on a loom from harvested cotton... the loom built
from wood and metal, an accumulation of thousands of years of technology, the cotton grown with
plows... even the sack you stuff the cotton balls into is woven, isn't it. Your leather boots... tell me,
how do you make boots? Bootlaces? Boot soles? What if your boots are synthetic? Oboy. And all that
knowledge can be used for... food, shelter, clothes, transportation. And maybe even a bit of fun now
and then... is that so bad?
But maybe what you want is to live like the Native American Indian... noble and free, right? Well,
noble, anyway... their lives were constrained by unbreakable customs... not what we'd call free. Well,
you couldbreak them... and die. Or get an infection... and die; sick... and die; injured... and die. Or
maybe, if you're very very lucky, do ok until you kill off all the buffalo, the way the Native Americans'
ancestors killed off the mammoths. Yes, they did. And starved, many of them. Well, there's always
the nearest war, instead of TV... good entertainment, slaughtering your neighbors... very highly
thought of in those days. Unless you were the ones getting slaughtered, anyway.
Now where were we... oh yes... the advantage of knowing things beyond "food" and "shelter"... you
mean, like medicine?
Steven Ravett Brown