Monday, December 21, 2020


Desire for Knowledge

Cicero, On Duties 1.6.18 (tr. Walter Miller):
For we are all attracted and drawn to a zeal for learning and knowing; and we think it glorious to excel therein, while we count it base and immoral to fall into error, to wander from the truth, to be ignorant, to be led astray.

omnes enim trahimur et ducimur ad cognitionis et scientiae cupiditatem, in qua excellere pulchrum putamus, labi autem, errare, nescire, decipi et malum et turpe ducimus.
Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.980a (tr. W.D. Ross):
All men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is our esteem for the senses; for apart from their use we esteem them for their own sake, and most of all the sense of sight. Not only with a view to action, but even when no action is contemplated, we prefer sight, generally speaking, to all the other senses. The reason of this is that of all the senses sight best helps us to know things, and reveals many distinctions.

πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει. σημεῖον δ᾽ ἡ τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἀγάπησις· καὶ γὰρ χωρὶς τῆς χρείας ἀγαπῶνται δι᾽ αὑτάς, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν ἄλλων ἡ διὰ τῶν ὀμμάτων. οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἵνα πράττωμεν ἀλλὰ καὶ μηθὲν μέλλοντες πράττειν τὸ ὁρᾶν αἱρούμεθα ἀντὶ πάντων ὡς εἰπεῖν τῶν ἄλλων. αἴτιον δ᾽ ὅτι μάλιστα ποιεῖ γνωρίζειν ἡμᾶς αὕτη τῶν αἰσθήσεων καὶ πολλὰς δηλοῖ διαφοράς.
Werner Jaeger, Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His Development, tr. Richard Robinson, 2nd ed. (1948; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), pp. 68-69:
Every reader of the Metaphysics has been carried away again and again by the force of its opening pages. Aristotle there develops with irresistible power the view that, far from its being contrary to man's nature to occupy himself with theoretical studies, the pleasure of seeing, of understanding, and of knowing, is rooted deep within him, and merely expresses itself differently at the different levels of his consciousness and culture. It is really the fulfilment of man's higher nature, it is not a mere means to the satisfaction of the rising standards of civilized life, but the highest absolute value and the summit of culture, and of all studies the highest and most desirable is the one that produces the most exact science, and realizes in its perfect form the disinterested vision of pure knowledge. The protreptic power of these ideas will be felt by all who have learnt through experience the supreme value of this activity when pursued for its own sake. Knowledge has never been understood and recommended more purely, more earnestly, or more sublimely, and it is still a dead letter to-day for those who cannot pursue it in this spirit.

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