BLOG: We cannot know everything always

By Daniel J. Acevedo, PA-C

There are many versions of the phrase “I know that I know nothing” or “I know one thing: that I know nothing.” Although it is widely debated, this phrase is attributed to Socrates. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates says, “I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”

I am fond of this phrase, but the more I examine the wording, it mostly sounds like boasting. He inevitably says that he is smarter than the other Greek. My favorite version of this phrase comes from Diogenes Laërtius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers: “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”

To not know is okay

Every day in medicine we are utilizing years of acquired knowledge to treat the patients before us. Patients present to us in the clinic or on the hospital wards and we catalog their historical information and examination findings into that 3 lb. organ in our cranium and we assign a diagnosis. This assessment comes from not only countless hours of reading and note taking but from experiences on rotations and working clinically as we practice the art of medicine.


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