Comments Off on Why?

I've just been reading a fascinating essay by Joseph Epstein, where he takes the view that we have too much information, too much knowledge even, and would be better off with less. I find that view wrongheaded, but have to ask myself why?

After all, what's the point of reading this link or that link to learn more about the situation in Turkey and how it affects the Iraqi war? The details will not really affect the major decisions (invade or not, rebuild or not, UN or US), and even if they do affect the timing, the implementation, or the consequences of those decisions, they won't do so any more or less because I know that Arbil is the largest Kurdish city. Honestly, my life, my getting-up-and-going-to-work life will remain essentially the same whether we go to war or not, much less whether the US has bases in Turkey or not. Yes, my taxes may be affected, but as I don't have a high enough income to pay that much tax anyway, it's a lot of time to spend over something that may mean a few hundred dollars...and once again, if taxes are raised or lowered, it won't be because I know the name of the Turkish Foreign Minister. Yes, it may indirectly affect the services I use, and the library will be closed on Sundays or the bridges not repaired on schedule, but those decisions are not based on my knowledge or ignorance of Central Asia. So why do I do it?

Well, part of it is simply curiousity, of course, and honestly part of it is at root snobbishness, or rather the desire to be "in the know." On the more flattering face, I am helping to make my perception of the universe more complete, but (on the other side) I could do that as well by studying the behaviour of tides and currents. There certainly appears to be a moral issue involved, but it's hard to identify exactly what it is: Am I obliged to study an issue because the national policy on that issue is wrong? That makes no sense to begin with, and furthermore, I don't feel that obligation to study in detail the federal policy on (say) education, which is certainly an important moral issue.

I think the main thing, upon reflection, is that I don't want to be surprised. So I read up, and analyse, and predict possible outcomes, and then I'm surprised anyway.

Thank you,