Home > Human Limits > Quotation of the Day – Albert Jay Nock

Quotation of the Day – Albert Jay Nock

For those unfamiliar with Nock, I say familiarize yourselves forthwith.  Today’s quotation comes from “The Theory of Education in the United States”:

If Socrates had come before the Athenians with some fine new piece of machinery like a protective tariff, workmen’s compensation, old-age pensions, collective ownership of the means of production, or whatnot — if he had told them that what they must do to be saved was simply to install his piece of machinery forthwith, and set it going — no doubt he would have interested a number of people, perhaps enough to put him in office as the standard-bearer of an enlightened and progressive liberalism. When he came before them, however, with nothing to say but “Know thyself,” they found his discourse unsatisfactory, and became impatient with him.

Within the context of education, this indicates the requirement a certain type of pedagogy which builds abstractions on abstractions until practicality is achieved.  However, the excerpt above has far-ranging meaning.

It indicates the limitations of human knowledge, and how dangerous those limitations can be when ignored in favor of pure optimism.  It suggests the dangers of the popular appeal of bad ideas, with all the implications for democracy that entails.  And on a personal level, it illustrates the requirement of deeply personal, individual thought and understanding.

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