3.c.3 – What is important to know?

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April 4, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What is important to know?

Being able to determine which knowledge has more value compared to the others is very difficult; human curiosity is based on the following principle: we are curious of everything since everything could be useful, even if we do not know when; it is certainly a valid principle, but sometimes it is necessary to make a selection. All of us know well that in front of a wide variety of alternatives we can have difficulties, due to the number of options, as it often happens when we search something on the Internet; due to the width of available culture, it is therefore necessary to find some selection criteria that highlight what is best learning, what is more urgent or more important and what are the most reliable sources. Considering the importance and the sensitivity of these criteria, we should follow our  personal opinions but we should also make them available to the other people, just like we should do with all our values. Once again it is important the comparison with the others, to weigh more our own reflections that can be then useful to the community, but as usual, it depends on us to take the first step.
From our personal point of view, the biological function of knowledge for survival purposes can be of help to define our criteria: culture and knowledge help to live, therefore the same appear more important when are more useful. The problem then moves on how to evaluate the usefulness of what we know: for this purpose, each of us is already using, even at the same time, several methods: a concept is more useful than another if:
– it is used in a more important activity
– its applications outnumber the others
– it is used by a larger number of people
– it is used more often.
In selecting the necessary knowledge on the basis of these criteria, the cultural elements that concern the cooperation between individuals (for example the language) and the values associated with it as friendship, respect, solidarity and work, are exploited to maximum; we can in fact note that this culture of collaboration is widely used in each human activity, including those most critical to survival: thanks to collaboration we get food, we can keep us warm, dress us, protect us from various hazards, such as illness, bad weather and enemies, etc… The culture of collaboration then appears to be the most important according to each criterion because:
– it is used in the most important activities for survival
– its applications are endless
– it is used by everyone
– it is continuously used every day.
Similarly it is valued what is usually called basic culture i.e. the set of knowledge on which all other specialized knowledge is based: the basic culture is indeed the common heritage, it is used by everyone in every activity and we must then recognize that it is rightly sought to match It with school teachings.
In various degrees, a great importance is recognized to specialized knowledge as well, as it is often used in activities important to the community, but from the point of view of the individual it makes him able to make his work and then becomes crucial to the human survival: knowing the law is useful to everyone, but for a lawyer is essential.
At this point, it is necessary to note that not always our cultural interests are led by the importance of their applications, this seems to be even the exception and not the rule. The interest is driven by subconscious, non rational, mechanisms; each of us feels a sort of attraction, generally known as passion, for a particular discipline, a special topic etc.. Cultural interests are not a conscious choice but the result of an unconscious programming, perhaps innate or dating back to childhood; the above mentioned evaluation criteria should be then considered as a supplement to our natural inclination. If this tilt depends on childhood experiences, we should think of an education tailored to a healthy development of these trends, that does not inhibit but encourages and properly addresses them, giving the opportunity to exploring new possibilities and protect them from prohibitions, obstacles or developments already tested as negative.

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