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The More You Learn, The Less You Know

Daily Stoic Emails

It’s wonderful that you are so committed to this philosophy that you get these emails, and you have read these books. You probably know more about Stoicism than most people alive, and probably more than most people who have ever lived (being that most people knew nothing). You certainly know more today than you did yesterday or a year ago. 

Good for you. 

But that also means you should be familiar with who the Stoics admired most: Socrates. The man who knew how little he actually knew. The man who was far more interested in asking questions than assuming he knew the answer. It wasn’t that Socrates wasn’t smart, or wasn’t well versed in philosophy. It’s precisely because he was so wise, he knew how much there was left to learn. 

“The more we think we know about,” goes the lyric from the Rush song, “the greater the unknown.” Or, as they say in physics: As your island of knowledge increases, so does the shoreline of ignorance. Philosophy and physics are similar in that way. The more you’re exposed to, the more immense the picture becomes, the more impossible it is to ever fully comprehend all of it. 

We can’t learn that which we think we already know, Epictetus reminds us. We must always keep our minds open. We must not be prideful at how far we have come. We should be humbled by the distance that looms in front of us. So we must never think that we have arrived, only that we remain on a journey to which there is no end. 

Keep learning. Keep asking.

P.S. This was originally sent on April 30, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.