Jacob BronowskiJacob Bronowski, (1908-1974) Polish-born British mathematician

Jacob Bronowski Quote

“There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility.”

Jacob BronowskiJacob Bronowski
~ Jacob Bronowski

The Ascent of Man, 1973

Ratings and Comments

Trenton Stokes, Simpsonville

Only an omniscient individual could make a statement like that.

Lamb, Rochester, NY

Those that know that they do not know (and cannot possibly know everything) are indeed humbled by that fact. It is those that are SURE that they know that will surely deceive themselves.

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Anonymous    1/28/05

Those that are SURE they can not know are possibly deceiving themselves. Knowledge with certitude—the mind’s firm choice of an alternative without fear of error, due to recognized valid reasons-is attainable. Skeptic"ism" insist that it is certain there can be no certitude. If that is true, then they have demonstrated a certainty and thus refuted themselves. If it is false, then there is certitude.

daigy, milpitas

Absolutism of any kind is dangerous, as is obvious from the current state of the planet. There are things that are true or false; but new information is always apparent and the "truth" is always _provisional_ at best.

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Anonymous    1/29/05

He's just another 70's moral relativist (how passe'), who doesn't acknowledge that there really are some universal truths; there really are just actions; and that there really are rights and wrongs. I suspect most moral relativists believe as they do because they don't want to be obligated to do the right thing. It helps assuage the guilt a bit.

John-Douglas of, Nassau

We have living proof of the truth of Bronowski's words. Just take a look at what has happened in Washington and has involved America in the tragic mess in Irag.

Doug Phippen, Sarnia, Canada

The door to Tragedy has already been opened by such as Cheney, Rumsfeld,and Bush - they seem to think their words are absolute truths no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. But the biggest tragedy is that a majority of American believe them!

Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

Those who don't get this quote have deluded themselves with the self-congratulatory idea that they actually possess the ability to know the universally longed for 'universal truths'. The cure for this delusion is an amount of education equal to their hubris. I'd recommend physics for a start.

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Anonymous    5/4/05

I love this quote. I loved the book. Well, about three years after I was forced to read it, I loved it. I think part of it's appeal comes from one's mind having been opened when reading this book. And when you realize that not everybody thinks this way, you also concurrently realize that you are pretty darn lucky that you do. And to those of you who obviously don't understand this quote enough to realize it's depth and truth, I have another for you, which I say with some sarcasm: "Those who think they know everything are very annoying to us who do."

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Anonymous    3/30/06

Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man

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Anonymous    3/30/06

moral relativism is fun fun fun

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Anonymous    4/16/06

No scientist ever claims absolute knowledge. Science is the search for truth, not the declaration of truth. Religion is the declaration of truth. Jacob Bronowski as a scientist would understand this difference and see the ridiculousness of dogma without proof. He's being really quite generous to include scientists in the mix as if to say... if scientists actually DID claim knowledge, they would be opening the door to tragedy as much as the dogmatic do...

Samuel S Burkholder, Knoxville, Tn

Q: Is he absolutely Sure? Of course there are absolutes. History is absolute. Nature is absolute, everything only reproduces after it's own kind - NO EXCEPTIONS! God is absolute and so is His wonderful word!

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    Anonymous    5/5/09

    In other words, don't be so arrogant as to assume that your views are the only possible answers. Be open minded, tolerant, and accepting, for if your ego exceeds the size to which it's due, all it will end up doing is hurting you. Good advice. Also, part of this means not inflicting your personal beliefs on other people (to a certain extent... I do believe there is an ideal objective morality, but I don't believe it has been discovered yet, and am resigned to the fact that it will probably never be.).

    H. Lira, Munster, IN

    As a rule I make it a habit never to speak in absolutes.

    jim k, Austin, Tx

    All information is imperfect, unless it comes from the mouth of the Omniscient One, Barack Obama.

    J Carlton, Calgary

    The Reverend Al Gore and his Church of Global Warming come immediately to mind. Since the facts work to disprove everything this immoral opportunist has to say...it must be a matter of faith. Most things Socialist are...

    E Archer, NYC

    The truth is ever present, yet most of which is unknown.

    beearr, Utah

    Absolute knowledge is out there. It is humanity that is imperfect and so absolute knowledge is overlooked, misinterpreted, etc.

    King of 23, High Point, NC

    I absolutely think that believing in absolutes is absolutely nuts!

    wow, a
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    wow, a    3/8/13

    Possibly the most self-contradictory and self-refuting statement I've ever heard.

    Mike, Norwalk

    Knowledge as used here is an operation of philosophy. Philosophy might be said to be a study of ideas about knowledge, truth and the meaning of life. Philosophy, by its very nature and definition can never come to an ultimate conclusion. The Greek “epistemology” composes such a philosophical exercise concerning “knowledge”. Epistemology (“episteme” meaning knowledge as being acquitted with or an understanding; and, “logos” meaning an argument by reason and logic) was tackled by such philosophers as Plato to identify how cognitive success / failure compared to interpreted data as is called knowledge. Bronowski’s here hypothesis is a sort of blend of Kant and Russell’s philosophies on the subject.

    Anciently, there was a categorical application / title “equity” that dealt with absolutes. By example: A Rabbinically exercised Hebrew masculine noun מישר “mêšār” (pronounced, mêyshâr or “may-shawr’”) translated into “equity”. Such mesar, had varying uses including a recognition of absolutes - including knowledge, truth, etc. Said Hebrew equity has no resemblance to Greek, Roman, British - or related jurisdictions or the modern woke progressives use of the term. Equitable absolutes were differentiated by that which was iniquitous (again, not equal to the Greek lawlessness - there is no Greek equivalent to the Hebrew equity). Knowledge, as an absolute (being different than a mere data collection or gathered information) could only be had in and by the spirit (no spirit, no absolute knowledge or truth). He who is without the spirit only has interpretive data, information and philosophy to relate to.


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