Data And Wisdom

What Coleridge Thought
Owen Barfield

“Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”

Data doesn’t explain anything. Take energy as an example. Science does a terrific job of describing many aspects of energy and even builds predictability models around its attributes which are close enough to demonstrate repeatability. None of that truly defines energy’s essence, its meaning. The more we learn about creation, the more fragmented and compartmentalized our understanding devolves.  We possess vast data about the universe, but we have lost context in reductionism.

Data leads to information, and assembled information contributes to knowledge, but knowledge and wisdom are only distantly acquainted.

In Mariner, Malcolm Guite wrote:

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem of resistance: it prophesies the consequences of this loss of sacral vision, but it also prophesies a recovery of vision. That recovery is, I think, beginning in our midst, in these opening decades of the twenty-first century. The reductive Enlightenment modernist project is disintegrating all around us, and although it is not yet clear what will replace it, Coleridge, especially in this part of the poem which speaks so tellingly of our present condition, points to some exciting possibilities.

Is humanity becoming wiser?






Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief


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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life