Iconoclasts Anonymous

Inane ravings of an irreverent slacker

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” – Goethe

Posted by Jeff on July 28, 2008

OK, so anyone who knows me really well knows that I am a sucker for the Enlightenment. Reading about great minds such as Emanuel Kant, Denis Diderot, Joseph Priestly, Voltaire, John Locke, and even Benjamin Franklin just gets me all atwitter. Hell, I even have a tattoo of the words “Sapere Aude”, which is Latin for dare to know, on my chest! See the picture…

I know, I'm ugly...

I know, I'm ugly...


Ever since getting this I’ve had to explain to everyone what the hell it meant. And when I start talking about Kant and the Enlightenment peoples’ eyes glaze over. Oh well…

Well, thanks to the Carnival of Elitist Bastards #3 on Pharyngula, I had the honor and privilege of reading Dana’s post on the very subject, entitled Sapere Aude!

These days, especially in the US, there seems to be a very vocal anti-Enlightenment mentality dominating our culture. Intolerant religion and totalitarian government are making every effort to re-establish their places at the forefront of out society. Where ARE our philosophes? Who is around to challenge the dogmatism and anti-humanism that is trying to claw its way up from the depths?

I really love Dana’s view on this. Today’s philosophes are the bloggers, and the comments threads are their parlours. This really is a beautiful notion, and I really want to believe that it is so. My only concern, however, is whether it is enough? When everyone has the ability to publish their ideas to the world, then is the value or impact of those ideas diminished? I sure hope not. I’d like to believe that we are on the brink of a New Enlightenment instead of being on the brink of a New Dark Ages like I’ve often suspected.

It seems like for every person willing to take up Kant’s challenge to “Dare to use the power of [their] own understanding,” there are several people who wish to silence that person. Unfortunately, in this country, it’s the oppressors who hold most of the power.

Am i jaded? Cynical? I want to believe that a revolution is coming. Not a political revolution, but a revolution in the way people think and view the world. What would it take for us to re-claim our world?


11 Responses to ““Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” – Goethe”

  1. Gorgeous! Glad I could inspire. And thanks kindly for the lovely words!

    I used to be cynical until I started this blog o’ mine. Then I saw a lot of incredibly smart people uniting. Daring to know. Lighting candles in the dark. And it’s given me hope that a change is indeed coming.

    You just can’t keep a good Elitist Bastard down. 😉

  2. Damn lagging thoughts… forgot to mention, I adore the title to this piece.

    I do hope this means you’ll be sailing with us one o’ these months!

  3. pablo said

    Does anybody know the reference for Goethe’s quote: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” ?


  4. anne said

    I think it’s a beautiful but vain dream – this enlightenment of the masses. They are simply too wed to their self-indulgent fantasies of invisible friends who will forgive any sin and provide eternal bliss. Atheism offers nothing, by definition. Humanism has yet to develop enough of an alternate worldview to attract.

    Anyway I love the tat. I’ve wanted a tattoo for a while but never found just the right image or words. Today I came across this phrase and immediately knew this was what I had been looking for. And how delightful to find that someone else who also loved this phrase enough to use as a tattoo is a fellow atheist.

    Now, as civilization begins its collapse, it is more important than ever to speak out against superstition and myth. Blog on.

  5. Walt said

    “Es ist nicht genug, zu wissen, man muss auch anwenden. Es ist nicht genug, zu wollen, man muss auch tun.” – Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre

    pablo said
    August 24, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Does anybody know the reference for Goethe’s quote: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” ?


  6. Jeff said

    Thanks Walt! That’s great!

  7. K Wise said

    Sapere Aude can also be translated as ‘dare to be wise’ which is our family motto

  8. Boysan said

    Hi there,

    I have “Sapere Aude” tattood on my chest too. Wanted to show you but don’t know how 🙂

    Grtzz… Boysan

  9. Gladson said

    This isn’t a Bruce Lee’s frase??

  10. Alles zu Goethes Iphigenie auf Tauris wie Analyse,Inhaltsangabe und vieles mehr….

    […]“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” – Goethe « Iconoclasts Anonymous[…]…

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