What We Know—Or Don’t Know

By Greg Baer M.D.

December 11, 2017

In philosophy, science, and business, there has long been a diagram drawn of four quadrants of knowledge, which have been discussed by many a classroom of students. They include:

#1: What we know that we know. I know, for example, that 2+2=4. I also know that I know it, which makes my knowledge all the more useful. We are usually well aware of the things we know.

#2: What we know that we don’t know. I do not know the location of the nearest black hole, and I am also aware of my ignorance. Such “known” ignorance usually does not affect us badly, because if we know that we don’t know these things, we can take steps to learn them or to find people who do. Or we may simply avoid situations where we require no knowledge of such unknown things.

#3: What we don’t know that we know. Sometimes we believe we don’t know a thing, but intuitively we do. A friend once told me that he didn’t know how to paddle a canoe, but once he sat in the bow—with me steering in the stern—he discovered that his innate sense of balance and his ability to pedal a bicycle both contributed to his ability to paddle a canoe.

#4: What we don’t know that we don’t know. I once began a long journey ignorant that my fuel gauge was malfunctioning. This ignorance of my ignorance led to a very long walk to a gas station after unexpectedly running out of gas. There is nothing more dangerous than being certain of that which is not true. In the words of Mark Twain, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

It is this last kind of ignorance that is most dangerous, and which I shall briefly address. I have seen people unhappy in a great number of ways, and often it is because they are certain of the truth of that which is false. If we believe we know the definitions of love and happiness, for example, but the definitions are wrong—which is the case with nearly all of us—we are doomed to pursue delusions of those conditions that are most important. Very few people understand what love is, which makes its acquisition impossible, along with the happiness that accompanies it.

Real Love gives us a working, reliable definition that will allow us to feel loved, to be loving, and to enjoy the happiness we all want.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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