January 28th, 2012
Wayne Booth Synopsis
Over the years, many questions have been asked regarding what pieces of information are necessary for man to know and what pieces are worthless, but as Wayne Booth explains in his essay “Is There Any Knowledge That A Man Must Have?”, some knowledge that “looks trivial in one man’s hands may turn out to be earth-shaking in another’s”. The inability to choose what pieces of information are the most important creates a conundrum for finding an appropriate answer to the previously stated question. Although Booth spends much of his time refuting the conclusions that many men have come to, he finally announces that what a man must know is also what makes a man “fully human”- the knowledge of individual opinions.
After announcing that the three categorizations of humans, being as a machine, as an animal, and as a function created to fulfill society’s needs, are simply not enough to explain what we are created for, Booth draws the conclusion that “men are much more complicated than any other known animals or machines”, and that our basic survival skills are not enough to “navigate the centuries”. He continues to refute the ideas that previous men have provided because he believes that all a man must know to be truly human is how to think for himself, how to form his own opinions, and how to give reasoning for his choices.
His choice in what man must know allows him to discard the idea of being a machine because a machine “can teach only what a machine can learn”, not form opinions and ask questions about the knowledge provided. Also, what motivates a human separates us from animals, because we are not simply driven by “sex or hunger”, but by “more complex drives, like desire for power or for ego-satisfaction.” This simple idea allows Booth to also refute the idea that humans are animals. And finally, Booth uses the analogy of humans being ants, all contributing to a greater society, but he quickly...