“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein. I have chosen this quote by Albert Einstein as a basis for my essay. Primarily because this quote/statement attracted me most out of all the available options because it is by Albert Einstein, who was very popular and well-known, therefore it seems interesting to me to know a little more about what he thought and to analyze this statement.
Also, I cannot understand how images can be more important than knowledge; when I analyze this statement and write about it, I will be able to understand why Einstein said this. Another important reason for this choice was because I could instantly come up with a problem of knowledge in this statement when I looked up the full quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Namely, whether there is a limitation to knowledge and why we need to know that Imagination is more important than knowledge.
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First of all, I will explain what I think the definitions of Imagination and knowledge in this context are because it is essential to know what exactly I mean when I talk about ‘imagination’ or ‘knowledge.’ Mainly, I believe there are different definitions forms of Imagination and knowledge. Next, I will look at some of the knowledge issues that I could find in this statement and discuss them. After that, I will investigate this statement and decide whether or not I agree with it. To support my investigation, I will also give some arguments in favour of and against this statement. In the end, I will pick a side (to agree or disagree) and motivate my choice.
Imagination and knowledge are both words that have many different definitions; for instance, the Collins English Dictionary alone already gives four different definitions: Imagination
- the act or power of forming mental images of what is not present; the act or power of creating mental images of what has never been experienced, or of creating new images or ideas by combining previous experiences; creative power
- anything imagined; mental image; creation of the mind; fancy
- a foolish notion; empty fancy
- the ability to understand and appreciate imaginative creations of others, esp. works of art and literature
- resourcefulness in dealing with new or unusual experiences
In this essay, I mean the following by Imagination and knowledge:
- Imagination is the faculty or action of forming new ideas, images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses – it means that when you imagine, you are thinking of something new. Imagination is a production of our memory and enables us to analyze our past and construct hypothetical future scenarios that do not yet but could exist.
- Knowledge is specific information about something and familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study.
Now that I have defined these words, I will look at the knowledge issues in this statement. The first one: Is there a limit to knowledge, or can knowledge be limited? I think that knowledge can be limited. This is because knowledge is simply content or information. You can only know as much as you can understand, and there are some things that we will never be able to understand. For example, we know that there is gravity, and we can understand that it pulls everything towards the earth. However, we do not know how it works; we cannot understand that. Furthermore, knowledge is restricted by what we can prove physically. Imagination, on the other hand, has no such limitations and is therefore unlimited.
But is it essential for us to know that Imagination is more important than knowledge? I think it is because if we were to think that knowledge is more critical than Imagination, our world would become limited. In that case, all we might do is study whole books and try to memorize all of their contents. If this were to happen, we would not be able to progress, just like our ancestors did thousands of years ago. We would also lose our ability to adjust to the world around us. For example, we would not be able to think of any solutions to global warming and other problems caused by our exploitation of the earth, finally using up our resources and leading to extinction!
Moving on to my position regarding this statement, my first thought when I read this quote by Albert Einstein was: “How could you possibly believe this? Knowledge is much more important than Imagination! If we did not possess the knowledge we have, how could our society function?” For instance, how could humankind survive if we would not know that hot things could hurt us? That kind of knowledge is essential for human survival; we would be in big trouble without it. There are lots of other examples of why knowledge is more critical than Imagination:
Imagine a world where we would not know how to read and write—a world where everyone would be illiterate. Communication would be much more complex, and there would be many more miscommunications between people. All information would have to be transferred by passing from person to person by oral communication. The distinction between gossip and factual information in a world where word of mouth communication is the only communication would be impossible to make—leading to global uncertainty. But professional knowledge can also be considered more critical than Imagination.
The knowledge has been acquired through years and years of experience by several generations of work. Think of professions that play an essential role in our society, like therapeutics. Without the knowledge acquired over several centuries, our lives would be completely different. However, when I thought about the importance of Imagination and the role that it has played in the history of humanity, I could see why Albert Einstein made this statement. Whereas knowledge may be of great importance for the way we live, Imagination is the basis for why we exist and how we got the knowledge that we built our society on.
Imagine a world where our ancestors, the homo Erectus, would have never thought (or imagined) of using tools and sharp objects for hunting other animals. Instead, they would have stayed herbivores, struggling to meet their energy requirements, causing their brains not to grow appropriately because bigger brains need more energy. But not only that, remaining herbivorous would mean that they would have to make risky journeys far away from safety to find their meagre energy source. On top of that, they might have to spend more energy travelling to find their food than they would get from the food. Meaning they would get stuck in a downward spiral leading to extinction. So if our ancestors did not have the Imagination to start hunting for a living, we would probably have never existed.
In conclusion, I must say that I agree with this statement and that I think that Imagination is more important than knowledge, for if we had no imagination, we would not be able to progress as a kind. Also, most knowledge is a by-product of our Imagination. Therefore, Imagination does not necessarily lead to knowledge, but it can lead to knowledge by instigating one to explore things not yet known by humankind.