Falsely Speaking?

Like many of you, I have friends who regularly share quotations, significant dates, or other information they feel is interesting or informative. Being the analytical type, I often investigate those piquing my curiosity.

The one showcased here got my attention because of the term “false knowledge.” At first, it might seem the phrase makes sense. However, it felt a bit oxymoronic to me. After all, the definition of knowledge seems to preclude its use here. So, I did some research.

If one accepts the phrase as written, false knowledge could be anything from a mistaken belief to a bald-faced lie. It could also be the result of fate or chance. For instance, if someone tells you zinc speeds up healing, they probably mean well and are being honest.1

On the other hand, they could be wrong. At least wrong, in your case. Does that make it false knowledge? Possibly, but the truth is the practice of medicine is not an exact science. What helps one person may not help another. If the world has learned nothing else from the COVID pandemic, it should have realized that.

So, what in the world does the quote above mean? For that matter, did George Bernard Shaw share that piece of so-called wisdom? Once again, we are in the gray area of understanding the term.

Shaw did write the phrase above. Or, should I say, he wrote the play in which the thought became public. Or, to be even more precise, Shaw wrote the production in which one of his characters authored the quoted sentence.

The play was subtitled “A comedy and a philosophy.” So, this little piece of so-called wisdom originated in a theatrical work that included numerous amusing and sarcastic quips. Also, as noted above, the definition of false knowledge is far from clear.

So, is this so-called quotation itself false knowledge? Or could it be ignorance on the part of the person first spreading this meme around social media? Either way, it is of little use.

The only way to be somewhat confident that something is false is to be knowledgeable in that area. On the other hand, if you accept something someone says as true when you don’t know anything about the subject, it could make the second part of this so-called quotation true. In that case, an altered version of another misused phrase comes to mind. Ignorance is not always bliss.

1. Does Zinc Accelerate Healing

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