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In the "real world," economists are not rich, political scientists are not successful politicians, and so on. My question is: is there some limitation on success imposed by knowledge (in philosophy) for real situations/the "real world"? I.e. are philosophers as unsuccessful at knowing direct, "real" things, despite indirectly knowing what knowledge in general is (supposing they do know this somehow!), as the average (even nobel laureates) economist is unsuccessful at applying their knowledge to become actually rich?

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    What does it mean? Applying the analogy with economists that are not rich, are you asking about ignorant scientists? Oct 28, 2023 at 8:51
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    luck and favour may have something to say about this
    – user67675
    Oct 28, 2023 at 8:57
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    Great question. Voted to reopen.
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 28, 2023 at 22:01
  • "The race goes not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong."
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 28, 2023 at 22:19
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    "The Unreasonable Ineffectiveness of Intelligence" - "If you're so smart, why ain't ya rich?"
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 28, 2023 at 22:39

3 Answers 3

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No, a wealth of theoretical knowledge does not generally impose a limit on practical achievements in related fields.

Theoretical knowledge and practical achievement need not be related at all. For example, I can have 20/20 vision while knowing nothing about the working of the eye. An extended knowledge of musical theory will do nothing for my dire singing. Etc etc.

What might lead to the kind of inverse correlation you have mentioned is the fact that one's achievements depend in part on motivation and focus. If you devote all your time to developing your knowledge of a particular field of study, you will have none to devote to practical success, and vice versa.

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  • Also, people sometimes have multiple objectives to 'satisfice' (that's a real word). I could have earned more, if I was willing to move to a much larger city, accept more work hours and pressure, etc.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 29, 2023 at 12:28
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    @ScottRowe indeed, that is an excellent point and I am appalled that I failed to consider it in my over hasty answer! Oct 29, 2023 at 12:35
  • Maybe you had other concerns at the time :-)
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 29, 2023 at 13:05
  • If you you devote all your time to developing your knowledge of a particular field of study don't you think you have advantage over others say like predictions or visualizing the result
    – quanity
    Oct 29, 2023 at 18:16
  • Maybe, but such an advantage is irrelevant if you never get round to exploiting it. Oct 29, 2023 at 19:53
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What I sense in this Question is something like:

Is it possible to have knowledge that is always effective?

Followed soon after by:

How do I get this knowledge?

In fact, this is pretty much what everyone and probably many animals, across time and place, have wondered. I asked this question of my Philosophy professor when I was in college, lo, these many years ago. The conversation went something like this:

Me: How can I tell Truth from False Belief?
Prof: Truth is true and a False Belief is false.
Me: So how can I tell the difference?
Prof: By the results.
Me: But how can I tell in advance?
Prof: You can't.

And those two words ended my study of Philosophy and my belief in effective knowledge in advance. There was no point if Philosophy just meant experimenting. I already knew how to do that.

Summary: no one has a crystal ball, and we're all human. I wish you success.

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    It sounds like your professor was a pragmatist. A pretty niche view in the philosophy world. It struggles as a view with the status of mathematics, where it certainly seems that we find hidden implications of axioms, that are not simply pragmatically true. Regardless, a host of tools can help us towards making wise decisions about what we think is true, & I would argue philosophy is exactly the study of that.
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 29, 2023 at 18:28
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    @CriglCragl thank you for the insights. A charitable interpretation is that perhaps he was just trying to kill off a false belief I had right away. But it was unreasonably effective in my case.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 29, 2023 at 19:45
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If success is defined as wealth and power, then gangsters, corrupt politicians, corrupt lawyers, and fraudsters are right up there. They are also at the bottom of the moral universe. As for knowledge, success requires successful application of knowledge. Cunning pays, not academic knowledge.

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  • Don't we need knowledge also to become articulated cunning man.
    – quanity
    Nov 13, 2023 at 7:07

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