By Dom Serafini
Recently, we in the press — at least in our case — have been inundated by studies, analyses, research, predictions, projections, and visions of the future, which, we’re been told, is not going to be what it used to be.
Now, let me turn for a moment to the “nobody knows anything” concept that I’ve discovered has all along been a philosophical notion called “epistemic humility.”
The concept was applied to the entertainment industry by William Goldman (1931-2018), a Hollywood screenwriter (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969; All the President’s Men, 1976), and author of the 1983 book Adventure in the Screen Trade. He summarized it thusly: “Nobody knows anything… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
The tag line Nobody Knows Anything was also used in a comedic 2003 movie.
The Greek word “epistemic” relates to the theory of knowledge, and The New York Times‘ John Williams, in his review of 41-year-old University of Massachusetts professor John Kaag’s new book, Sick Souls, Healthy Minds, explained, “It means that you don’t know it all. And that whatever you do know might be more provisional than you think.”
In all my glorious ignorance, I had to look up the word “provisional,” and it means what I suspected: Temporary.
What is not temporary, but well-established is the concept of epistemic humility, which is attributed to the traditions of German idealism, particularly the work of philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
Kaag brought back the pedestrian “nobody know anything” concept as a philosophical notion. He took inspiration from American philosopher and psychologist William James (1842-1910), who was an expert on epistemology.
Now that I have acquired all this knowledge about the “nobody knows anything” concept, does anybody know how can I use it to make people stop sending us studies, analyses, research, predictions, projections, and visions of the future, which, I’ve been told is not going to be what it used to be?