Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Doing vs. Knowing

William Barrett, in his book Irrational Man explains that one of the most fundamental differences between the Western, Hellenistic mind and the Hebrew mind is found in the area of knowing vs. doing.

Says Barrett, "The distinction…arises from the difference between doing and knowing. The Hebrew is concerned with practice, the Greek with knowledge. Right conduct is the ultimate concern of the Hebrew, right thinking that of the Greek. Duty and strictness of conscience are the paramount things in life for the Hebrew; for the Greek, the spontaneous and luminous play of the intelligence.

The Hebrew thus extols the moral virtues as the substance and meaning of life; the Greek subordinates them to the intellectual virtues…the contrast is between practice and theory, between the moral man and the theoretical or intellectual man."


  1. This is a brilliant idea to ponder! Reminds me of when President Kimball (I think) told the author of "I am a Child of God" to change one line from "teach me all that I must know" to "teach me all that I must DO!" James hit this one hard: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" and "Thou believest that there is one God; thou does well: the devils also believe and tremble." (James 1:22 and 2:19) I love Barrett's quote! It's a keeper for sure. Thanks Donna, you amaze me!

  2. Oops. Thou doest well!