Socrates, then, the elder, thought the knowledge of virtue to be the end, and used to inquire what is justice, what bravery and each of the parts of virtue; and his conduct was reasonable, for he thought that all the virtues are kinds of knowledge, so that to know justice and to be just came simultaneously; for the moment we have learnt geometry and architecture, we are architects and geometricians; therefore he inquired what virtue is, but not how and from what sources it arises. This is correct with regard to theoretical sciences, for there is no other part of astronomy or physics or geometry except to knowing and contemplating the nature of the things that are the subjects of those sciences; although it is true that they may quite possibly be useful to us incidentally for many of our necessary requirements. But the end of the productive sciences is something different from science and knowledge, for example the end of medicine is health and that of political science ordered government, or something of that sort, different from mere knowledge of the science. Now to know anything that is noble is itself noble; but regarding goodness, at least, it is not to know what it is, but to know out of what it arises is most precious. For our aim is not to know what bravery is but to be brave, not to know what justice is but to be just, in the same way as we want to be healthy rather than to know what being in health is, and to have our body in good condition rather than to know what good bodily condition is.
Aristotle – Eudemian Ethics 1:5 1216b2-1216b25
I have now come to the end of what I had to say upon this case. There remain two problems, of the many that it raised, which seem to me to deserve special emphasis. The first relates to the phylogenetically inherited schemata, which, like the categories of philosophy, are concerned with the business of “placing” the impressions derived from actual experience. I am inclined to take the view that they are precipitates from the history of human civilization. The Oedipus complex, which comprises a child’s relation to its parents, is one of them – is, in fact, the best known member of the class. Wherever experiences fail to fit in with the hereditary schema, they become remodeled in the imagination – a process which might very profitably be followed out in detail. It is precisely such cases that are calculated to convince us of the independent existence of the schema. We are often able to see the schema triumphing over the experience of the individual; as when in our present case the boy’s father became the castrator and the menace to his infantile sexuality in spite of what was in other respects an inverted Oedipus complex. A similar process is at work where a nurse comes to play the mother’s part or where the two become fused together. The contradiction between experience and the schema seem to introduce an abundance of material in the conflicts of childhood.
The second problem is not far removed from the first, but it is incomparably more important. If one considers the behaviors of the four-year-old child towards the re-activated primal scene. Or even if one thinks of the far simpler reactions of the one-and-a-half-year-old child when the scene was actually experienced, it is hard to dismiss the view that some sort of hardly definable knowledge, something, as it were, preparatory to an understanding, was at work in the child at the time. What this may have consisted in we can form no conception; we have nothing at our disposal but the single analogy – and it is an excellent one – of the far reaching instinctive knowledge of animals.
If human beings too possessed an instinctive endowment such as this, it would not be surprising that it should be very particularly concerned with the processes of sexual life, even though it could not be by any means confined to them. This instinctive factor would then be the nucleus of the unconscious, a primitive kind of mental activity, which would later be dethroned and overlaid by human reason, when the faculty came to be acquired, but which in some people, perhaps in every one, would retain the power of drawing down to it the higher mental processes. Repression would be the return to this instinctive stage, and man would thus be paying for his great new acquisition with his liability to neuroses, and would be bearing witness by the possibility of the neuroses to the existence of those earlier, instinct-like, preliminary stages. But the significance of the traumas of early childhood would lie in the fact that to this unconscious they would contribute material which would save it from being worn away by the subsequent course of development.
Sigmund Freud – Three Case Histories p.278
Knowledge in general and self-knowledge in particular are gained not only from discovering logical answers but also from formulating logical, even though unanswerable, questions. The human logos is as concerned with an honest inquiry into an insoluble antinomy which leads to intellectual despair and humility as it is with an unprejudiced true solution of a complex problem arousing joy and enhancing one’s intellectual determination and boldness.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – The Lonely Man of Faith p.8