Knowing Is Knowledge II

Bethlehem Shoals: On the table from an earlier phone call: the significance of the "knowledge is power" tat. Is this a chain of inferences, or is one a critique of the other? If it’s a critique, that raises the question of why you'd get "knowledge is power" on your arm just to tear it down. I don't have a crossed-out swastika on my shoulder; it's implicit already.

: This whole line of thought presumes that the version of knowledge is power that Amare is addressing is the Foucauldian one.

: Right, that he thinks power is bad, or at least problematic

SB5K: This is true....but he doesn't want to give up on knowledge entirely.

BS: Or could it be that he doesn't entirely want to give up on power? As you pointed out, it's most strange that an NBA player would expand on the knowledge side, not the power side. Maybe this is all about him getting more powerful.

SB5K: Right, but then why say "knowing is knowledge"?? Why not, "power is powerful" or something like that?

BS: Unless the point is to critique the “knowledge is power” critique of knowledge.

SB5K: But to critique Foucault “from the right”, as it were, is to come full circle back to the Enlightenment tradition. It isn't about power, it's about saving knowledge from power.

BS: But that assumes that "knowledge is power" comes first and is answered with “no, knowing is knowledge.” What if you reversed the order?

SB5K: Interesting. Say more.

BS: If the statement were "knowing is knowledge,” and someone goes "actually, knowledge is power"

SB5K: Here we have to abandon the negative reading of knowledge is power, i.e. Foucault's version.

BS: Not necessarily. It’s a cautionary tale: Be careful of knowing, it might turn into knowledge.

SB5K: Maybe, but then we have to figure out why Amare go TWO tattoos in order to warn people about...the dangers of knowing? Like, is that something he's really that concerned about? Does "knowledge" means something different in tattoo1 than in tattoo 2. It goes through a transformation.

BS: Yes! Knowledge is good when it's just well-intentioned knowing. But watch out, because there's a fine line between that and power. Actually, that has a lot to do with D'Antoni's coaching style, the way it's both authoritative and somewhat anti-proscriptive. Or the Suns offense: structured without being scripted.

SB5K: This gets into what I wanted to say about Nash. I mean, if there's anyone in the league who people think of as knowledge is power (in the positive, useful sense, not the negative Foucault), it’s Nash, right? They say, “this guy has so much knowledge, he doesn't even need power [Amare].”

BS: Could it be that he’s learned from Nash, like “really, knowing shit helps. It brings knowledge, and that’s the real power, as opposed to what I thought in 2005.” That fits in with the rebirth narrative, Black Jesus, etc.

SB5K: Or it could be more critical. Like, people say Nash's knowledge is power, in the positive sense of power, whereas Amare is suggesting the negative sense. Nash does dictate the offense; he imposes his will through his knowledge. This would all make so much more sense if the second part were just “Power is Power,” or something like that. That way, we could understand it as Amare saying: "Okay, sure, Nash's Knowledge bring him Power. But Power brings Power too. I am Power."
(cigarette now)

BS: Wait, then why does Amare need knowledge at all?

SB5K: Because he doesn't want people thinking his power is just mere force. I see it as, "knowledge is power, when it is used for the sake of power, in the service of power. When it is used for knowing, it isn't power. it's just knowledge.

BS: So knowledge is used for things?

SB5K: Of course.

BS: If you apply your knowledge to knowing, it's a waste.

SB5K: Exactly. It's just knowing for knowing's sake, as in "student of the game."

BS: But why the "is"s?

SB5K: "Is" doesn't mean identity, necessarily. It can just mean "a property of", or " 'is' in this context, at this time, for these ends". i.e. the ends of power.

BS: It could be a lot less malicious. One side is him, the other is Nash. Both use knowledge, but while Nash uses it to think through the game, he uses it toward power. It redeems him as more than just a physical specimen by allying his power with knowledge and shows how he and Nash are in fact in perfect harmony. Which actually makes a lot more sense, since he and Nash are a team, a tandem.

BS: I think that Amare sublimates knowledge and Nash elevates it but both have the same starting point.

SB5K: Amare isn't just the weapon of Nash's brain; his knowledge is also important to the process.

BS: We should probably think about how it reads on his arms: "On the inside of his left bicep, it says, 'Knowing is knowledge.' On the inside of the right one, it says, 'Knowledge is power.' 'They always say what you don't know won't hurt you,' Stoudemire said to explain his new ink. 'I think what you don't know will kill you.'"

SB5K: Oh my god. How did we not begin with this?

BS: I don't know. Does it explain anything?

SB5K: It's almost like he's saying "Knowledge is Power, insofar as what you don't know could kill you..."

BS: Maybe he's talking about the whole system. If you (he) don't know all this, it could destroy you. Spiritually.

SB5K: So is the knowledge itself what's deadly? Or the absence?

BS: The absence is deadly. Hold on, what the fuck is with hurt/kill? Why does that distinction necessitate two tattoos?

SB5K: I don't know. But I like the idea that Knowledge (i.e. someone else's knowledge, which you lack) is Power insofar as it can destroy you. Which kind of returns us to Foucault, in that Power is always the power held by authority, which also controls knowledge. And "knowing is knowledge" the solution? That might actually work.

BS: So knowing the knowledge is the solution to not being destroyed?

SB5K: Well, here, knowledge really does have to mean two things. First: there's the negative/oppressive knowledge, defined by it's power to kill those who lack it. Then, there's the "knowing" form of knowledge, which is....what...resistance? The key here is that "knowledge" is no longer some kind of objective truth or enlightened state, but purely a political phenomenon, which gains its "power" through the actual power of those who have it—the power to kill you. Actually, I’m still not quite sure what knowing is.

BS: This is totally Heidegger. Knowing is like Being; knowledge is essentialism. You don't gain knowledge, you live it. You know anew with each passing moment, like a sparrow on drugs.

SB5K: So if this is the correct way to go about knowing/being, is there also a correct way of being Powerful as well?

BS: I don’t think so. Which is weird, since Amare is powerful. In many ways.

SB5K: What if we read "Knowledge is Power" twice? First, there's the bad kind of knowledge is power, where knowledge kills and power oppresses.

BS: (This is so beyond Talmudic it's not even funny.)

SB5K: Then we go to knowing, in which knowledge is pure again. And then “Knowledge Is Power” means something totally new, unburdened by critique.

BS: That seems like a very roundabout way of arriving at the two most obvious interpretations at the same time. It's a way to uplift and it's a Foucauldian critique. "Knowing Is Knowledge” launders the statement so both can exist.

SB5K: YES! Power, too.

BS: How the fuck are we supposed to know to read it twice?

SB5K: Why not?

BS: Both forms of power?

SB5K: Power to kill, and power as freedom. Black power.

BS: Colonial vs. post-colonial power.

SB5K: Yes, but in reverse order. And mediated through "knowing."

SB5K: Also, knowledge is in there twice, right? Knowledge is power, then knowing is knowledge. So it only makes sense that Power should be in their twice as well: one version as negative, the other as purified. If that means reading one tattoo twice, so be it. The coherence of interpretation demands it!

BS: Then knowledge would be in there three times.

SB5K: Oh yeah. Shit.

BS: What if the “knowing” statement is "dirtied" by the power one?

SB5K: So you need a double-knowledge buffer zone. God, I can’t believe I just said that.

BS: I don't know what that means.

SB5K: Me neither. I think this has to end.

BS: Okay. Good talking to you.


At 10/18/2007 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You guys should take a couple months off before you drop acid again.

At 10/18/2007 12:43 AM, Blogger JTExperience said...

Nah guys, it's as simple as "Knowledge is Power," and power is something Amare has and wants more of. How do you get that? You gotta know.
"I think what you don't know will kill you."

Kill you in every aspect: On the court, off the court, in your soul. You gotta know. You don't know, you won't make it.

Also, "all of his tattoos are dedicated to kids in poverty." Well isn't that nice.

At 10/18/2007 12:52 AM, Anonymous 7.5 PSI said...

Like a sparrow on drugs? But never mind that...

The explanatory text helps. Knowledge is power. Ignorance is death. It makes it clear that this is about preservation, not empire. Death is invitable, you can't know everything. To know something is to have control over it, power. That's all well and good. But the new thing, what he's adding, is the knowing/knowledge distinction. How about this: He gets Knowledge is Power, but later realizes that it's too passive. It isn't enough to have the knowledge stowed away somewhere, you have te be knowing it, acting on it, living by it, in order to get any power from it, to stop it controlling you. But it's a tattoo, so instead of adding it, he adds an additional statement to the syllogism.

Knowing is Knowledge.
Knowledge is Power.
Knowing is Power.

Though if any of this has much to do with Basketball as such, I've misjudged Mr. Stoudamire's seriousness. Life has traps for him that have nothing to do with the game.

At 10/18/2007 2:11 AM, Blogger Justin said...

I think we're severely discounting the Memento angle here. I'm thinking Amare's got a short-term memory issue and the tats are meant to confuse him into searching for overdue library books, or... something.

Anyway, PSI, this is exactly what I've been thinking all along. It's an active stab against the decay of passivity - a reminder to himself to stay hungry. It's not enough just to be possessed of the notion that knowledge is power. That's too abstract and flitting to compel action. He needs to be spurred to achieve that knowledge and exist through it, breathe it.

Of course, he might also be setting up some really ribald joke that no one's going to see coming once he unveils The Triumvirate Tat.

At 10/18/2007 3:06 AM, Blogger Folkhero said...

When Francis Bacon told the word that, "knowledge is power," it changed the western world in ways that are profound and difficult to understand. It didn't take long before the quote created a rift between science and philosophy that will never never be filled. Science was no longer explored for the pure love of knowledge, but for the very tangible fruit that spilled forth from the discoveries.

Before Bacon, there were certainly individuals that knew the power of knowledge. Archimedes used his knowledge of math and physics to protect his home city from the invading Romans. After Bacon, however, "knowledge is power" became the war-cry of the great empires of the day. This conception of knowledges drove great nations, it's lead to man's greatest achievements and assisted in our greatest sins; it gave us the science and technology that has brought us from the Renaissance to the information age.

Now that we are in the information age, anyone who has access to a public library or the internet has access to more knowledge than they can possibly hope to absorb. But all of this knowledge lying at our fingertips has no power unless we actually learn how to take some of it it. Knowledge without a knower is as useless as an airplane without a pilot.

How does this relate to Amare? I think the microfracture showed him that knowledge of basketball can be power, but video of games, words in books and out of the lips of coaches don't mean anything unless a player learns to know what they all mean. Amare is beginning his journey of taking in passive knowledge and knowing it into the kind of knowledge that will make him into a true power.

At 10/18/2007 3:09 AM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

PSI... well said.

As for the post, the quotes most applicable are, "An intellectual is someone educated beyond their intelligence" - Kurt Vonnegut.

Don't take that too hard as Vonnegut is the same numbskull who said, "The only difference between Hitler and Bush is that Hitler was elected to power". If there is any statement that indicates an inability to make distinctions it is the Bush vs. Hitler quote.

We are again speaking about power and knowledge. In the case of Hitler you have a man who had the power to define what a population could know to an extreme degree while his own intellect was limited by the extreme limits of his knowledge. He was limited to an extreme degree in what it was his bigotry would allow him to know. You gentlemen are limited to your degree in what you can know, by your education. You have been molded into seeing history as defined by such concepts as colonial and post-colonial and continue to define men such as Amare in similar terms. You take the line that he is black, he descends from slaves, he is a product of colonialism. Yet his tats indicate an intellectual descent from the Enlightenment, which ran in concert with colonialism, and which he would not have encountered on the terms he has without his being a distant product of colonial slavery.

I too am a product of slaves. My grandparents were slaves during WWII. I am certain that some ancestor of mine was enslaved by Romans and before that I was a slave in Egypt. Amare is also partly defined by his ancestors' slavery and in a syncretic manner we both relate to slavery in that clockwork gearing that Focault's cause and effect formula would express if one were to set thousands or millions of many sized pendulums in a convention center, each attached to the ceiling at different points, and swinging at thousand of different vectors in thousands of sectors, colliding and ricocheting all in a Tohu v'Bohu manner and making the squeak and slap noise of a basketball game played on an amplifier with a flange set to 11. The point I am making is that while you discussed patterns of thought that resemble Foucault's and Heidegger's you were at least confining yourself to patterns that were designed to be patterns. When you begin to define individuals according to political concepts meant to quilt history into a pedant’s pattern that subdues humanity's story and defines it, you are not serving Knowledge, but encouraging Power. You boys, Amare and myself are not post-colonial, post-modern or pre-Sharia folk. We are human beings made in an environment that cannot be adequately defined by terms of dominance and subservience.

At 10/18/2007 10:29 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i can't shake this loose.

-silverbird initially thought it was "knowing that knowledge is power," but that didn't make the final cut.

-vonngegut is even more bush league than foucault. and while i appreciate your sincerity, i don't really run around incorporating foucault and heidegger into the way i see the world. at least not beyond the fairly mundane "knowledge can be a function of power" observation, which is the only reason we brought up baldie in the first place.

bonus points for the hitler mention, though.

At 10/18/2007 10:44 AM, Blogger goathair said...

'They always say what you don't know won't hurt you,' Stoudemire said to explain his new ink. 'I think what you don't know will kill you.

This sounds like something Michael Scott would say.

At 10/18/2007 10:48 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

who cares?

At 10/18/2007 11:10 AM, Anonymous pedro souza said...

possibly the best post ever.

loved the purified vs negative power bit. i like to think that's spot on: amare's synthesizing foucault AND habermas in a multi-dimensional approach to power and knowledge.

how awesome is that?

and this might sound downright stupid but the moment i read that 'knowledge is power' is on his right arm i was reminded of herz's and dumont's texts on the sacredness and primacy of the right hand/arm over the left on many tribal cultures and how that relates deeply to a hierarchically structured world-view. This is a tad structuralist for my current liking but I can't help enjoying the fact that his dunking hand is the "power" one.

All in all, I think he's subverting the right/left, heaven/hell dichotomies there by cautiously celebrating a - as you graciously put it - 'purified' version of knowledge on his other arm. As if it were all a profound yet deeply self-conscious irony. Which it probably is.

Obviously, it'll become a bit easier to interpret if he now proceeds to ink "fuck foucault" on his back.

At 10/18/2007 11:39 AM, Anonymous berts said...

or maybe its a Husserlian phenomenological reduction--within the realm of phenomena, it isn't given us to call Knowledge anything other than Knowing, a comportment of the mind toward Dasein. Fuck Foucault indeed.

At 10/18/2007 11:54 AM, Blogger Captain Caveman said...

Occam thinks you guys are f'n retarded.

At 10/18/2007 3:26 PM, Anonymous JCN said...

i like to think of myself as an educated man. but this shit is way over my head.

At 10/18/2007 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not over your head, it's a bunch of pseudointellectuals talking a bunch of gibberish. Next thing you know, they'll be giving us an 8,000 word dissertation on Shawn Marion's demon moth balls tattoo.

At 10/18/2007 4:28 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

you know what's pseudo-intellectual? thinking anyone's ever written an 8,000 word dissertation.

At 10/18/2007 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pseudo-intellectual pedants man...

At 10/18/2007 4:48 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

jesus, some people are so fucking dense.

sorry you thought we actually think this is best, most truthful way to talk about the nba. it's not. it's a funny thing to do when a player gets a tattoo that, as i wrote yesterday, is clearly on another level of conceptual weirdness.

it's a fucking in-joke between myself, silverbird, and anyone who ever read this shit in college.

At 10/18/2007 4:58 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Might be time to turn off that anonymous commenting, Shoals. Good piece.

At 10/18/2007 6:42 PM, Anonymous JCN said...

i thoroughly enjoyed reading your discussion...problem for me (as a finance graduate) was that i had to look up half the shit you guys talked about on wikipedia.

either way, i found the tattoo and the discussion of said tat to be very interesting, just some of it was above my level of comprehension.

keep up the great work and screw the anon's who don't like it.

At 10/18/2007 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you dare shut off anonymous commenting; I have no other way of simultaneously indulging my interests in basketball, metaphysics and voyeurism. Let the anonymosity continue!?

At 10/18/2007 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got yr Vonnegut quote right HERE:

(sic) "Anyone who expresses hatred and loathing for a work of fiction (or a tattoo) is like someone who has put on a full suit of armor to do battle with a hot fudge sundae."

Shoals and SB5K, and the rest of us are trying to get our dessert on. Letting that inspire revulsion and leveling charges of pretentiousnes is your helmet and cod piece, and they look damned silly.

Having said that, it reminds me of my old roommate who did ink. When kanji hit Atlanta, suddenly everyone's gotta have the character that says "violent". He gets done, inevitably the customer would say "you gonna put violent under that, right?"

Amare just forgot to get it done in a dead language as all. Guess freetranslation was offline that day.

At 10/19/2007 1:56 AM, Blogger Raskolnikov said...

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down.

At 10/19/2007 6:37 AM, Blogger Rich said...

The first I heard of Amare's new ink was when I read Knowing is Knowledge, yesterday. And I totally misread it, and thought that he had a single tattoo, stating, "Knowledge is Knowledge."

Of which the obvious interpretation is "Knowledge is (just) knowledge - Amare is Power."

And I got all excited about you somehow missing this angle, and was all ready to post my version, when I realised that that's not what the tattoo(s) said at all.

So now I've spent literally a day trying to figure out how to rework my (woeful in the first place) interpretation into the tattoos that Amare actually has, with no success, dammit.

Not really sure why I'm posting this...

At 10/19/2007 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowledge can be dangerous.

At 10/20/2007 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talmudic is a bit generous.

Intellectual masterbation is more on spot.

At 4/13/2009 4:12 AM, Blogger 平平 said...




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