Billy Budd
Billy Budd
by Herman Melville
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Billy Budd Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes Page 4

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Quote #10

Their knowledge followed it from ship to dockyard and again from dockyard to ship, still pursuing it even when at last reduced to a mere dockyard boom. To them a chip of it was as a piece of the Cross. Ignorant though they were of the secret facts of the tragedy, and not thinking but that the penalty was somehow unavoidably inflicted from the naval point of view, for all that, they instinctively felt that Billy was a sort of man as incapable of mutiny as of wilful murder. (30.1)

The narrator here notes that although the other sailors were ignorant of all the ins and outs of Billy's tragedy, they instinctively felt that Billy was incapable of mutiny. Is wisdom compatible with ignorance? To what extent is wisdom just refined instinct?

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