|A little learning is a dang’rous thing;|
|Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:|
|There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,|
|And drinking largely sobers us again.|
You may have heard the phrase, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” It’s found in Alexander Pope’s poem An Essay on Criticism, composed in 1709. Pope wrote “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”
What does it mean? In effect, Pope is saying that a little learning or knowledge (the “shallow draughts”) will only befuddle (“intoxicate the brain”), misleading us into thinking we know more than in fact we do. Remedy for this problem lies in continuing to learn (“drinking largely” at the “Pierian spring,” the spring sacred to the Muses and the source of the knowledge of art and science). But the idea expressed in those verses is much older than the 18th century. It’s possible that it goes back a few thousand years.
— Analysis provided by Sabine Eiche, http://www.richmond-news.com/opinion/columnists/column-a-little-learning-is-a-dangerous-thing-more-is-better-1.1331349