So. What do you know? How much do you know of it? How does it affect your daily life? What difference does it make? Do you not know certain things simply because you are inexperienced, or do you choose not to know? Do you have a command of useless information, or do you actually know how to apply it to enrich yourself and others around you? How do the concepts and different stages of ignorance and knowledge affect our lives, and what exactly ARE they specifically? Your opinions on these matters are highly based upon your own point of view, and not everyone’s conclusions are the same. Nevertheless, here are mine.
It seems that when one looks at the concept of ’ignorance’ in general, two very distinct types can be sifted out. First there is naivety. Naivety is the least damaging of the two, but is nonetheless very important. It is, simply, one’s mind not knowing something because a bit of information has slipped by, or never been heard of before. We can identify naivety quite easily. A child is the perfect example, a mind so innocent and inquisitive about the universe. Looking at a child is indeed looking at type of ignorance, but not one so harsh. A more gentle ignorance is naivety, although when applied to adults it can sometimes seem a bit absent minded and dumb.
In his Republic, Plato asked of Glaucon -"Why, have you never noticed that opinion without knowledge is always a shabby sort of thing? At best it is blind. One who holds a true belief without intelligence is just like a blind man who happens to take the right road, isn’t he?"To this Glaucon replied, "No doubt". Here Plato was making a comment about a lack of knowledge that can be easily seen as simple naivety. Of course, people are inherently naive. However, some are much more naive than others, simply because they have not been out in the world. Many people stay in one place their whole lives, and in doing so become quite naive about the different areas around them, fixed and set in their ways. But now we find ourselves crossing over to a very different type of ignorance altogether. This is the second distinct kind of ignorance, and is far more dangerous than the former. This is willful ignorance.
This statement was declared by Christian Saint Jerome, the main architect of the modern Bible. Why do I need to think about anything anymore? I have God! He will do all my thinking for me, I simply have to praise Him. It is this type of attitude, though not always pointed at religion, that illustrates willful ignorance in the first degree. To stop the process of inquisitive thought about a subject altogether, and to effectively build a mental brick wall to guard against anything that would dare disrupt one’s blissful existence. Ah yes. Ignorance is bliss, the old saying goes. Willfully making oneself immune to any new thought, any new discovery, and ultimately, any new inspiration.
Well, that doesn’t sound so bad. As long as the people are happy, right? Why then, is willful ignorance so dangerous? First of all, it isn’t dangerous to the people who hold the stoic beliefs. Indeed, it makes them very happy and content. It is the people around this that suffer, the people who can see past the walls of denial to what is so often the truth. To use another Christian example, (although it is not always the Christians who are guilty of this) the Catholic Church of several hundred years ago exercised willful ignorance as practically a way of life.
When a man named Pico first brought forth his ideas, the Church read them, knew that they endangered the Catholic Church’s power, and suppressed him and his theories on Humanism. Did they actually consider whether or not Pico was right? Probably. After all, he was backing up his arguments with the Bible itself, lending some degree of credibility. However, the Church knew that any kind of radical shift lead by an outsider to the Catholic hierarchy would weaken the Church, lessen it’s influence on the people... and their generous donations. So they chose to suppress Pico’s ideas, and ignore the possibility that what he was saying might have held truth. The Church then spread it’s willful ignorance to the populous, preventing Pico’s works from circulating and encouraging the hoi polloi not to bother with this pagan’s blasphemous words.
So. This is how willful ignorance can be dangerous, especially when lead by a huge organization such as the Catholic Church. But then, there is also a distinct undercurrent of willful ignorance on a very personal level in our society. It exists in a person’s point of view, more specifically in the way one’s opinions are held. Do you back up your opinions with researched facts, or just the hold the opinions that seem most appealing to you? I’m reminded of the Simon and Garfunkel song "The Boxer" when I think about this subject. In a calming melody of interlacing guitars and harmonies, Garfunkel sings in a smooth tone "..all lies and jests, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest..." The softness of the songs belies it’s message. Indeed, a man is willing to die for an idea... provided that it is not quite clear to him. Martyrdom can be the highest form of bravery or the ultimate state of denial, and willful ignorance has the capacity to be one of, if not the most dangerous of all human mindsets.
Well. It seems as though the subject of ignorance has been beaten into the ground, so I will move to the opposite end of the intellectual spectrum, knowledge. Once again, when observing this idea, two distinct types can be identified. The first of course is general knowledge. This can range from the intake of mathematical statistics to the processing of historical facts, and so on. Knowledge is, after all, knowing information. Memorization, studying, and learning all contribute to a person’s knowledge. However, does this mean that to know information is to understand it’s purpose? Well, that leads into the next, much more important type of knowledge. Wisdom.
Wisdom cannot be found without first having knowledge, no doubt. So when a person has facts and theories and information floating around in his head, his amount of wisdom determines what he can interpolate from all this mass of data.
In another example, the decision is more readily reached, but depends entirely on a person’s outlook on life. Suppose you were given a paradise to live in, some warm haven where you could have anything you wanted at any time. You could live in this haven for your entire life and enjoy it’s pleasures. But there is a catch. This haven would not be real, but a dream you would live out while vegetating in traction in the real world (The Matrix comes to mind). You would live and die this way, and nothing you would ever do in your paradise would effect anything real, except for the things inside your head. Now, the question is this. Would you choose to spend your life in this haven, or take your chances with a blank slate in the real world, where your actions could effect nothing... or everything? To deny reality in life and death would be the highest form of willful ignorance... but you would be very happy in your paradise. To cast aside bliss for harsh reality would be difficult, but you would hold the knowledge that your actions will have mattered in the end. At one time we have all wished for a haven like that. The deciding factor is, who would chose to make that haven their reality instead of facing knowledge of the truth? Which choice is right in this case? That, fortunately, is entirely up to you to decide.
So now we have thought and discussed ignorance and knowledge separately and together... but something is missing. Experience, yes, that’s it. Where does experience factor into both of these concepts? Well, in terms of both ignorance and knowledge, experience is simply the opportunity for one to either absorb knowledge, or ignore it and chose to remain ignorant. For example, a man can live his entire life and never really think about anything metaphysical, concerning himself only with the necessities of the here and now. He can get married, have children, watch them grow... he can experience all of these things.
Well, regardless of this, man seems entitled just by acquiring experience to berate those without it. Someone once remarked, "Never argue with an idiot. They’ll drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." Perhaps there is a great deal of truth to this, but after all, only time... and observation... will tell.
Well, it seems as though everything that can be discussed has been dealt with at this time. Many things have been thought upon. The concepts of willful ignorance and naivety, knowledge and wisdom. The comparison of these ideas, and the consideration of examples from each. The discussion of experience and it’s purpose, and a good deal of philosophy from Plato and others. How now is one to proceed? The answer is, for once, obvious.
Spirituality vs Religion
To My Christian Friends
Our Ultimate Reality