Monday, February 08, 2010

A Post About Ignorance and Politics

If we're able to achieve something we desire - and successfully repeat that ability - we must have some knowledge of what we want, the context of the wanting, the object itself, and at least a simple methodology or various methodologies for obtaining it. When we're ignorant, we hit upon that thing we desire mainly by accident, if at all. If we don't learn anything at all from the event, it's unlikely we'll ever achieve that thing we desire again.

We're all pretty obviously ignorant to varying degrees. The issue is the celebration of ignorance. Only in the US can you find willful ignorance elevated to a marker of pride. This is exceedingly strange since ignorance has no apparent value, whether intrinsic or instrumental, other than maybe to be able to say that you're not like some people who know stuff (like egghead "liberal elites"). Power has always loved it, however. An ignorant populace is the source of sustained power.

Knowing stuff is both intrinsically good and really useful. The process of coming to know and understand things (i.e. learning) is also good and enjoyable and instrumentally valuable. Since we're fallible beings, there exists the ever-present possibility that we may be mistaken about even the things we think are most profoundly true. Knowing and learning as processes help us temper the consequences of our fallibility.

While the issue usually seems to be epistemological, it's also ethical. Celebrating knowledge and learning is indeed better than celebrating ignorance because of the abundant good and goods the former provides individuals and society. Celebrating ignorance endangers us all.


MT said...

You know, this is going to alienate a lot of our readers. My readers anyway.

helmut said...

Well, we may be ignorant but at least we don't celebrate it. I myself just live a very dark life.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Thanks, Helmut. Since I posted on that business about "liberal condescension," it's occurred to me that there is a group that is just as condescending about its ignorance. Which I guess is supposed to be bliss, by some accounts.

You've put it very nicely.