The Virtue of Ignorance

I came across this great article through Ben Casnocha’s blog. The second paragraph gets to the core of the argument:

Little attention has been paid to ignorance as a precious resource. Unlike knowledge, which is infinitely reusable, ignorance is a one-shot deal: Once it has been displaced by knowledge, it can be hard to get back. And after it’s gone, we are more apt to follow well-worn paths to find answers than to exert our sense of what we don’t know in order to probe new options. Knowledge can stand in the way of innovation. Solved problems tend to stay solved—sometimes disastrously so.

Later, the author points out that “The word ‘nescience,’ which simply means a lack of knowledge or awareness, may be a more fitting term for us to use, as it does not carry the pejorative connotations of ‘ignorance.'” Indeed.

The argument being made is similar to the one advocating for intellectual integrity. I really don’t have much more to add. The message is so simple that its elaboration almost seems absurd: the path toward truth lies in vigorous self-questioning, which must be preceded by a realization of how little we really know. This is nothing new; Socrates made the same point over 2400 years ago; for he stated that “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” The path is clear, my friends. No more excuses please.


One response to “The Virtue of Ignorance

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