Knowledge Presupposes Ignorance, or Ouch!

“A reason knowledge/learning in general is so unpopular with so many people is because very early we all learn there is a phenomenologically unpleasant side to it: to learn anything entails the fact that there is no way to escape learning that you were formerly ignorant, to learn that you were a fool, that you have already lost irretrievable opportunities, that you have made wrong choices, that you were silly and limited. These lessons are not pleasant. The acquisition of knowledge–especially when we are young–again and again includes this experience.

“Thus most people soon actively desire to stay clear of the whole process, because by the time we are seven or eight we know exactly what the repercussions and reactions will be. One moves toward knowledge through a gauntlet of inescapable insults–the most painful of them often self-tendered.”

– Samuel R. Delany, About Writing

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5 responses to “Knowledge Presupposes Ignorance, or Ouch!”

  1. Joe Pineda says :

    These are really authentic words. I’ve personally never refrained from learning, although at times that embarrassment plus pride made me a little thickheaded.

    I think another reason people ditch the pursuit of knowledge is because it complicates their lives. They are unable to deal with the repercussions that come from enlightenment, education or whatever you wish to call it. However, I think it’s possible that they are rather afraid to adapt instead.

    • Justin says :

      I agree. The process is painful and complicates our lives. Soon after this section Delany says: “We say we are weeping for lost innocence. More truthfully we are weeping for the lost pleasure of unchallenged ignorance.”

      • Joe Pineda says :

        It was only natural that he covered that. Still, what can you do when cynicism and cleverness keep you from opening your heart to, say, engaging stories? There is, after all, one such thing as thinking too much.

  2. Rick Bowes says :

    “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.”
    Oscar Wilde

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