Hailing from timeless Greece of approximately 2,400 year ago, Plato has provided our modern world numerous important intellectual gifts. His large interests in justice, mathematics, virtue, epistemology, rhetoric and also art, laid the structures for west philosophy and also science. However in his search for depth and wider knowledge he likewise had some necessary things to say about ignorance.

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Massimo Pigliucci end at Rationally Speaking gives us his take on Platonic Ignorance. His caution is appropriate: in this age of information overload and also extreme politicization it is ever more important for united state to realize and also acknowledge our very own ignorance. Spreading falsehoods and characterizing opinion as truth to others — moved ignorance — is rightly figured out by Plato together a moral failing. In his own words (of food translated), “Ignorance the Root and Stem of all Evil”.

From Rationally Speaking:

Plato famously kept that understanding is “justified true belief,” meaning that to claim the condition of knowledge our ideas (say, that the earth goes about the sun, fairly than the other way around) need to be both true (to the degree this can actually be ascertained) and justified (i.e., we ought to be able to explain to rather why we hold such beliefs, otherwise us are just repeating the — probably true — beliefs of someone else).

It is the “justified” part that is humbling, because a moment’s have fun will display that a large number of things we think we know we actually cannot justify, which means that us are simply trusting who else’s authority on the matter. (Which is okay, as lengthy as us realize and also acknowledge that to be the case.)

I was recently intrigued, however, no by Plato’s famed treatment the knowledge, however by his far less disputed views on opposing of knowledge: ignorance. The occasion for this reflections to be a talk by Katja Maria Vogt the Columbia University, yielded at CUNY’s Graduate Center, whereby I work. Vogt started by recalling the old skeptics’ perspective toward ignorance, as a “conscious positive stand,” an interpretation that hesitation is established on one’s present of his very own ignorance. In this sense, of course, Socrates’ contention the he knew nothing becomes neither a self-contradiction (isn’t the saying the he knows that he to know nothing, thereby acknowledging the he to know something?), nor false modesty. Socrates was simply saying the he was aware of having no field of expertise while in ~ the very same time devoting his life to the quest for knowledge.

Vogt was particularly interested in Plato’s concept of “transferred ignorance,” which the ancient philosopher singled the end as morally problematic. Transferred ignorance is the case when who imparts “knowledge” the he is not conscious is in reality wrong. Let us say, because that instance, that i tell you that vaccines reason autism, and I execute so on the communication of my (alleged) knowledge of biology and other pertinent matters, while, in fact, i am no clinical researcher and have only vague notions of just how vaccines actually job-related (i.e., imagine my surname is Jenny McCarthy).

The problem, because that Plato, is the in a feeling I would certainly be thinking of myself as smarter 보다 I actually am, i beg your pardon of food carries a feeling of strength over others. Ns wouldn’t just be mistake in my beliefs, I would certainly be mistake in mine confidence in those beliefs. It is this willful ignorance (after all, ns did no make a serious attempt come learn around biology or clinical research) that carries moral implications.

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So for Vogt the ancient Greeks distinguished in between two species of ignorance: the self-aware, Socratic one (which is actually good) and the self-oblivious among the overconfident person (which is bad). Need I point out that much too small of the former and also too lot of the latter permeate current political and social discourse? of course, I’m certain a historian could easily come up v a plethora of instances of bad ignorance throughout person history, every the method back come the beginning of videotaped time, however it go strike me that the increasingly fact-free publicly discourse on concerns varying from economic policies come scientific study has lugged Platonic moved ignorance to never before accomplished peaks (or, rather, valleys).

And I doubt that this is precisely due to the fact that of the absence of appreciation of the moral measurement of moved or willful ignorance. Once politicians or commentators make up “facts” — or overlook actual facts to serve their very own ideological agendas — they periodically seem genuinely convinced that they space doing miscellaneous good, at the an extremely least for your constituents, and also possibly for humanity at large. Yet how have the right to it be good — in the ethical sense — to make false expertise one’s own, and also even to actively spread it come others?