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Ignorance is a lack of knowledge.[1][2] The word ignorant is an adjective that describes a person in the state of being unaware, and can describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts, or individuals who are unaware of important information or facts. Ignorance can appear in three different types: factual ignorance (absence of knowledge of some fact), objectual ignorance (unacquaintance with some object), and technical ignorance (absence of knowledge of how to do something).[3]


Reasons for ignoranceEdit

People do not experience instant gratification and therefore they do not invest time and effort in learning and developing. Eradicating ignorance completely from an individual’s life is an impossible task but reducing the gap can truly benefit the individual in a long term.[4]

Also, making the decision to remain ignorant by committing to an ideology despite scientific proof is a dangerous mindset that can inhibit an individual from discovering the truth and therefore developing as an individual.[5]

Ignorance can stifle learning, especially if the ignorant person believes it is not ignorant. A person who falsely believes it is knowledgeable, does not try to clarify its beliefs, but rather relies on the ignorant position. It may also reject valid but contrary information, neither realizing its importance nor understanding it. This concept is elucidated in Justin Kruger and David Dunning's work, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments", in stupidy in otherwise known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Another reason why people are not able to obtain knowledge is inaccessibility to education. In some parts of the world, educational infrastructure is insufficient and therefore people are not able to seek for knowledge. The phenomenon can be observed widely in underdeveloped countries where many children either cannot afford to go to school or live too far from a school. On the other hand, in developed countries most children have access to a K12 education but once they graduate high school they encounter obstacles to pursue a higher education due to high costs. This lack of education can contribute to individuals not being able to practice critical thinking and seek for knowledge for themselves.


Remaining in a state of ignorance can lead to serious economic downfalls, relationship crises, legal issues, and more. It is important for human survival to be knowledgeable on different topics. For example, one must be aware of ways to prevent certain diseases, avoid certain poisonous foods, avoid war, etc..

Individuals who are financially literate can manage finances wisely and therefore create a more stable life for themselves and their families. People who understand finance and economics can vote better on local and national economic regulations that benefit the whole society.

Another important aspect is ignorance in the legal field. People must be aware of laws so they can live free and in harmony with others. Ignorance of the law is not accepted as a legal defense, so it is the responsibility of the individual to know the law. Willingly ignoring the law can lead to arrest or isolated living.

Ignorance can have a negative effects on individuals and societies, but can also benefit them by creating within them the desire to know more. For example, ignorance within science opens the opportunity to seek knowledge and make discoveries by asking new questions.[6] This though can only take place if the individual possesses a curious mind.

Studies suggest that adults with an adequate education who perform enriching and challenging jobs are happier, and more in control of their environment.[7] The confidence that adults obtain through the sense of control that education provides allows those adults to go for more leadership positions and seek for power throughout their lives.

The writer, Thomas Pynchon, articulated the following about the scope and structure of one's ignorance: "Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person's mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well. So as a corollary to [the advice of] writing about what we know, maybe we should add getting familiar with our ignorance, and the possibilities therein for writing a good story", and ignorance of the observation of the reality of the human condition.

See alsoEdit

Hercules Protects Painting from Ignorance and Envy by Andries Cornelis Lens (1739–1822)
  • Agnotology - study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt
  • Avidyā, ignorance, a concept in Vedanta. Vidya is knowledge. Literally, Avidya is not knowledge.
  • Avidyā (Buddhism), ignorance as a concept in Buddhism
  • Fallibilism is the philosophical principle that human beings could be wrong about their beliefs, expectations, or their understanding of the world, and yet still be justified in holding their incorrect beliefs.
  • General Ignorance, the final round of the BBC Quiz show QI (2003 onwards), which focuses on seemingly easy questions that have obvious but wrong answers.
  • Hypocrisy
  • Ignorance Is Bliss
  • Ignorance management, a knowledge management practice that addresses the concept of ignorance in organizations
  • Innocence, a term sometimes used to indicate a naive lack of knowledge or understanding.
  • Jahiliyyah, Islamic concept for "ignorance of divine guidance"
  • Newspeak, the fictional language in the 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. A reduced language created by a totalitarian state as a tool to keep the population in a controlled state of ignorance, and Crimestop described as "protective stupidity".
  • Rational ignorance a voluntary state of ignorance that can occur when the cost of educating oneself on an issue exceeds the potential benefit that the knowledge would provide
  • Sociology of scientific ignorance, the study of ignorance as something relevant.
  • The Book of General Ignorance (2006), a derivative from the BBC QI Quiz show. A book, which aims to address and correct the comprehensive and humiliating catalogue of all the misconceptions, mistakes and misunderstandings in 'common knowledge', and therefore not known as a 'General Knowledge' book, but as a 'General Ignorance' book.


  1. ^ "Ignorance". English Oxford Living Dictionaries.
  2. ^ "Ignorant meaning". Cambridge Dictionary.
  3. ^ Nottelmann, Nikolaj. "ignorance." Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi, Cambridge University Press, 3rd edition, 2015.
  4. ^ Caplan, Bryan, and BRYAN CAPLAN. "Rational Ignorance." The Encyclopedia of Public Choice, edited by Charles K. Rowley, and Friedrich Schneider, Springer Science+Business Media, 1st edition, 2004.
  5. ^ McIntyre, Lee. "The attack on truth: we have entered an age of willful ignorance." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 June 2015, p. B10+.
  6. ^ [null Firestein], Stuart. Ignorance: How It Drives Science. Oxford University Press, 2012.
  7. ^ Schieman, Scott and Gabriele Plickert. "How Knowledge Is Power: Education and the Sense of Control." Social Forces, vol. 87, no. 1, Sept. 2008, pp. 153-183.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  Media related to Ignorance at Wikimedia Commons