The Importance Of Being Ignorant

 

 

Lady Bracknell. …I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.  Which do you know?

Jack.  [After some hesitation.]  I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  I am pleased to hear it.  I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.  Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.  The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound.  Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.  If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.

From The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London.

 

I know one thing, that I know nothing.”  Socrates, 5th Century BC

 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  Albert Einstein, 1929

 

“There are a lot of facts to be known in order to be a professional anything — lawyer, doctor, engineer, accountant, teacher. But with science there is one important difference. The facts serve mainly to access the ignorance… Scientists don’t concentrate on what they know, which is considerable but minuscule, but rather on what they don’t know…. Science traffics in ignorance, cultivates it, and is driven by it. Mucking about in the unknown is an adventure; doing it for a living is something most scientists consider a privilege.

Working scientists don’t get bogged down in the factual swamp because they don’t care all that much for facts. It’s not that they discount or ignore them, but rather that they don’t see them as an end in themselves. They don’t stop at the facts; they begin there, right beyond the facts, where the facts run out. Facts are selected, by a process that is a kind of controlled neglect, for the questions they create, for the ignorance they point to.”  Stuart Firestein, 2012

 

Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”   Thomas Gray’s ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College’ (1742)

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This post is dedicated to all those A level students who got low grades in their results today: you will discover there is more to life than going to University.

 

Photo credit: Flickr  adesigna

2 comments on “The Importance Of Being Ignorant

  1. Absolutely agree! Uni isn’t/shouldn’t be for everyone. We can’t survive in a world that’s all chiefs and no Indians. It’s the Indians that keep us all going and the chiefs should be reminded of this from time to time. Achieving A levels is tough enough and should be enough for employers who can offer a structured way into work/career. From personal experience, my son opted not to go to uni and has never looked back or regretted his decision. At 23 he published his first book on military history. He has met a lot of very interesting and encouraging people who have sparked his interest a thousand ways. And no fees, either …

    • My son too – ten years ago, after his A levels, his first job was printing out emails in a Government Office (!) – and now he’s an Associate Technical Director in a global new media advertising agency. Interestingly he is cautious of recruiting computer science graduates as programmers as they are usually not creative enough or do not have a good enough grasp of the business requirements!

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