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Willful Ignorance





JoryRFerrell
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/willful-ignorance

I really like the one by Anne Rice:

Quote:

Give me a man or woman
who has read a thousand books
and you give me an interesting companion.
Give me a man or woman
who has read perhaps three
and you give me a very dangerous enemy indeed.


Why do most people acknowledge that humans are constantly engaging in willful ignorance out of fear or any other motivation, and yet remain susceptible to it themselves?
jmraker
JoryRFerrell wrote:
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/willful-ignorance
I really like the one by Anne Rice:

Why do most people acknowledge that humans are constantly engaging in willful ignorance out of fear or any other motivation, and yet remain susceptible to it themselves?


They engage in willful ignorance because they are willfully ignorant (they willfully chose not to pursue a life of perfect unlimited knowledge) . They lack the ability to know everything about every thing so they have no choice but to acknowledge that humans are engaging in willful ignorance.

I too have never been an interesting companion to Anne Rice. I don't know why she fears me with her awful willful ignorance. She isn't perfect and she shouldn't have had that opinion.

It's an honor having somebody posting in this forum who is NOT susceptible of being ignorant of anything. You are not willfully ignorant of any subject (an unquestionable expert of everything), and therefore correct about every one of your opinions and assertions.
LxGoodies
If I'd choose I prefer this one,

Thomas A. Edison wrote:
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
SonLight
And of course, Sherlock Holmes' famous comment, clearly he chose to be "willfully ignorant" about many things:

from "A STUDY IN SCARLET"

http://www.artintheblood.com/george/stud3.htm

Quote:
His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

"You appear to be astonished," he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. "Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it."

"To forget it!"

"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

[/quote]
catscratches
LxGoodies wrote:
If I'd choose I prefer this one,

Thomas A. Edison wrote:
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
And of course he (and usually anyone who cites him or any similar quote) can't help but think they are among those five percent. I'd rather make that either "Hundred percent of the people think" or "Hundred percent of the people think they think".
LxGoodies
catscratches wrote:
LxGoodies wrote:
If I'd choose I prefer this one,

Thomas A. Edison wrote:
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
And of course he (and usually anyone who cites him or any similar quote) can't help but think they are among those five percent. I'd rather make that either "Hundred percent of the people think" or "Hundred percent of the people think they think".

Why ? In neither one of your two 100% cases I recognize reality. If it were all pretenders, there would be no invention or development. If all people would really think I can't explain a lot of stupidness in this world

https://www.google.nl/#q=MH-17

Crying or Very sad
Indi
SonLight wrote:
And of course, Sherlock Holmes' famous comment, clearly he chose to be "willfully ignorant" about many things:

You know he was a fictional character, right? And that what you quoted came from a story, right? And that, in fact, it comes from a story - and a character - that take considerable liberties with what is plausible. Despite the cute little vignette about not knowing about heliocentrism, Holmes always seems to miraculously have exactly the knowledge he needs to have, which he can't possibly have known he would have needed beforehand. That's fiction, dude, and not even very good fiction.
catscratches
LxGoodies wrote:

Why ? In neither one of your two 100% cases I recognize reality. If it were all pretenders, there would be no invention or development. If all people would really think I can't explain a lot of stupidness in this world

https://www.google.nl/#q=MH-17

Crying or Very sad
Thinking or being smart does not preclude doing stupid things.
SonLight
@indi of course it's ficticious. It presumably either represents Doyle's idea that some things were not worth examining, or is his commentary on behavior he had observed.
IceCreamTruck
SonLight wrote:
And of course, Sherlock Holmes' famous comment, clearly he chose to be "willfully ignorant" about many things:

from "A STUDY IN SCARLET"

http://www.artintheblood.com/george/stud3.htm

Quote:
It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."



Yeah, people who reason like this are really scary. The lights are on but nobody's home! I applaud your quoting Sherlock Holmes, SonLight. Everyone should have a little Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in their life!
Indi
SonLight wrote:
@indi of course it's ficticious. It presumably either represents Doyle's idea that some things were not worth examining, or is his commentary on behavior he had observed.

"Presumably represents Doyle's idea"? What on earth makes you think that? So if i wrote a book that had a character who fired off a monologue about how humans are insects or parasites who should be exterminated (something that has been done hundreds of times, eg. "Agent Smith" in The Matrix), that would make you presume those words represent my ideas? That's preposterous.

I say again, it's FICTION. Doyle was creating a character - a character that was fantastic and inhuman, and one that Doyle didn't even like all that much (he made him a coke addict then killed him off). The fact that the character has these ridiculous opinions does not make the opinions Doyle's. I mean, seriously, come on. Doyle wasn't exactly a model of rationalism himself... but he thought he was, and even he realized that the notion of such wilful ignorance is just silly.

Holmes was never intended to be realistic, or believable, and certainly not a good example of what one should be like (again, Doyle hated Holmes, and made him as unlikeable and nasty as he could get away with and still keep selling stories). Holmes's wilful ignorance was never intended to be laudable; it was intended to be something that would make his readers go "wow, unbelievable! the man is not human!" (exactly as Watson, the reader's surrogate, did), because it is that ridiculous.

In fact, the idea of being wilfully ignorant like that is so stupid that it was even parodied and mocked by later mystery writers (for example, Agatha Christie skewered the idea her second Poirot story).

For the record, i'm not particularly impressed with the Edison quote, either. catscratches hit the nail right on the head with the response to that one. The Rice quote is a bit better.
SonLight
@indi, obviously some authors create characters who express their opinions, and some don't. When I read the section, "this is John Galt speaking" in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", I'm pretty sure it represents her opinion.

In Holmes' case, it may not matter what Doyle's intent was. Many people have great admiration for Holmes, and I have no doubt that some of them will try to follow his example.
Indi
SonLight wrote:
@indi, obviously some authors create characters who express their opinions, and some don't. When I read the section, "this is John Galt speaking" in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", I'm pretty sure it represents her opinion.

The obvious flaw in that theory is that there are well over a hundred named characters in Atlas Shrugged - at least ten of which are major characters. So why did you pick John Galt specifically?

Yes, obviously some characters in some types of stories are intended to be mouthpieces for the author, but to just presume that for any given character - even the "main" character - is silly. Most novels have several major characters, and it's not always clear who the "main" character is (again, why did you pick Galt? he wasn't even in like half the book. why not Taggart, Rearden, or d'Anconia?). If you're going to play that game and try to say this or that character is saying what the author thinks, you have to look at two things: how the character and their ideas are treated in the story, and what the author themselves says about the character.

In the case of Galt, he's treated in the novel like freaking Jesus by every sympathetic character (i vaguely recall he is actually compared to Greek gods)... meanwhile Holmes is actually explicitly referred to as a freak (the word "freak" was probably not used in the Doyle novels - though it is often used in modern re-tellings, like the BBC miniseries - but the Doyle novels do use contemporary language equivalent to "freak"; the first Holmes novel has Watson flat-out telling him that people like him don't "exist outside of stories"), and much time is spent detailing his bad behaviour, personality, and habits (eg. the infamous "seven percent solution"). As for what the authors say, Rand positively gushed about Galt, saying he was "perfect", "divine", and that he was what she aspired to be... meanwhile Doyle compared Holmes to a soulless, heartless machine, referred to him as a "distraction", and wrote several stories that showed him (or someone just like him, because the detective is not named) to be a bumbling idiot.

(Frankly, if i were looking for an author surrogate in the Holmes stories, i'd pick Watson. I mean, dude, Doyle was a doctor... just like Watson. Doyle was a writer... just like Watson. They even played the same sports, and do you remember Watson's wife's name is Mary? Wanna take a bet at what Doyle's wife's name was?)

SonLight wrote:
In Holmes' case, it may not matter what Doyle's intent was. Many people have great admiration for Holmes, and I have no doubt that some of them will try to follow his example.

Many people have admiration for Batman, too, but no one (except idiots and loons) seriously believes that putting on tights and sneaking out at night to fight crime by pummelling the crap out of people is a good idea. The fact that lots of people think Holmes is awesome doesn't mean anyone seriously believes using his methods will actually work in the real world.

Most people are capable of recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality (although, actually, recent science has shown that pushing religion on kids severely damages that capability). That's why most people are capable of realizing that Holmes's ridiculous nature and capabilities are just that... ridiculous - along with the idea of being wilfully ignorant in the way Holmes advocates.

In fact, in reality most of the most brilliant people in history were actually multi-disciplinary, and soaked up any knowledge they could get from any source, and sought ways to apply it across fields. There is the rare genius who will recommend ignoring this or that distraction, but they are always very specific about what forms of information are problematic and why, and they always say that aside than those "bad" forms, more information and knowledge is a good thing.

Wilful ignorance is not a good thing, and Doyle did not intend for Holmes's endorsement of it to be taken seriously. Anyone who tries to follow Holmes's example will only end up looking like a dunce... as Holmes himself did in some of Doyle's less flattering works about him, and many of the works written by later mystery writers.
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