Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On the difference between ignorance as a matter of fact versus as an insult.

    I have a few posts coming up where I will be talking about ignorance. I have made this point in the past, but I want to reiterate it here that there is a difference between stating that someone is ignorant as a matter of fact versus stating that they are ignorant in a way that is meant to be insulting.

    Being ignorant, by definition, really just means lacking knowledge. And that's generally fine as people are not expected to know everything. However, when someone says, "You are ignorant!" it is usually meant as an insult on intelligence. Where I see this insult most used is against someone who suggests that they are knowledgeable on a subject, but then reveal that they are not (or may be misinformed). I try my best to call these people willfully ignorant. These people not only should be knowledgeable on the subject of which they speak, but often exhibit a lack of desire to become knowledgeable. Or, for those who are misinformed, show no desire to correct this after being informed that they are misinformed.

    So, if I say, "You are ignorant!" I do not mean it as an insult. If you are ignorant, you basically have two courses of actions which you can take to avoid insult: Either go learn and educate yourself, or do not comment further on the topic. If you fail to take either of these paths, you then risk heading toward willful ignorance, which I will gladly insult people for doing.

On that, I would like to note that there is a gray-area between basic ignorance and willful ignorance. I.e., when does ignorance become willful? More specifically, how many times does one have to be informed that they are misinformed before their ignorance becomes willful? Once? Twice? Thrice?!? Another gray-area is in areas where there is a common misconception. In other words, misinformation is frequently spread on the subject. How much is the misinformed person at fault for accepting the misinformation? The more at fault they are, the closer to being willfully ignorant, in my opinion, they are.

Clear as mud?

On a side note, it has occurred to me that there is irony in this post. I find myself writing about ignorance people have over the meaning of the word "ignorance"!

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