Why you are ignorant (Or Sherlock’s knowledge theory)

The ever-expanding Universe of associations between visual letters and sounds that our minds turn to in order to better understand the vastness around them and to cohabit peacefully contains a highly intriguing category of concepts: that of swear words. And on the crooked pathway some of those words haphazardly pursued from their original meaning to the demeaning one they currently have I am most interested in those that are directed towards others. More specifically, that of the word ignorant.

For it is obvious that if someone is ignorant, they must be idiotic. But is it so, really?

If we are to look into its etymological roots, from the prefix ‘in’ (=not, opposite of) and the Old Latin “gnarus” (=aware, acquainted with; which cognates with ‘noscere’=to know), it follows that the word roughly means ‘not to be aware of something’. Now isn’t there something we are all unaware of, given the impossibility first to be in the know as regards everything and secondly to remember it all? Granted. So why is this demeaning?

Because we suppose the piece of information in a certain context to be of crucial relevance for one’s existence, and thus the one who does not know it is seen as foolish for not acknowledging its value. Hence, based on this definition, we could conclude that there are to ways of being ignorant:

1. not knowing something and not wanting to either, because you find it valueless

2.acknowledging the importance of something, but choosing not to investigate the matter further since human life is limited and you simply cannot know it all; you must know what is immediately relevant to your life.

And the perfect example for #2 should be the one and only Sherlock Holmes, whom upon being told that the Earth revolves around the sun earnestly endeavored to forget it as fast as he could. Why? Isn’t it something that took humans centuries to discover, and that gives us a better understanding of our integration in this Universe? Indeed, but he did not say ‘It is irrelevant’. He said ‘It is irrelevant to me‘. And what to him might be of utmost importance, such as being able to distinguish between several types of tobacco ash, might seem as utterly useless to you or to me. Yet, as I highlighted here in more detail, there is nothing to be completely irrelevant so long as there is a conscience to render it fruitful, so in the end it’s all about choosing what is so to us or not.


So I’d say that not knowing something is not demeaning in itself- what is so would be failing to recognize the importance of that field altogether.

So yes, I am ignorant about more things that I am in the know of. But it is absolutely natural, and if it is an attribute made conscious then it can help one infinitely better oneself and one’s work, becoming more proficient in one’s own field than those who claim that they know everything but not much in detail. We choose what to dedicate our lives to, so as long as we do not look upon the other fields as if they were completely irrelevant I see absolutely nothing wrong with being ignorant.


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