Limits, Bounds and Deprivation of the “Glory of Thinking” (week six, blog one)

26Feb07

answer all the questions
So, this weekend I spent some time with a good friend and her sister. I had met my friend’s sister before, but for some reason I didn’t have a recollection of her. The sister was nice, and I enjoy my friendship with my friend, and the evening was enjoyable, a melange of discussion about “deep issues” and Britney Spears’ new hairdo. Needless to say, that is possibly a blog unto itself, and what I am really here to address is a topic that came up in the course of our conversation that was NOT directly related to Britney’s shaved head.

The topic which the three of us bounced back and forth and which inspired today’s blog was that of ignorance. What became apparent in our discussion was that each of us had a different definition of ignorance. So for our purposes I shall define mine.

I am not speaking of stupidity… that is altogether a different topic in my definition of the word, stupidity indicates an inability or an incapacity to attain or retain knowledge…However, ignorance: the quality or state of being ignorant, is really quite different. And that of course really doesn’t clarify the meaning until I address the word ignorant. I do not mean illiterate, or an inability to read or write because might be a lack of training or it might fall into the definition of stupidity. I do not mean unlettered, which implies again a schooled learning or one based on our concept of schooling. Uneducated and untaught describes a lack of “formal” education, which in my view diminishes the ability for a human being to think, so that isn’t quite what I am seeing as ignorance although there are qualities of ignorance. Untutored and unlearned again implies a sort of “formal” education which isn’t what I’m referring to. I realize that by defining what I do not mean, I may not have necessarily clarified what I do mean!

But the main element that I see as a component of ignorance that of choice. To me, ignorance includes an element of choice. There is a choice in ignorance, whether it is fear based, laziness, or comfort levels, one chooses to not think. One chooses to not question or wonder. One chooses to remain confident in not knowing more. And that is a dangerous place to be.

Why am I waxing on about something like ignorance when we will be discussing Carl Sagan’s selection, “Can We Know the Universe? Reflections on a Grain of Salt” from Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, and Scott Russell Sanders’ “Earth, Air, Fire and Water?” Because both of these essay address limits and bounds that we, as humans, have put upon elements that we have thought about.

Each of these authors address the ways that humans have tried to define their surroundings. And in that process we have searched ever larger and ever smaller to figure “it all out.” But as a culture when we have run into problems is when we put limits and bounds on the possibility or thought or ideas. When we do this we quash imagination, tolerance, and the possibility of empathy. I might go so far as to say even brilliance. Often this is in direct response to limiting our choice. We limit or bind ourselves to an antiquated or outdated mode of thinking because of a myriad of reasons and in doing so we limit our potential for growth intellectual, morally, culturally and emotionally.

There is an ecstasy involved in thinking. A moment where thinking is transcendent, where we suddenly experience as Palmer explained earlier in the semester, “the glory of great things.” Or as Sagan says, “We are an intelligent species and the use of our intelligence quite properly gives us pleasure. In this respect the brain is like a muscle. When we think well, we feel good. understanding is a kind of ecstasy” (Can We Know The Universe)

What are the benefits of putting restrictions on what we can know and not know? Are there benefits? What do you put limitation on in your thinking? Have you experienced a moment (or more!) of what Sagan is speaking about in the above paragraph?

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14 Responses to “Limits, Bounds and Deprivation of the “Glory of Thinking” (week six, blog one)”

  1. 1 brianpolashuk

    First of all, I can not begin to answer this blog without addressing Britney Spears. Never in the history of pop culture has one person risen so quickly to the top with wealth and popularity only to come crashing down twice as fast. I think the word stupidity that was mentioned briefly in this blog could be used to describe a lot of her personality. And that HAIR DO!…I do believe that is a hair-DON’T!

    I believe that ignorance is a much different term than stupidity. Ignorance is when you are able to comprehend and understand something, but are too stubborn to take the time or put in the effort. There are a lot of benefits to putting restrictions on what we can and can not know. I think the field of science is directly a result of us not knowing! The fact that we can not understand or comprehend everything makes us more motivated to figure things out. We don’t have a set of facts to explain everything, which is why we have questions and theories to encourage a variety of explanations that can not be labeled as “false”. Putting a restriction on things that we can not know is forcing people to learn certain knowledge. Sometimes I find myself stressing out on where and what I’ll be doing in a few years from now. I find it hard to comprehend where this degree will take me. However, I need to place restrictions on what I can know. There is no way for me to know for certain this information.

    Sagan believes that as humans when we use our intelligence properly we get great pleasure out of this. I think this is completely true. When studying or working through a problem I become quite annoyed when I can not understand a certain topic. However, when I work through it I get a sense of accomplishment and a sense of joy.

    I personally think the word “ignorance” can be directly related to the topic of hate. I think much of the “hate” in the world is based on ignorance. Earlier in the year when we read the piece “Pursuit of Happiness”, it opened our eyes to other cultures views and opinions. I also believe that ignorance can be a good thing when dealing with heroism. When someone runs in to a burning building, they are ignoring their personal safety in order to rescue someone else.

  2. 2 derekroz

    I am inclined to agree with Brian on the “science” issue. Science is definitely a result of humans unaware of the environment around them, and lack of knowledge in areas certainly can fuel our desire to learn. Newton with gravity, Copernicus with the heliocentric theory…the list goes on!

    I for one believe that the best way to self-enlightenment [spiritually or academically] is to take in as much knowledge as one can, and not just one piece of a subject.

    Of course, there are only a few outlandish/hypothetical reasons I can imagine that I would ever want to restrict my knowledge. If someone told me I could know when, where, and how I would die, I personally wouldn’t want to know that. Life is too short, and why would I want to know how much life I had left to live?

    I have experienced a few “eureka moments”, for lack of a better term. Sometimes, I could just be sitting, reading a book, losing track of what I read, just sort of frozen there, staring at the same page, reading the same few lines, and then suddenly snap out of it, but have the answer to some other problem that has been bothering me.

  3. I agree with Derek, in that I wouldn’t want to know when and where and how I would die. I feel if you did, you would spend your whole life dreading that day and scheming ways to avoid death. Along with things we should restrict is with weapons of mass destruction. I feel we should not be trying to find ways or learn new ways of killing people.

    Yes, during lab many times I’ve felt happy seeing something happen or knowing why something occurred.

    I also agree with both comments above with science issue. We do not know much, but we are constantly looking for more.

    -Sam

  4. I like what Derek said about the “Eureka Moments.” I myself have had many of those, while your sitting there thinking that you are day dreaming and not thinking of anything important, you realize when you come out of it that you have solved a problem that had been bothering you that week. I think that ignorance and stupidity are two different things. When you’re ignorant it means that you just don’t want to believe a certain thing that someone is telling you, stupidity means that you might not understand or comprehend something the way that other people would. When someone is ignorant they can convince themselves that something isn’t true even though someone else might have evidence to prove that it is, for stupidity the person would just not understand.

  5. I think when we are putting restrictions on what we can know, we will not really know it. We may think that we get it, but actually we do not. I think we are ignorant in this case. When we are putting restrictions on what we not know, we will know the answer. Sometimes we think too complicated to figure out some problems; and the answer is really simple. I think we are stupid in this case. When I was in high school, I did a lot of multiple choices wrong because I thought too much. I did not put restrictions on what I not know (the questions). After I got the tests back, I noticed the answers were really simple. There is benefit for putting restrictions on what we not know. So, if we do it, we will know the answer. I do not think there is benefit for putting restriction on what we can know. We, humans do receive pleasure when we solve some problems. It is just like what Sagan said. Right now, I learned to put restrictions on the questions that appear on the test, so I can get the correct answers.

  6. I believe that ignorance is another way of saying stubborn. People that are ignorant don’t give a damn about anything. I personally know someone who is ignorant. He doesn’t think twice about what he’s about to say, he will just blurt it out. What he thinks is okay to say, may not be to other people. I feel that we put restrictions on things because we don’t have the desire to learn more.

    I agree with Derek when he says that he would not want to know when, where and how he is going to die. There are just some things in life worth not knowing. It’s the same as being told that you have a life-threatening illness. I would rather go around not knowing about it, than worrying about when and if I will die.

    I had this one “eureka” moment when I was in fifth grade. My school was having a geography bee, and for whatever reason, I was picked to be a representative for the fifth graders. There were 3 students from each class, grades 5 to 8. The questions were difficult, but somehow I managed to pull the answer out of nowhere to make it into the semi-final round. I don’t remember the question, I just remembered being stoked that I was ‘smart’. I ended up losing in the next round, but ended up with 3rd place. I never believed in my life that I would make it that far. It made me feel really good about myself.

  7. I agree with Professor Lake on stupidity and ignorance being different. Stupidity indicates slowness of the mind. Ignorance on the other hand is as Professor Lake choice. We can argue about a situation where a person feels that they are right, when in fact they are wrong. They are ignorant of this whole argument by choice. They don’t want to be wrong so they run with their own belief of the topic. I also agree with Jamie where she says ignorance is another way of saying stubborn. Someone who is ignorant does not really care what your opinion is. They want themselves to be right, so whatever they think is what they will support no matter what the facts.

  8. 8 nabihaahmed

    I must agree with all the above posts, “ignorance is stubbornness.”
    as many people live off the famous quote, “Ignorance is bliss” I hold that to be very true especially among our society today.
    Ignorance is everywhere as much as you think you’re not ignorant, there might be a piece of it nearby. Having and knowing the knowledge, but wanting to ignore it, and act as though it’s not there, would be ignorance. There are plenty of different meanings for the word ignorance itself, but the first word that pops into my mind is stubbornness. Why are we so stubborn to accept the truth? What is about the truth that we do not want to accept it? What holds us back? And why do we act as though we do not know, when we very clearly know it all? Is it that excitement of holding a grudge and winning? or is the sense of accomplishment, standing up for what you believe to be right ? Going back to what Derek said, he believes the best way to self enlightenment would be gaining as much knowledge as you can. But wouldn’t ignorance lead to ignoring that knowledge? Ignorant people probably get that sense of accomplishment, like one does when they learn something new, that could very well be there way attaining self enlightenment.

  9. I agree with Professor Lake as stating stupidity and ignorance are different. I feel stupidity is the lack of knowledge due to lack of motivation or encouragement. I see ignorance as being the lack of knowledge due to the fact a person doesn’t care. I agree with Jamie when she said it is a sense of stubbornness.

    I think it could be hard to put restrictions on what to know and don’t know. Since I always learn something new every day, it’s hard to prevent learning something you don’t want to know.

    As for limitations on thoughts, that could be a little easier. We can usually control what we think about and what we don’t.

  10. 10 meganptaszenski

    I agree with both Professor Lake and Chrislynn when they said that stupidity and ignorance are different. I feel that when you are acting out of stupidity, you aren’t acting quick enough or thinking as quick as normal. When one acts out of ignorance however, they are choosing to not educate themselves on the matter at hand and therefore lack the motivation to do so.
    I agree with putting limitations on my thoughts because I feel that i shouldn’t stress out about what I don’t known and only focus on what I do know. I think it would be difficult to put restrictions on what I know and don’t know. Because I don’t put restrictions on what I learn, I have experienced many “Eureka” moments in which i start to begin to understand what I’m learning and what I can do with that knowledge in the future.

  11. 11 jacksonru

    Just to start off this blog, i will address the issue of Britney Spears. Her behavior is way past stupidity and harboring greatly on temporary insanity. I do believe however that with the proper help she just might be able to redeem herself in the eyes of the general public.

    My definition of ignorance is like many have stated lack of knowledge and complacency with the status quo. When you become content with the current state of affairs there is no drive to retain new information or learn something beneficial and this is what I would call severe ignorance. Sagan helped me realize that the reason why we learn is not just to know something new, but to expand our horizons and remain motivated and an active part of society. I truly believe that placing restrictions on your learning under the guise called “ignorance” is detrimental to you and only you. Lastly I also think that people like to misuse the word, almost like hate, so that they can evoke emotion from whoever they are talking to and that makes me remember a quote I learned a long time ago, “Ignorance is bliss”. And that it is, for if you don’t know and don’t care to learn then you are happy with the current state of things and that is wrong because there is always room for improvement.

  12. 12 jacksonru

    Just to begin I would like to address the issue of Britney Spears. Her behavior is way past stupidity and is harboring greatly on temporary insanity. However I do believe with the right help she just might be able to redeem herself in the eyes of the general public.

    I agree with the general consensus. I define ignorance as lack of knowledge and complacency with the status quo. Being content with the way things are implies that there is no room for improvement and this kind of thinking puts mental blocks up in the brain thus stopping the individual from learning anything new. Sagan helped me realize that we do not just learn new things for the sake of learning, we do it to renew our determination and broaden our horizons and outlook on things. It reminds me of a quote that I learned when I was younger, “Ignorance is bliss”. And that it is because when there is not desire to learn anything new that means that everything is perfect in your life and nothing could possibly make it better, and this is what I call severe ignorance.

  13. 13 moraa

    I agree with Professor Lake and Pierre on this one ignorance and stupidity is obviously two different meanings. Ignorant people just are that way because they don’t care about the opinions of the people around them. it’s useless to talk to an ignorant person they never listen and always think that they are right. they just want to have the last word. Also they just become ignorant to piss people off, well sometimes it actually works. Also it is true that ignorance is another way of saying stubborn. I don’t know ignorant people just piss me off. 🙂

  14. I agree with moraa on the fact that ignorant people tend to think the way they want and wont change their ideas for others. They seem to want to stick to what they believe and thats it. Stupidity is completely different I think. Stupidity is when someone is not aware of what others think or is not able to take in the information and beliefs and remember them. They can only focus their attention on little things and small details and only remember that.


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