To provide an example that clearly depicts the point above we could question the death of King George VI. If we are to ask ourselves the simple questions, when and how did he die we would be met with the simple answers, “He passed away on the 6th of February 1952 in his sleep. ” This information is complete, there is no ignorance gained from this knowledge. The definitiveness of the question allows for a final answer, which means that there is simply nothing left to know about this question. Furthermore, it suggests that Henry Miller’s idea that, as we know more we become more ignorant, is not always true.
However, yet again, it is imperative to consider the ignorance of the knower. If they are ignorant to the fact they are ignorant, and complacent in accepting the information given to them then there is a contradiction, and Miller’s quote is valid. To consider an example to help clarify this complex idea, we can consider a historian who has heard that Archduke Franz Ferdinand died peacefully in his sleep. Although this example verifies the first point that, by knowing the answer to the historical question, there is simply nothing left to know about this question, it also contradicts it.
In considering this example we relies there is a reiterates of the point prior, the point that suggests, yes, in expanding our knowledge we increase our ignorance. The reason for this being that in order to be certain the knower is not ignorant the knower must be 100% certain their knowledge is correct. The historian who thinks that Archduke Franz Ferdinand has died peacefully in his sleep is wrong, and therefore by knowing the false answer he has still increased his horizon of ignorance. To conclude this argument I feel that the best answer to suggest to a knower is that, yes it is valid, but at the same time, it is not.
The knower must think about the context to which they are applying this idea to before they can make a reasonable judgment. By first considering the context, whether it be science or history, or art even, they have progressed further in their ignorance, and if the knower is assured that the knowledge they have gained is 100% accurate they again have come even closer to understanding the extent to which increasing our knowledge increases the horizon of ignorance. It is only after both of these variables have been considered that the knower can truly reach equilibrium of knowledge to ignorance.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character,
Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (contributor), Edward Hutchings (editor), 1985, W W Norton, ISBN 0-393-01921-7
Date accessed: 01.02.09
Date accessed: 01.02.09
Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
Michael Shermer (contributor) Stephen Jay Gould Published by W.H. Freeman, 1997
ISBN 0716730901, 9780716730903