What is Ignorance Essay Example


Ignorance is often seen as a “gap” in knowledge or lack of knowledge. When ignorance goes unnoticed, it can be reproduced until it eventually becomes the standard for society. Philosopher Linda M. Alcoff discusses in her essay, Epistemologies of Ignorance, the three categories of epistemological ignorance. She discusses how ignorance is not lacking but rather “a substantive epistemic practice in itself” (Alcoff, 39). Alcoff’s triad of ignorance mainly draws from other philosophers like Lorraine Code who doesn’t believe ignorance is because of epistemic situatedness but rather how ignorance is interchangeable. Secondly, Sandra Harding makes connections between group identities and ignorance towards identities in which the society is constructed to the needs of those who are epistemically disadvantaged and do not seek knowledge. Lastly, Charles Mills’s work that discusses ignorance as a product of an oppressive system that doesn’t acknowledge it being oppressive. Using these three philosophers’ work, Alcoff successfully makes her claim that ignorance is a problem to the ontologies of truth. However, I found myself to be most enthralled with Code’s argument as it’s the most successful in supporting Alcoff’s claim that ignorance is a problem to the ontologies of truth. 

Code’s argument includes that an individual’s judgment is always biased because of their unique epistemic advantages and disadvantages. This brings in the argument of ignorance from epistemic situatedness, or a knower’s knowledge is limited to their own experiences due to their situation despite having the same resources as someone else. For instance, I found the operating room example Alcoff uses to be quite clear about this. The context is how to treat a patient when two people are given the same information and resources. The twist here is that one of the people in the operating room is an actual doctor and the other is not. Given the doctor’s expertise and experience, it gives he/she the upper hand to determine the patient’s condition. 

They have had the proper training and education to interpret such information. The other person in this case is epistemically disadvantaged because while they may be able to perceive the same information, the information is used differently because of their ignorance to learn this whereas the doctor has the expertise to know what to do. In other words, epistemic situatedness involves not only their position in place and time, but their experiences since knowledge is judgement- based upon one's own experiences. Alcoff’s input of Code’s argument of ignorance of situatedness enforces the idea that we will always be ignorant to some things, which is due to our unique situations.

This contradicts Code’s view on the traditional epistemology, “S knows that p”, which claims the subject is interchangeable when in fact it’s not. As Alcoff contradicts Code’s claim, “These sorts of beliefs involve complicated processes of judgment that will bring the knower’s specific history of experience to bear” (Alcoff 40). This means that some beliefs involve a complex understanding and cannot be as simple as “S knows that p” given the fact that one has to take into factor their personal history. Therefore, the epistemology, “S knows that p” cannot be applied to every claim and isn’t accurate. If I were to be in an identical situation as someone else, I guarantee that there would be two different outcomes due to “differing social positions” that “generate variable constructions of reality” (Alcoff 41). This alludes to the concept that a knower’s view is always from somewhere. In order to determine whether Alcoff is accurate here, I’ll refer back to the operating room example which exhibits how all knowers have their own judgment (that relies on experience) about the same situation that will be different than another person. Initially, I thought that the person who lacks the knowledge was ignorant but as Alcoff mentions, we cannot be certain which situation derives from ignorance. Rather, the other person with no knowledge about that concept will be considered disadvantaged because of experiences in which they were never placed in.

 

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