Better Men (and Women) or Willful Ignorance…

I’m reading some more of the platonic Dialogues again right now, partly because Socrates is good fun and partly because I really need to return Mike’s books to him and this is one of the ones I borrowed around (cough, cough) two years ago. Anyhoo, I came across a wonderful little quote. The parenthetical (and women) is my editorial nod towards inclusiveness.

Socrates: I think so too, Meno. I do not insist that my argument is right in all other respects, but I would contend at all costs both in word and deed as far as I could that we will be better men (and women), braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe that it is not possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it.
-Plato, Meno, 86b (trans. G.M.A. Grube; Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 1981).

Ignorance is a fact of life. Willful ignorance is a sin.

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3 thoughts on “Better Men (and Women) or Willful Ignorance…

  1. My question is: how do you know when it is willfull? What about our interpretations? How do we know when we are willfully schewing things and when we are accurately interpreting? Given our human propensity to read <>in<> as much as we read <>out<> wouldn’t we just be a lot better off not even trying to interpret or understand anything?I’m being somewhat of a devil’s advocate here, but sometimes I wish I didn’t think or try to understand things. In other words, I long at times for the bliss of ignorance.

  2. All readings are the product of the reader at least as much as the text. The consequence of this is that any reading you produce is about you perhaps even more than it’s about the text. All of this to say that I wouldn’t worry about “reading into” the text all that much. You just have to be conscious that you’re doing it.But what I really meant by willful ignorance is the attitude of those people who have no interest in learning and think that an education is a necessary evil we must endure in order to get a “good job.”And I really do think that Socrates is right, learning, or trying to learn does make us better people. Do you really think that you are worse off now than when you knew less? You’re really just conscious of how badly off you were before which suggests to be that you have some hope of being less badly off in the future :). Though I do understand the sentiment of what you’re saying. See my post below entitled “Learning Too Much.”

  3. well, no, i think i’m better off, but that has more to do with the fact that I am happier learning than i am otherwise. if i didn’t like learning i’d be tempted to join with those who avoid it all costs though. it is a lot more comfortable.of course, it is very frustrating when people discredit themselves by assuming they have nothing to contribute to the learning process. we tend to only hear from the intellectuals or the ones who like to hear their own voice. i am trying to repent of this elitism. of course there is a place for a scholarly community, but i think the goal should always be to disseminate the conversation to the public, and in christian circles, the church.so i’m with you. encouraging learning amongst all is better for all of us, especially in these days where we are so conscious of the need for a community to aid us in faithful interpretation and application of Scripture.ignorance may be bliss, but the bliss is short lived and it doesn’t go anywhere good. at the same time, an overdose of intellect can end up going nowhere at all.

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