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University of Ignorance

Engaging with nothing, the unknown, the incomprehensible, and the unsaid (Part #1)

Reframing the conventional deprecation of ignorance
Varieties of ignorance from various perspectives
Indicative cognitive challenges of a University of Ignorance
Avoiding distortions of premature cognitive closure
Academic misappropriation of the known-not-known dynamic
Clues to engaging with the unknown
Knowing and Ignoring: a necessary complementarity?
University of Ignorance as a dynamic cognitive pattern
Re-imagining the intensive farming of people in a knowledge-based society
Dynamic of indwelling intelligence: questioning learning
Palliative care for institutional dementia?
Minimal connectivity of knowledge to sustain healthy ignorance
Living in ignorance in the University of Life

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The possibility of a University of Ignorance merits consideration as a process with which people could engage to unlearn. This would naturally contrast with the worldwide preoccupation with the culmination of intellectual effort in the education and research undertaken so exclusively at conventional universities -- framed unquestionably as the advancement of knowledge. Whatever their much acclaimed merits, these tend to obscure the recognition of the potential significance of what is not known, most notably in relation to any transcendent "wisdom" which features so questionably in university preoccupations, if at all.

A consideration at this time is the apparent inability of the academic world to elaborate insights of relevance in practice to the governance of a global civilization faced with a plethora of seemingly unresolvable challenges -- and with the possibility of more to come of a potentially unforeseeable nature. The assertive declarations of competence and insight from the perspectives of the various disciplines are themselves indicative of the inadequacy of "knowledge" -- given the problematic quality of discourse between them. By contrast, how can the quality of discourse be enhanced between any acknowledging their ignorance ?

The question is then where one can go to engage creatively and otherwise with ignorance, unknowledge and nothingness, however these might be understood or tragically experienced. Where can the quest for insight be explored without the obsessive focus on cognitive closure and the associated constraining emphasis on knowledge acquisition, publish-or-perish, and intellectual property? Where can unusual questions be evoked, irrespective of any approval by authorities and peer groups, claiming unquestionable insight?

The possibility of an appropriately paradoxical "University of Ignorance" follows from interweaving previous explorations of a "University of Earth" together with the past "organization" of an experimental International School of Ignorance. The latter was initially conceived as a complement to the archetypal preoccupation with a "School of Wisdom" and the dynamics typical of transdisciplinary discourse (Evaluating Synthesis Initiatives and their Sustaining Dialogues, 2000). The requisite paradoxical nature of some such initiative was previously explored with respect to "meta-education" (¿ Higher Education ∞ Meta-education ? Transforming cognitive enabling processes increasingly unfit for purpose, 2011).

The essential role of ignorance might also be explored in the light of the focus on what is cognitively "missing", as articulated by Terrence Deacon (The Importance of What is Missing, New Scientist, 26 November 2011). This is relevant to the widespread experiential challenge of "nothingness" (Going Nowhere through Not-knowing Where to Go, 2013; Configuring the Varieties of Experiential Nothingness, 2012) and various understandings of the "unthought" and the "unsaid" (Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization, 2012; Varieties of the Unsaid in Sustaining Psycho-social Community, 2003).

In a period when the quality of knowledge -- so widely, arrogantly and uncritically hyped -- would seem to be inadequate to the challenges of a global knowledge-based civilization, a more assiduous engagement with the ignorance implicit in such failure merits consideration. A more appropriate engagement with ignorance -- and the process of ignoring -- could prove to be a fruitful complement to the pattern of obsession with knowledge and its acquisition (cf. Identity, Possessive World-making and their Transformation Dynamics, 2012). This has the merit of honouring the despair experienced by those faced with nothing except promises. Spanish Government Clueless About Youth Unemployment Fixes? - January 30, 2013

This is written at a time when youth unemployment in at least one developed country, Spain, has reached unprecedented levels, with "nothing" on offer for their future (Spanish Youth Unemployment is on The Verge of Breaking 60%, Business Insider, 24 January 2013; Spanish Government Clueless about Youth Unemployment Fixes? Seriously Spain, 20 January 2013). The period is also witness to a gathering of the World Economic Forum in which a small minority of leaders warned the majority of their complacency (World Economic Forum ends on warning note over 'complacency', The Guardian, 26 January 2013). This is perhaps symptomatic of the ignorance of that gathering when "nothing" disastrous was anticipated immediately prior to the continuing global financial crisis their negligence had enabled.

For people faced to such a degree with "nothing", the question here is how a University of Ignorance might be imagined and how one might fruitfully engage in its processes. The argument assumes that, until it is recognized how the knowledge processing capacity of conventional universities is "part of the problem", it may well be impossible to comprehend the paradoxical nature of any "solution" required. As noted by Albert Einstein: The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

How might a University of Ignorance be enacted and embodied -- collectively and individually?

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