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What is the philosophical view of believing that ignorance is bliss, or that knowledge of yourself or the world is bad for you?

  • Check out Classical Taoism, esp the writings of Lao tzu and zhuanzhi (Chris degnen's answer touches on this). – Cicero Aug 8 '15 at 11:49
  • Taoism encourages us to become knowledgeable and in particular to know ourselves. The view that ignorance is bliss does seem to be a philosophical view but it's an odd view that has to appeal to ignorance.for its justification and not at all clear that knowledge is not even greater bliss. Depends what sort of knowledge. – PeterJ Oct 27 '17 at 8:25
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There are a couple avenues of research here:

1) rational ignorance theory- the idea that sometimes the effort required to gain knowledge is not worth the benefit the knowledge would bring

2) original sin and other ideas from the religious field related to impairment of the spirit by knowledge and to obtaining some form of spiritual success through various practices other than obtaining knowledge. There are Mystics, Sufis, Zen Buddhists and others in this vein.

These may not make negative moral statements about knowledge, but their moral force does not operate through knowledge or give rationality the pride of place.

For example, see M. Foucault "Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977--1978" pp212-213 LINK

"In mysticism ignorance is knowing and knowledge has the very form of ignorance."

  • rational ignorance theory seems to hold that knowledge is always inherently positive, though not always worth the effort. original sin seems to be a general religious concept not specific to knowledge. The question has been altered, but I was looking for a concrete term I could refer to instead of phrases like ''ignorance is bliss'' or ''knowledge is bad''. – good_one Apr 5 '15 at 17:04
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There is something of this gist in ancient philosophy, namely The Writings of Chuang Tzu:

Khü Khieh, or 'Cutting Open Satchels' *

... if an end were put to sageness and wisdom put away, the great robbers would cease to arise. If jade were put away and pearls broken to bits, the small thieves would not appear. If tallies were burned and seals broken in pieces, the people would become simple and unsophisticated.

... the common people are perplexed by all the sophistry. Hence there is great disorder continually in the world, and the guilt of it is due to that fondness for knowledge. Thus it is that all men know to seek for the knowledge that they have not attained to; and do not know to seek for that which they already have (in themselves); and that they know to condemn what they do not approve (in others), and do not know to condemn what they have allowed in themselves;-- it is this which occasions the great confusion and disorder.

Incidentally, the first line on the page elucidates a certain chapter of the The Tâo Te Ching:

'Minimising the Light'

Fishes should not be taken from the deep; instruments for the profit of a state should not be shown to the people.

* Alternative link with notes: Khü Khieh, or 'Cutting open Satchels'

There is a similar sentiment on the problem of knowledge in Buddhism, dating from around the same time, circa 6th century BCE:

Paramatthaka Sutta: On Views

Abandoning (the views) he had (previously) held and not taking up (another), he does not seek a support even in knowledge. Among those who dispute he is certainly not one to take sides. He does not [have] recourse to a view at all. In whom there is no inclination to either extreme, for becoming or non-becoming, here or in another existence, for him there does not exist a fixed viewpoint on investigating the doctrines assumed (by others). Concerning the seen, the heard and the cognized he does not form the least notion. That brahmana who does not grasp at a view, with what could he be identified in the world?

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No. Philosophy means "Love of Wisdom", right? Ignorance is the pollutant that philosophy aims to remediate. Therefore, if such a theory were to surface in philosophical context it would be annihilated quickly.

Now, as for political/legal theory, that is utterly another matter.

  • That seems reasonable, though there are too many philosophical positions that undermine the structures of philosophy itself (like radical skepticism, nihilism, relativism) and still get to have a designation, because the rejection of philosophy is still a valuable topic for philosophy – good_one Apr 6 '15 at 15:15
  • Not at all. There may easily be a philosophical theory that says the quote in question is a wisdom. Such a theory would strive for wisdom. The theory itself is a result of the search for wisdom; the wisdom is that you should not want to know something. There is nothing wrong with paradoxes in philosophy. Apart from that, it's not necessarily true that the notion of 'ignorance' is related to the notion of 'wisdom'. It may also be related to 'knowledge', depending on your definition. – Keelan Apr 6 '15 at 16:00
  • @good_one I did not say that considering ignorance or rejection of philosophy had no value, nor did I downvote anything - just provided my answer for your consideration. Nihilism, skepticism, etc are not philosophies they are ideas or concepts, right? Or no? – Ron Royston Apr 6 '15 at 16:07
  • @Keelan Philosophy is in diametric contradiction of ignorance. What paradox do you speak of? – Ron Royston Apr 6 '15 at 16:12
  • The paradox of a philosophy stating that ignorance is bliss. Someone performing the act of philosophizing typically does not think that ignorance is bliss (otherwise he would not be philosophizing). However, there's no reason the outcome of that act of philosophizing may not be the theory that ignorance is bliss. – Keelan Apr 6 '15 at 16:13
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I am approaching this question with two types of people in mind. I do realize there are infinite types of people in the finest levels but for now i am focusing on two. the two are the ones who do know they don't know or philosophers and the ones who don't know that they don't know. its obvious witch one is blissful in ignorance. the one who gains bliss from knowing is the philosopher.

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