I Think This Should Be A Word: Ignoranthropite

I like this word ignoranthropite, which appears to mean something like “a person who dwells in ignorance”. Of course, that’s pretty much all of us, and I don’t really see it as a synonym for being human, so what else might it mean?

As a rule I’m opposed to gratuitous ignorance-shaming. I strive to accept the fact that we are each of us more ignorant than knowledgeable, and I really think that of all the nasty ways to luck-shame someone, I think one of the nastiest is to shame someone for having failed to learn something yet. Examples of this sort of interpersonal cruelty abound:

  • You should know how to manage your own finances!
  • What? You mean you can’t even cook a souffle?
  • Don’t you know better than to give your credit card number to someone who just calls you up and asks for it?
  • You idiot!
  • You moron!
  • You dolt!
  • You’ve never read The Great Gatsby! Did you even finish high school?
  • Holy cow! When are you going to learn to drive?
  • This is America, dammit — speak Navaho!

So I wouldn’t want this neologism to become a term of insult or disparagement, which suggests it should refer to some sort of temporary status. It is simply a word meant to convey a particular way of being human under particular sorts of circumstances. More specifically, it should probably describe a particular way of being ignorant, until such ignorance has been replaced with a particular kind of  knowledge.

Perhaps this:

An ignoranthropite is a person who dwells for the time being in the specific and hopefully temporary ignorance of his or her own more general and utterly Human state of Ignorance.

In this sense, it appears to have an antonymous relationship to some kind of enlightenment. To the extent that enlightenment is an awareness of one’s own ignorance, then an ignoranthropite is one who has yet to achieve that type of enlightenment.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Skepticism, Knowledge and Malingering

Man looking skeptical

Image found here.

Never confuse skepticism for knowledge. If I claim to have a disability and you are skeptical of that claim, that does not somehow magically imply that I am faking or exaggerating something.

Of course your skepticism is entirely rational and legitimate, and kudos for that. But simple skepticism is not evidence of anything other than some brain’s rational hunger for actual evidence. If you think otherwise you are badly confused. And especially if you happen to work as a disability-insurance claims investigator, then you are dangerously confused and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near such an insurance claim.

Skepticism is just a first step toward actual knowledge, and a refusal to take the next one — to scrutinize the real evidence — is the most reckless kind of foolery.

Skepticism as Curiosity

Little boy looking at the ground through a magnifying glass

Image found here.

Although I see myself as a skeptic, I’ve never liked that term. It always has a taint of disparagement, and I always feel like I need to explain it, or make jokes like “Don’t worry, it doesn’t seem to be very contagious.” It often seems to be used like a synonym for disagreeable, or party-pooperstuffy, stodgy, closed-minded, old coot, etc.

For me, skepticism is quite the opposite of all that. To my view the word skepticism is more like a synonym for curiosity — an urge to push past my current knowledge and understanding of the world. As I see it, to be a skeptic is nothing like being closed minded. On the contrary, it means to open one’s mind to alternatives, to free oneself from excessively rigid or mindless ideological over-commitments, and to stubbornly refuse to clutter up one’s own nervous system with a tangle of complicated, contradictory, and unnecessary opinions — what we might call belief pollution.

But that doesn’t mean I have no beliefs or opinions, of course. In fact, I seem to have so many of these that I’ve even created this blog as a place to document them. But my blog isn’t just a place for me to put my opinions. As I experience it, writing is actually a better way to think, and the process of a writing a blog post is also the process of formulating, scrutinizing, testing, reformulating, re-scrutinizing, revising, and in general indulging my often relentless curiosity regarding the way my own mind works.

In this way I am skeptical of even my own beliefs.

 

 

Am I Right, Or Just Truth-Lucky?

silver coinSuppose there are three of us — you, me and some fella named Jake. And suppose you flip a coin and then cover it with your hand so neither neither Jake nor I can see whether it came up heads or tails. Then you very carefully show just Jake the result — which we will assume was heads — and you ask us both to announce simultaneously what we believe the result to be.

Now, of course Jake knows what that the coin came up heads, but I don’t, so I just make some guess. And on the count of three, and just by dumb luck, suppose that both Jake and I announce simultaneously that we believe the same thing — that the coin came up heads.

Now, it’s common in situations like this to say that both Jake and I are “right”, because we both believe that the coin came up heads, and the observable fact of the matter is that the coin did, indeed, come up heads. But is this really accurate? Am I really “right”, or at least “right” in the same way that Jake is right?

I don’t think so. I think these are two radically different ways of “being right”, and I also think that when we use the same word to describe them we risk causing confusion in the minds of listeners who haven’t yet taken the time to think these things through. And having done this sort of thinking ourselves, I think we have the opportunity to accept the responsibility for inviting others to do so too, and a good way to do this is to use two different terms for these two different kinds of belief, one grounded in direct observation of facts, and the other floating on a gust of luck, either wholly, or in some cases, only partly.

But what term to use for the latter? I’m open to suggestions, of course, but I’ve recently started using truth-lucky.