Awareness of ignorance

SATS 20 (2):141-173 (2020)
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Despite the recent increase in interest in philosophy about ignorance, little attention has been paid to the question of what makes it possible for a being to become aware of their own ignorance. In this paper, I try to provide such an account by arguing that, for a being to become aware of their own ignorance, they must have the mental capacity to represent something as being unknown to them. For normal adult humans who have mastered a language, mental representation of an unknown is enabled by forming linguistic expressions whose content is grasped, but whose referent is unknown. I provide a neo-Fregean, a neo-Russellian, and then a unified account of this. On that basis, I then argue further that the content of ignorance can always be captured by a question. I then distinguish between propositional ignorance and non-propositional ignorance and argue that propositional ignorance attributions can be of three types, that-ignorance, whether-ignorance, and fact-ignorance. I conclude by arguing that the acquisition of truths, even when it yields knowledge that is certain, does not always eliminate one’s ignorance and that there is a degree of ignorance in almost everything we claim to know.
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Archival date: 2020-07-26
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