Surprising Suspensions: The Epistemic Value of Being Ignorant

Dissertation, Rutgers University - New Brunswick (2021)
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Knowledge is good, ignorance is bad. So it seems, anyway. But in this dissertation, I argue that some ignorance is epistemically valuable. Sometimes, we should suspend judgment even though by believing we would achieve knowledge. In this apology for ignorance (ignorance, that is, of a certain kind), I defend the following four theses: 1) Sometimes, we should continue inquiry in ignorance, even though we are in a position to know the answer, in order to achieve more than mere knowledge (e.g. understanding) while minimizing the effects of confirmation bias. 2) It’s false that we should believe every proposition such that we are guaranteed to be right about it (and even such that we are guaranteed to know it) if we believe it. 3) Being in a position to know is the norm of assertion: importantly, this does not require belief or (thereby) knowledge, and so proper assertion can survive speaker-ignorance. 4) It can be permissible and conversationally useful to tell audiences things that it is logically impossible for them to come to know: Proper assertion can survive (necessary) audience-side ignorance. Cumulatively, this project suggests that, properly understood, ignorance has an important role to play in the good epistemic life.

Author's Profile

Christopher Willard-Kyle
University of Glasgow


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