Educating for ignorance

Rik Peels*, Duncan Pritchard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

It is widely thought that education should aim at positive epistemic standings, like knowledge, insight, and understanding. In this paper, we argue that, surprisingly, in pursuit of this aim, it is sometimes necessary to also cultivate ignorance. We examine several types of case. First, in various circumstances educators should present students with defeaters for their knowledge, so that they come to lack knowledge, at least temporarily. Second, there is the phenomenon of ‘scaffolding’ in education, which we note might sometimes involve the educator quite properly ensuring that the student is ignorant of certain kinds of information. Third, if ignorance is lack of true belief, as a number of commentators have claimed, then in those cases in which students believe something truly without knowing it and teachers show that they lack knowledge, students may abandon that belief and thus become ignorant. In examining the role of ignorance in education, we explore exactly which kinds of ignorance are valuable in teaching situations and draw attention to important epistemic differences between ignorance on different levels.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSynthese
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Defeaters
  • Education
  • Epistemic ends
  • Ignorance
  • Knowledge
  • Scaffolding

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