Educating for ignorance

Rik Peels*, Duncan Pritchard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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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
Pages (from-to)7949-7963
Number of pages15
JournalSynthese
Volume198
Issue number8
Early online date23 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

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

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