The Illusion of Knowledge

The illusion of knowledge is worse than knowledge itself.

One risk when receiving a broad, liberal arts education, replete with generalist courses like “Questions of Civilization,” is that it’s tempting to believe that the two days your Civ class spends on the Koran is all you need to know. In other words, you spend a couple days on the Koran, and then move on, and in your mind you check the “Koran” box, and don’t feel it necessary to really dig into it later on.

Sure, perhaps that limited exposure actually motivates you to dig into the text in a way blind ignorance would not. But I’m not so sure.

I think chipping away in superficial, very high level way at a massively complex topic or book can almost be worse than spending no time on it at all. I’d rather have college students walk around knowing they were completely ignorant about the Koran than think they even understand something.

I prefer knowingly ignorant to superficially informed. Of course it’s possible to be both superficially informed and aware of that fact, which is the best of these worlds, but I wouldn’t place this bet on a typical college campus.

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