A Vocabulary of Ignorance

  • Michael Smithson
Part of the Cognitive Science book series (COGNITIVE SCIEN)


Until recently, ignorance and uncertainty were neglected topics in the human sciences and even in philosophy. Even now, they do not share center stage with knowledge in those disciplines, but remain sideshow oddities for the most part. Instead, Western intellectual culture has been preoccupied with the pursuit of absolutely certain knowledge or, barring that, the nearest possible approximation to it. This preoccupation is worth investigating, since it appears to be responsible not only for the neglect of ignorance, but also the absence of a conceptual framework for seriously studying it. Accordingly, in this section I will briefly outline the orientations in Western science and philosophy which have motivated the neglect of ignorance. I will also take the position that these orientations have begun to change recently, and that one of the spinoffs has been an unprecedented interest in ignorance, uncertainty, and related topics.


Human Science Active Voice Explanatory Account Passive Voice Radical Skepticism 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Smithson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral SciencesJames Cook University of North QueenslandTownsvilleAustralia

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