Monday, October 26, 2009

Knowing Enough to Spot Ignorance

Gavin de Becker, in his extraordinary book "The Gift of Fear," observes that one of fear's benefits is whatever you are fearing has yet to happen. Fear permits you to take precautionary actions.

A related twist may be found in many other conditions. There are people who are too ignorant to know they are ignorant, too biased to know they are biased, and too insensitive to know they are insensitive. Being able to spot those flaws would constitute - as is said in so many recovery programs - the first step toward recovery and yet it requires a basic level of self-awareness and honesty.

Greater study and exposure to varying viewpoints can help to achieve that level. The sign of an educated person is a healthy skepticism toward sources of information. An alert history student quickly learns that there are various schools of historians and that the slant provided in a particular text should not be taken as holy writ. This warning applies as well to the opinions of the professors, journalists, and . . . bloggers.

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