Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Knowingness, a sibling of Know-it-All

Recently, I learned a new word: knowingness. It featured in a 2023 article in AeonPsyche magazine: Our big problem is not misinformation; it’s knowingness. In my view, knowingness is similar to the proverbial phrase: Mr./Mrs. Know-it-All. Also see this 20th century quote:

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

A quote by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a British mathematician, philosopher, logician, and public intellectual.

The article defines knowingness as “a posture of always ‘already knowing’, of purporting to know the answers even before the question arises. When new facts come to light, the knowing person is unperturbed. You may be shocked, but they knew all along.” Hence, the term feels like new wine in old caskets.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m a Mr. Know-it-All. In my view, I’m not because I know little about many subjects. My (sole) aim is to understand the Why because everything follows Why. So far, I have failed to understand the Why in the (Dutch) nitrogen pollution debate. Hence, I don’t write about it.

For me, the Why question involves both the pros and cons. Often these arguments are about two perspectives, being macro (eg, climate, society) versus micro (eg, an individual focus). Moreover, both perspectives are usually valid. Hence, I tend to be a centrist in (very) many issues.

Actually, I doubt (sic!) our “big problem” is knowingness, or misinformation. Our “big problem” is that we believe what we want to believe, regardless of facts. Hence my blog labels belief systems and needs-wants-beliefs. In my view, we do see misinformation but just ignore it because it’s inconvenient.

In our highly polarized societies, everyone only looks at the pros that fit their ideological beliefs. No wonder that opposing views feel ignored and radicalize. It would help if people – at the very least – acknowledge pros and cons. Then they can prioritize and choose according to their beliefs.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

An alleged and/but unverified quote by Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), a theoretical physicist, and cosmologist.

He’s Misstra Know-It-All (1973) by Stevie Wonder
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-artist, Wiki-album, Wiki-song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.


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