For other uses, see Ignorance (disambiguation).

Ignorance is a state of being uninformed or lack of knowledge.[1] The word ignorant is an adjective describing a person in the state of being unaware and is often (incorrectly) used to describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts. Individuals that are disregarding their duty to their country, community and family are more than simply guilty of ignorance but are also guilty of negligence. This should not be confused with lack of knowledge.

Ignoramus is commonly used in the UK, Ireland, and the US as a term for someone who is willfully ignorant. Ignorance is distinguished from stupidity, although both can lead to "unwise" acts.

Writer Thomas Pynchon articulated about the scope and structure of one's ignorance: "Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person's mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well. So as a corollary to [the advice of] writing about what we know, maybe we should add getting familiar with our ignorance, and the possibilities therein for writing a good story."[2]

The legal principle that ignorantia juris non excusat, literally "ignorance of the law is no excuse", stands for the proposition that the law applies also to those who are unaware of it.


Individuals with superficial knowledge of a topic or subject may be worse off than people who know absolutely nothing. As Charles Darwin observed, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."[3]

Ignorance can stifle learning, especially if the ignorant person believes that he or she is not ignorant. A person who falsely believes he or she is knowledgeable will not seek out clarification of his or her beliefs, but rather rely on his or her ignorant position. He or she may also reject valid but contrary information, neither realizing its importance nor understanding it. This concept is elucidated in Justin Kruger's and David Dunning's work, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments," otherwise known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

See also


  1. Wordnet. "Ignorance". Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  2. Pynchon, Thomas (1984). "Introduction". Slow learner : early stories. Boston: Little, Brown. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-316-72442-4.
  3. Charles Darwin (1871). "The Descent of Man" (w). pp. Introduction, page 4. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
    On related note, greater knowledge can, if improperly taken account of, work against you. See: Hall, C. C.; Ariss, L.; Todorov, A (2007). "The illusion of knowledge: When more information reduces accuracy and increases confidence" (PDF). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 103: 277–290. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2007.01.003. Retrieved 21 January 2014.

External links

Look up - or ignorance in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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