What is meant by knowledge


Nico Stehr

To person

Ph.D., F.R.S.C., born 1942; Karl Mannheim Professor for Cultural Studies, Zeppelin University, 88045 Friedrichshafen. [email protected]

The polarization of knowledge and ignorance or ignorance has become a kind of key difference in the modern age, observations on ignorance and its meaning are booming. In a sociological critique of these positions I would like to show that it is unproductive to refer to ignorance as the opposite of knowledge. The really explosive sociological questions are twofold: First, how does one behave in modern society - under different framework conditions - with regard to asymmetries of knowledge and especially of knowledge deficits? Second, not knowledge deficits, although gaps of this type have significant consequences, are increasingly a problem of modern societies, but their opposite. In modern societies, it is not just that we don't know enough, but that we know too much.

My theses on the deceptive phenomenon of not knowing can be summarized as follows: Not every problem has two sides. Or, to use a formulation by the economist Joseph Stiglitz about the invisible hand that is supposedly effective in markets: Why is the invisible hand invisible? [1] Because it does not exist. Why is ignorance so difficult to grasp? Because there is no such thing as ignorance. Actually, I could break off my reflections at this point. But since I don't want to capitulate immediately to the phenomenon of alleged ignorance, I limit myself to observing discourses in which it is confidently affirmed that there is such a thing as ignorance. I would like to begin with a series of simple descriptions of the state that show my skepticism towards the concept of not knowing.

For diagnosis

Our actions are knowledge-based. Knowledge of others and self-knowledge are conditions of socialization. Just as one is not naked without a head covering, one is ignorant "without" knowledge. A society in which there are no secrets is unthinkable. Ignoring information and knowledge makes sense, even rational. A society in which there is total behavioral transparency is impossible. Knowledge is never a creation out of nothing. The existence of a NotThe knowledge society is just as questionable as that of a speechless human society. We live in complex societies with a high division of labor, in which all members are ignorant of almost all knowledge. The individual knows that their knowledge is limited. On the other hand, the individual benefits from knowledge that he does not know. [2]

Knowledge is a variables, a social phenomenon located along a continuum, and refers to the existence of the elementary Knowledge sharing in more complex societies. [3] Acting in conditions of uncertainty is commonplace. Knowing about these "gaps" is knowledge; However, it is not a category of ignorance, even if, if one considers this term to be productive, of "negative knowledge". [4] Indeed, we can often close this gap quickly because we know or can learn who may know. [5] On the other hand, there are many things that (almost) everyone knows about (or about which almost everyone knows informed are). [6]

It is not only illogical, but theoretically and practically-empirically also unproductive to refer to knowledge as the opposite of ignorance. This static contrast of either / or only leads us into the abyss of the arbitrary and unquestionably boring opposition between rational and irrational or between knowledge and opinion; for example, when one says that every (new, rational) knowledge raises new, irrational ignorance. [7] Knowledge represents a continuum that cannot simply be cut. Knowledge is a total social phenomenon (fait social total; Marcel Mauss). Knowledge or the revision of knowledge arises from already existing knowledge (and not from forms of ignorance).

Questionable boom of the term

But why does the concept of Ignorance Is there still a boom in the cultural and social sciences? Why is the category of ignorance (as the alleged dark side of knowledge) increasingly becoming a prominent and pointed currency unit in the media and public discussion? [8] The boom in reflections on ignorance has a lot to do with the essentially controversial concept of knowledge and ours Understanding of production conditions and the social role assigned to knowledge.

Is the difference between ignorance and knowledge an example of the typical static polarity of terms in old European philosophy? objectified Knowledge in contemporary societies only dominated a tiny (and probably diminishing) part of all knowledge? Is the widespread diagnosis of political "ignorance" or "stupidity" of the average voter and the resulting danger for democracy one of the reasons why the topic of ignorance is topical?

The philosophy of democracy in the 18th century, which in many respects is still relevant today, has no relief for not participating in democratic decisions based on rational arguments and considerations. The business of democracy demands that one entrusts oneself to specialists (experts). But this does not change the fact that the experts implement the will of the citizens. The foundations of the agreement are in jeopardy as soon as the specialists - in several respects - move away from the general will and there comes a domination of the experts promoted by the ignorance of the citizens. The depressing diagnosis may be that ignorance endangers democracy and ultimately only leads to its existence according to its name.

It is unrealistic to believe that the average person, including the well-educated, has or should have sufficient "technical" knowledge to intervene in complex decision-making processes. Does the concept of ignorance basically only refer to what is socially necessary distribution of knowledge or the widespread existence of "pseudo-opinions"? [10] Does the concept of ignorance primarily refer to the future about which we are only partially informed or know something? [11] Is the concept of ignorance only a Technocratic construct that is supposed to prove that what matters is that all of the voters should be aware, and that regulations must be created and implemented to ensure this?

Who or what exactly is the reference variable when there is a duality of ignorance and knowledge or the connection between knowledge and ignorance (as known unknowns) the speech is? Is it the individual or a collective? Or, more narrowly, does the term refer to a single process, a singular property (information) or a forecast of an event? How long must or can ignorance be (noticeably) recognizable in order to be ignorance? For example, can ignorance last for seconds? Are you referring to individual forms of knowledge (or information) that the isolated individual (e.g. as a scientist) or an ignorant collective does not have and cannot have because you always proceed selectively or are forced to filter?

In any case, it is a paradoxical state to speak intelligently about something we know nothing about, [12] and at the same time make statements about an alleged one disproportionate, non-linear increase in ignorance [13] as well as analyzing the possibility of "how, why and by whom ignorance" [14] is generated.

It is noticeable that the talk of not knowing is usually not accompanied by any explicit attempt to use this term or to precisely determine that of knowledge. The lack of conceptual precision also extends to the problematic question of whether it makes sense to distinguish between information and knowledge. Are you only talking about scientific findings? The frequent repetition of the concept of ignorance without specification, the typical amalgamation of the concepts of information and knowledge as well as a multitude of other concepts [15] and a long list of the most diverse properties of ignorance ultimately lead to the unsatisfactory reference that it is the case under investigation Phenomenon that is difficult to understand mixture out of knowledge and ignorance [16], or that there are many Shades between knowing and not knowing [17].

Is there another cause of the boom in the overestimation of the role of social knowledge and the underestimation of the social risks of knowledge? Can the social phenomena, if we can specify them at all, which refer to the existence (and the construction?) Of ignorance, be understood much better with other terms? Definitely is a The key to recognizing the myth of ignorance is the concept of knowledge itself, another the question of how it is differentiated from the concept of information. Many everyday idioms as well as meaningful philosophical observations seem to fit the subject of supposed ignorance: there are many things we all know (or are all informed about); even when we know a lot, we know we know little, or the more we know, the less we know. What exactly do we mean when we say we know nothing? [18]