It is often said that ignorance is bliss. Mostly, this cliché assertion is made in jest, but it may contain more truth than supposed. If ignorance is to be understood as a lack of knowledge, and bliss is to be understood as the personification of happiness, then as an individual develops, potential happiness cannot be constant. For the contention does not permit an increase of happiness equivalent to an increase in knowledge. Likewise, it supposes that happiness is the derivative of ignorance; resulting in a balance between the two. This is, of course, only true if we are dealing with absolutes. Thus, if we add exceptions to the extent that some individuals only find happiness through acquiring knowledge, two paradigms have been created. Discovering if there is truth in either is our goal.
First, what is happiness? Happiness can be expressed as the absence of pain, or the fulfillment of one’s goals, or the feeling of contentment, and so on. In truth, the state known as ‘happiness’ is too subjective to quantify universally, so the definition must be left open-ended. Despite this, the will to attain happiness is universal and as a result, variations to the original contention are permitted.
Second, what is knowledge? Knowledge is information collected through sensory experience. This includes a priori knowledge – deductive reasoning only begins after information is accumulated through experience. Rationalists will certainly disagree with this, but the intent of this analysis is not to debate epistemologies.
That out of the way, we can examine the original premise. To do this, we must review knowledge that carries the potential for despair; and in doing so, we shall demonstrate happiness occurring from a lack of knowledge.
Many scientific discoveries have caused a great deal of angst. For example, the discovery that the Andromeda Galaxy is on a collision course with our own is understandably demoralizing. Moreover, the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate; ultimately, the universe will exhaust itself unspectacularly. This presents a very bleak future – one that can be quenched by ignoring the evidence, thereby choosing the path of ignorance. Hence, our first premise – knowledge carries the potential for despair – has been demonstrated.
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