Whether we are a high school dropout or have a PhD we are all ignorant. We should never believe that saying something like this is insulting because it isn’t. It is simply truth. There is no human being now, or ever in history, that knew everything. It would be impossible for anyone to achieve that level of learning. Adding to this is the fact that things change every day which increases the difficulty of knowing everything at any point in time.
Therefore, every human being is ignorant of some knowledge. This is true even if someone has studied a certain field their entire lives. We see this demonstrated in real life by professionals who have worked or studied their entire careers and have two totally different opinions. How can this happen, and which one is right? They could also both be wrong which, in my opinion, is the most likely answer.
This is why we should respect intellectual diversity. It is very difficult for us to know who is right because we don’t know everything. We are always going to be ignorant of certain facts and ideas that have a direct bearing on whether or not someone is speaking the truth or not. Since we can’t know everything we cannot make an absolute judgment about almost anything. We can say we believe something is right or wrong, but we cannot say with certainty that it is. No one can.
Even the validity of facts may be challenged. We have thought of certain things as facts in history which have turned out not to be true upon further discovery. As we evolve as human beings, we will continue to discover new ideas and facts that will change our opinion of many things we now consider to be truth. No matter which point in history we are at, however, we will continue to be somewhat ignorant as individual human beings.
We should embrace this ignorance for several reasons. One, we cannot change it no matter how educated or experienced we become. Two, if we take this position of intellectual humility, we will be open to all ideas which may cause us to continually upgrade our opinion. The definition of being open-minded is the recognition of our ignorance.
At this point one will say that if this is true then we will never take positions or actions on anything because we will cannot know if we are acting in accordance with truth. This could lead to “paralysis by analysis.” Yes, this is a possibility so how do we overcome our ignorance when we make decisions in life?
Knowing that we can never be 100% right about anything, we still need to act on what we believe we understand at any point in our lives. As we take positions and make choices in life, we should always keep in mind this lack of perfect knowledge. Nonetheless, we must act on incomplete information in order to live our lives. We should always strive to learn more and get closer to the truth of everything we believe. This is particularly true if we lead other human beings on their path of life.
Will we ever in our lifetimes know the absolute truth about anything? Probably not. It is rational to be skeptical of all knowledge. This skepticism is founded on the belief that no human being can know everything no matter how much education they have, how many books they have written or what their IQ is. No one knows the absolute truth of any entire field of human knowledge. Intellectual humility and being open-minded is how to live with this fact.