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tinyfaery's avatar

Is ignorance really bliss?

Asked by tinyfaery (35624 points ) August 12th, 2008

Global warming, human trafficking, disease, war, poverty, sonar effecting marine life, ineffectual schools, crime…ahhh!

If I stop reading Rolling Stone, the Utne Reader, National Geographic, and books about our political system or our prison system (for example), and decide to remain ignorant about the current state of the world, will I be happier and more content?

Is it worth it to sacrifice knowledge for happiness? Would you?

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42 Answers

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think you can really choose to be ignorant, if you’re an intelligent individual. If you are a thinker and have a naturally curious mind, you’ll know – or at least hear about – what’s going on in the world without making any special effort to do so. It would be the equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and saying “la,la, I can’t hear you”...maybe you can’t, but you still know what it is you’re trying to avoid.

wundayatta's avatar

I dunno. Then again, I’m not happy!

augustlan's avatar

On the other hand, if ignorance is one’s natural state, and their only concern is what’s happening in their own personal bubble, then yes…I’d say that type of ignorance probably does make for a happier individual. Would I trade? Not in a million years.

wundayatta's avatar

I have often wished I could sacrifice knowledge for happiness. Depression really sucks. But you can’t get the troubles back in Pandora’s box, once it’s been opened.

Still, nice reading list. Surprised you didn’t put NPR there, too. How much of Utne do you consume? How many years a subscriber? Why don’t you do the really intelligent thing, and read a science fiction magazine, like Asimov’s?

augustlan's avatar

good question, tiny, made me think :)

AstroChuck's avatar

Yep! I’m happy!

LKidKyle1985's avatar

This reminds me of the first matrix movie, where cypher betrays the crew to get put back into the matrix. Anyways, Ignorance really is bliss. You can’t be bothered if you don’t know there is a problem. However as in the movie, The dilema is if you could, would you choose ignorance over knowing? I think most people would choose to know because if you choose ignorance, then you are just another mindless drone serving your machine overlords….. or whom ever it is that does the thinking. And if you choose that, then you are no longer in control of your destiny, (the little bit of control you have over that in the first place atleast)

tinyfaery's avatar

But knowledge doesn’t keep you warm at night.

augustlan's avatar

neither does ignorance

tinyfaery's avatar

But happiness does.

augustlan's avatar

This is going to get circular…but would one actually be happy? I don’t think so. la,la, I can’t hear you :)

tinyfaery's avatar

I work with young adults who have no idea what is occurring in the world, and they always seem so happy. Sure, they have their own personal problems, but they do not carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Sometimes I envy them.

augustlan's avatar

oh, tiny, so do I, so do I. When you were that age, though, were you like that? I wasn’t.

skfinkel's avatar

If you manage to die before you find out all the bad stuff, then I would say ignorance is bliss.

PupnTaco's avatar

Only where wisdom is folly.

trumi's avatar

I subscribe to the Eastern belief that there are two kinds of happiness: happiness from ignorance and happiness from enlightenment. Ignorance is great for a short period (childhood, booze, ignorance of suffering), but wisdom, love, and acceptance of all things are the deepest joys.

tinyfaery's avatar

@trumi How do you accept all of the negativity and destruction in the world?

trumi's avatar

I’m not saying that I have or that I ever will, only that enlightenment (think Buddha, Jesus, Clarence Darrow, etc.) is the greatest happiness of all and that we use ignorance in the absence of it.

kevbo's avatar

In Thailand, not overthinking a situation is something of a cultural virtue and Thailand beats the US in happiness studies. (from The Geography of Bliss)

Also, from personal experience I’d have to say yes it is.

Harp's avatar

I think happiness is overrated. People end up spending their lives triyng to tweak this or that circumstance to bring it in line with an imagined ideal (the perfect mate, the perfect job, the perfect house…), or chasing the next peak experience to trigger another endorphine rush. Happiness is fundamentally a self-centered condition; “everything’s OK in my little world”. Happiness is indeed incompatible with knowledge of the state of the world at large.

I find the principle of equanimity to be a more useful one. Equanimity isn’t blindered to the state of the world; in fact, it depends on taking the broadest view possible, seeing the big picture that transcends the turbulent circumstances. Equanimity involves standing right in the middle of the turbulence, viewing it with calmness, patience and compassion, and helping where one can. To take a position of equinimity requires not worrying so much about “How are things going for me? Am I happy?”.

jcs007's avatar

Proposition: When you become aware of something, this new knowledge will make you either happy or sad.

Proof:
1. You know that the cutest baby in history is born, and you do not know that the baby will mutate into a man-eating panda. Ignorance is bliss.
2. You know that the man-eating panda baby will eat you, and you don’t know that the panda’s stomach is full of butterflies and chocolate waterfalls. Ignorance is misery.

Conclusion: Ignorance is bliss and misery.

You cannot choose to be happy or sad about a reality that hasn’t happened which then actually occurs 100% of the time. If you can, private message me and we’ll talk about making a lot of money off gambling and fortune telling…

tinyfaery's avatar

@jcs Interesting. I love that the panda’s stomach is a heaven.

Lightlyseared's avatar

ignorance is bliss. I have elected officials to do my thinking for me.

drhat77's avatar

the more i think about, the more i realize most problems in this world are human caused and maintained, that i am contributing the the final death of umpteen species by my 150 mile commute, and that my protuberant adbomen swells while children die in the thrid world from malnutrition. If i could go trhough life without knowing this, i would probably be blissful. but i don’t think we can choose what we know. i definately wouldn’t choose it when i have the choice of fighting valiantly (and maybe even futiley) against it.

marissa's avatar

Ignorance may truly be bliss for the short term, but it is a very dangerous way to live and the most likely way to end up unhappy long term.

flameboi's avatar

“You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss”
Cypher, The Matrix 1999

Foolaholic's avatar

Nice one flameboi

Anyway, I like to look at it this way. Someday the world is going to end, and some people will see it coming. Those people will fret and get paranoid, probably losing a lot of sleep, while those who don’t know it’s coming won’t have a care. Both people will meet their end when at the same time when the cataclysmic curtain closes, but the ignorant guy will have spent less time worrying about it and more time enjoying life. This doesn’t mean I necessarily advocate being ignorant, it’s just how i perceive the phrase in question.

flameboi's avatar

@Foolaholic
Thank you!
The path of excess leads you to the tower of wisdom not living in a cave unaware of whatever is going on I guess in some cases, ignorance is bliss :) we all know what happens to Cypher at the end, right?

scamp's avatar

In the case of my kooky sister-in- law, too much knowledge can lead to paranoia. she used to watch CNN all day long then call me and tell me I needed to pay better attention because the world is coming to an end, the Russians are sending magnetic waves over the western US, and all kinds of other things. If I would have listened to her, I would have moved west to avoid the huge tsunami that was going to take out the entire East coast.

I don’t have the power to change any of the horrible things that are happening around the world, and to know about them only upsets me, so I choose to play ostrich and let people much more intelligent than I am handle the big stuff. I stopped voting as well. people say every vote counts. If that is true, a wrong vote can be a bad thing, so I opt out. Since I don’t vote, I try to keep my complaints to a minimum.

chill_out's avatar

I think this question is exactly the same as another question asked a while back, only worded completely differently…. If your spouse was cheating on you, would you want to know?
Obviously this type knowledge would bring sadness and anger. Is that better than not knowing at all. IMO, no way.

redsgirl4eva's avatar

I would never sacrifice knowledge for happiness. My knowledge of things I love.Yes I wish at times I could but I can’t because knowledge means a lot to me.

Knotmyday's avatar

I’m happy to gain knowledge. Ignorance is ignorance.

I’d quote the serenity prayer here, but I just had breakfast.

Kar's avatar

I think for some people ignorance IS bliss – for people who are self centered bimbos, or just interested in what’s happening in their little life. But for the majority, like someone else here said, unless you are sticking your head in the sand, and purposely cutting yourself off from the world, I think it’s almost impossible to be ignorant of what’s going on.
The question is, do you dwell on it, and worry about things you have no control over, or do you do what you can do, and then just let the worry go.? In my case, as a Christian, I find solace in prayer, and handing it over to God. It really does help me.

dalepetrie's avatar

tinyfaery – yes, ignorance is bliss because it absolves you of the responsbility of caring.

Unfortunately for you, once you have knowledge, you are no longer ignorant. To stop learning more about the issues that concern you would leave you underinformed, but not ignorant. To be ignorant, you would have to ignore knowledge that is available to you. If you do not already posess that knowledge, you can refrain from obtaining it, by ignoring that is there, thus becoming ignorant, but once you posess the knowledge, it’s a bit like Pandora’s box, no stuffing it back in there.

Personally I like the discussion about happiness. I think it’s more important to be happy, and I DON’T equate that with striving for an ideal. Personally, I think that line of thinking is corporate level BS…you must climb the ladder, you must drive a fancy car, you must have a trophy wife, etc. I drive a Hyundai…I like it. I’m married to a normal person I get along with. I have a job making less money than I could if I had the same job at a Fortune 500 company, but I have a lot more time on my hands to do the things I want to do with my life. I’m happy.

But I’m also aware that there is a lot in the world I don’t like. Personally, I want to learn as much about it as I can, because even though the bad news has the power to make me angry, my anger in turn gives me the motivation and power to do what I feel I can to change the world for the better, be it supporting a particular cause or political candidate, or going onto discussion boards and trying to win hearts and minds. If I understand the breadth and depth of something I find to be problematic, I can form opinions as to how we could improve the situation at hand, I can then spread my “gospel” far and wide and perhaps make some people see the light. Hopefully if some of those people can then make others see the light, and all the people who are not ignorant, but who do care about all the bad in the world help out in the way they see best fit as I do, we can collectively change the problems for the better.

Think of it this way. If your dog takes a crap in the middle of your floor, sure you can ignore it, step over it, refuse to look at it and never have to pick up the crap. But the crap is still there.

drhat77's avatar

@kar i agree with everything you said except i think the majority ARE self-centerd bimbos

BronxLens's avatar

I haven’t surrendered to the thought of choosing to remain ignorant, yet ;) , but often when I open up my copy of the NY Times I find myself asking if I should just chuck the entire main section and just keeping the Arts, Home, Travel, Book Review & NYT Magazine sections. God knows there is enough there to keep me busy reading, although having gotten rid of cable years ago I think I am becoming one lousy Jeopardy contestant LoL

jholler's avatar

maybe not ignorance, but what I find works is doing what I can, then the most important step, realizing and accepting that I cannot solve it all, but I HAVE done what I could, and worrying will not help at all. If you convince yourself, you can let go and be happy.

nina's avatar

Ignorance by itself is not bliss.
Knowledge by itself is not bliss.
Bliss is being able to accept your own ignorance, and to use your knowledge to see the positive side of things.
Count your blessings. The more blessing you can count – the ‘blissier’ you are. The more you know, the more you understand your blessings. So knowledge is bliss.

janbb's avatar

I am happier when I start the day by taking a walk in the morning, then when I start it in my usual way which is reading The New York Times. however, I think ignorance is a luxury we can’t afford in these (or probably any other) times.

Foolaholic's avatar

Thanks a very good point to raise. In this day and age, it’s hard to acess all this information, especially when it’s so readily available on all sides. But then again, unless the sources from which we get our information are certified, then how can we know ourselves to truly not be ignorant? And what about subjects we have yet to comprehend? maybe there’s an impending doom on the way right now, like a meteor, and because we don’t know it’s there we can’t worry about it? At the same time, what stories that we hear about are really crises and what shouldn’t be worried about. In this respect, I think it’s hard to know just how ignorant we really are, and it’s therefore impossible to know if it’s really making our lives easier.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

You’d become so curious that you couldn’t be happy.

ninjacolin's avatar

Happiness comes in discovering and having answers to important questions.

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