Positive Ignorance: Unknowing as a tool for education and educational research

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Positive ignorance is the putting in to question of, and sometimes moving on from, the knowledge we think we have, and asking where it might be just or helpful to do so. Drawing primarily on the work of Barbara Johnson, this article shows how the notion of positive ignorance might be offered as a tool in the context of education and educational research. Partly a critical development of Richard Smith's argument in ‘The Virtues of Unknowing’, I attempt to understand ‘unknowing’ as an active rather than passive form of ‘not knowing’, in a manner that challenges some aspects of ‘the virtues of unknowing’ and its concomitant epistemological and ethical positions, not least those tied to Smith's advocacy for what he calls the ‘well-stocked mind’. Unknowing, in my reading, is not a dispositional acceptance of the desirability of nonknowledge, instead, unknowing is a means of epistemological resistance, especially against that which, often with very real social and political consequences, is presented as self-evident.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-406
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2019

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