For the “is ignorance bliss?” debate, I was on the affirmative side. In the debate, we defined ignorance as situational ignorance, where we would remain ignorant of a topic/aspect for our whole lives. Bliss was defined as complete happiness, an ideal state in which humans strive to achieve. Our arguments were:
- Being ignorant allows us to suffer less. The more we know, the more we tend to care. For example, we know that there is a war in Sudan, but we are ignorant enough about the situation that we don’t cry about them. Caring more about something inevitably leads to a greater impact on us. As humans, we also tend to remember negative emotions more than positive emotions.
- The smartest of people were not happy. It is very rare to find both a happy and knowledgeable person. We provided Virginia Woolf and Alan Turing as examples: they were gifted but led dismal lives. If Alan Turing had been ignorant of the social pressure around him, we reasoned that he would not have committed suicide. (I do admit that this example is a little far-fetched, as Turing was not unhappy because he was exceptionally smart. Instead, it was because of the social pressures of Britain at that time).
- Knowledge isolates people. If a person knew the date of their death, they would spend their time worrying about the ways they would die, eventually withdrawing from society and being a recluse.
The opposition’s arguments were:
- Ignorance causes us pain and creates danger. If we were driving a car but ignorant of stop signs or traffic lights, that would lead us to the danger of being in a car crash.
- Ignorance leads to isolation. If an individual was ignorant about societal norms and engaged in ignorant behavior, such as denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement, he or she would be ostracized from society.
- Being aware that we are ignorant dissatisfies us because we yearn for knowledge. Situational ignorance implies we know our ignorance, so if we were knowledge-seekers, the fact that we are ignorant of something would not be bliss to us.
- Being informed can help us decide what makes us happy. There needs to be some knowledge of the things that make us happy to achieve our ultimate goal of happiness. (To this statement, our group refuted that happiness is instinct — we decide for ourselves what makes us happy).
From this debate, the two main points of disagreement were whether more knowledge led to suffering and whether an ignorant person could know if they were happy. Both teams were not successful at attacking the core of the other team’s arguments, but I believe our team won the second clash point. To the opposition’s argument that ignorant individuals would be ignorant of the feeling of happiness, we classified happiness as an instinct, meaning they could not be unaware of their own emotions.
Rather than proving why my team’s argument was better, we tried to prove that it was good in general. The other team also committed the same mistakes as us, which makes it difficult to determine the winner of this debate.
Before this debate, I believed that ignorance was bliss. It seemed simple to me: the more I knew, the more I started to have feelings for the subject matter, which eventually led to a bigger sense of despair when things went wrong. Right now, I know that ignorance is probably not bliss. Listening to the other team’s argument about the danger caused by ignorance, I could not help but be convinced: there was no other way to refute their argument that ignorance could not lead to danger. Thus, I would like to classify myself as someone who wants to believe ignorance is bliss (when it actually is not bliss), just because it’s easier to accept ideas without questioning them. What I don’t realize yet is that happiness from knowing is greater than that from ignorance because bliss from ignorance is built on nothing. How can I be happy when that happiness comes from the fact that I don’t know a certain thing?
Given a choice between a red pill and a blue pill, I probably would still take the blue pill after some time of hesitation — not because I’m convinced it will make me happy, but because it is the route that will make me suffer less in the short run. The red pill will probably make me happier in the long term, but I don’t think I can manage to bear through until I reach that level of happiness just yet.
As individuals, we are responsible for collecting different stories of individuals and shaping our own preconceptions accordingly. We need to embrace our ignorance and escape the illusion of explanatory depth to better ourselves as individuals and correct any misconceptions we harbored to avoid harming other people.