Inescapable Ignorance & Open Discourse

I find the most important aspect of Hayek’s work to be the extent of individual ignorance. All disciplines are full of stunning complexities and many phenomena which would elude our understanding if they were not pointed out to us by others. Omniscience is forever denied to man, and therefore it is foolish for anyone to be perfectly confident in their understanding.


As someone who primarily frequents libertarian/Austrian circles, this is primarily levied at those who are predisposed to disregard any arguments against capitalism as a matter of course. The moment that one disregards the worldview of another simply because it contradicts their own is the moment that one succumbs to dogmatism. There are intelligent arguments made by intelligent people for most any worldview, and although fallacious arguments are still wrong no matter who is arguing in their favor. If and individual were to refuse to consider any beliefs that were not in accordance with the beliefs that person already held, then this would imply that individual believed himself to be a superior type of being, one that is infallible in certain respects. Such an implicit belief is all the more ridiculous considering that this individual would have to believe that millions of intelligent people were wrong in the past, or are currently wrong about the belief in question. If I claim that a mixed economy with an especially strong welfare state and heavy regulations is the most efficient form of economic system, and if I believe that this statement cannot be incorrect, then I am necessarily arguing that the huge number of theorists and other intellectually active individuals were wrong where I am right. For whatever reason only I have seen the absolute truth and that no other conclusion could be properly reached except for mine. The arrogance of such a belief is so great that it could never be fully expressed, only implied far back in one’s words.

Any who believe, on whatever level, that others have nothing to add to their understanding of the world cannot explain why others who hold the same view but with different viewpoints are incorrect. A social democrat who believes no one else can add to his political worldview could have nothing to say to a Marxist who thought his word was equally indisputable beyond “you are wrong”.

The truth of the matter is that in order to know any indisputable truth one would have to be omniscient, one would have to understand in full detail everything there was to know about the subject, and all possible related subjects, as well as all possible ways of viewing this information. If anyone out there has this sort of information then please, cast the first intellectual stone, but until then I’d think twice before automatically discarding someone’s opinion.


Ignorance is an inescapable feature of man’s existence. There will always be things we don’t know and things we overlook, and so as scary as it seems there is always a chance that you are incorrect. This does not mean that everyone has something intelligent to say, nor does it mean that one should constantly be challenging one’s own understanding and pursuing new discussion, and it certainly does not mean most people aren’t extremely ignorant when talking politics, it is simply to say that there is always a greater understanding to be had, and that many individuals can expand and further perfect our own worldviews.

I see far too many intelligent people who disregard others simply because they hold a differing viewpoint and therefore must be part of stupid camp X. There will always be disagreements even amongst the most intelligent and reasonable people, but this does not mean that one cannot be positively influenced by those who hold differing viewpoints. Discussion is a great tool to see another way of looking at things, as well as certain facts one might have overlooked, and I encourage any readers to engage in intelligent, open, and polite discussion whenever it presents itself.

One thought on “Inescapable Ignorance & Open Discourse

  1. Petar 03/08/2013 at 08:33 Reply

    Wish you wrote more about discussion as means of consolidating and iterating common interpretations.

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