Sitting in an airport, waiting for a flight allows me to ponder many things. Quite often they're work related, or have something to do with my personal life, but occasionally my thoughts will wonder to slightly more philosophical material.
I don't know, but I know how to find out.
This is, if you will, the best informed state of ignorance possible. It means that the speaker is only one degree of separation away from the knowledge in question. The speakers almost compensates for not having an answer by knowing how to obtain the answer. In most cases where this phrase comes up, the person being questioned is actually quite knowledgeable about the subject, but simply doesn't know the answer to a specific question.
This, of course, is the opposite of the previous statement. There is always a chance that the speaker will eventually gain the knowledge he lacks, but it depends greatly on whether or not he cares about the question and continues to consider it.
I don't know but here's what I think:
This statement appears whenever someone is rather opinionated on a subject. Naturally there is a certain level of ignorance acknowledged, but it is tempered by the fact that the person knows enough about the subject at hand to form some (hopefully rational and informed) opinion.
In some ways this is dangerous, because one can make an assertion about a subject that he or she admits to not knowing much about. In many cases this statement appears with a tacit "I don't know" making it seem almost as though the opinion is a known fact. Such a situation should be approached with considerable caution. It can either lead to misinformation or lead to a correct answer by means of intuition, intelligent assumptions, and possibly even dumb luck.
This is a state of simple ignorance. The speaker has most likely never been exposed to the subject material at hand. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's speaker's reaction to this statement that is truly important.
I don't know, and I don't consider it important to know.
This can actually be a respectable answer to a question. It isn't necessary for everybody to know everything, so considering a question and then, after due diligence, labeling the information as irrelevant is perfectly acceptable. Often, someone who means this will instead say "I don't know and don't care." This usually works in conversation, but there is a subtle difference.
Consider the question, "What is the distance from the Earth to the Moon?" If you plan missions for NASA, then the answer to this is pretty important. If you are a truck driver the distance from
If there is one type of detestable ignorance, this is it. The main distinction between this and "I don't consider it important to know," is that someone who says this has skipped the process of determining whether or not the knowledge is important. Not only has the speaker acknowledged his ignorance, but he has shunned even the possibility that it may be important to him. Someone who repeatedly does this will tend to remain in a state of ignorance with little hope of educating himself.
This is pure ignorance, but I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way. Everybody falls victim to this at some point, though it is seldom recognized. In fact I broke with the standard "I don't know" format because this is something which is most visible from an observer's viewpoint. The strange truth is, the very acknowledgement of ones own ignorance shows a certain lack of ignorance. In other words, by saying "I don't know" you are demonstrating that you are aware of your own ignorance. Yet we are all ignorant of many things without even realizing it.
After plenty of consideration, I haven't been able to find any other ways to classify ignorance that don't fall into one of the groups above. So, now that the subject has been explored, what does it all mean? You may take away from this, what you want, but I've found that examining the level or type of ignorance I display is actually helpful for improving my thought process. If I take the time to determine the type of ignorance I display in any particular situation, there's hope that I'll be more likely to reduce my lack of knowledge.
If everyone who encountered a question they couldn't answer took a few minutes to look ask themselves which type of ignorance they displayed, it might lead to a more responsible environment where people actually learned from not being able to answer questions. But if someone follows every unanswered question by ignoring his own lack of knowledge, he will be saying "I don't care" and perhaps being irresponsible by not correcting his ignorance in situations where he could or should learn the answer to the question.