Which is Worse?

Which is worse: ignorance or apathy?

Although I found some threads that seemed to treat this question seriously, it’s the set-up to an old joke. Some have it as a question posed by a philosophy professor, with the answer provided by a bored student . . .

I don’t know, and I don’t care.


Is there a name for this sort of humour? Self-reflexive? Incongruous/unexpected? Witty? Dunno. (Add it to the list of things I dunno.)

Anyway, this joke came to mind recently when someone referred to the “ignorance and arrogance” that, sadly, characterized a particular occupation in their experience. It hardly matters of whom it was said, does it? Sadly, it likely applies to many individuals.

Nothing is impossible
for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.
– Source: One of the Buddies

Maybe the best thing that comes with learning — especially learning about areas new to me — is the realization of how little I know. As TV shows and movies hold fewer and fewer charms (Targeted to another demographic, do you think? Yup.), the Big Guy and I watch more and more documentaries. Music history. Political history. WWII battles. Humongous engineering projects. Amazing railroads. National parks. Biographies. The development of the Spitfire. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Britain’s canal system. I went to school, I know I did, but most of this is a revelation.

On the recommendation of another Buddy, I am making my way through Samuel Morison‘s behemoth, The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of North America. Much of its detail on ships goes sailing over my head, as it were, but I’m learning some stuff. Like that I couldn’t build a boat even using medieval methods. Like that I couldn’t navigate across the Atlantic or from Punta Cana to Montego Bay, even using methods relied on by Columbus or Magellan. Like that I have at best a sketchy sense of which names from history were, like, contemporaries. And yet I know I went to school.

Having lots of it, I naturally feel that ignorance is excusable: After all, none of us can know everything, right? Right. But arrogance? No, I can’t find an excuse for that. Or even a joke.

Which is worse: ignorance or arrogance?

At least I know that. But I didn’t know until just now that apathy was so much funnier than arrogance.

Arrogance: Unwarranted AND unfunny.

With a reputation like that, it’s hard to see why it continues to be so popular.

This entry was posted in Thinking Broadly and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Which is Worse?

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Arrogance is, I fear, schooled into us from infancy. It goes with self-definitions by religion, class, race…. We’re Protestants; they’re (with a curled lip) Catholics. We’re English; they’re Irish. Or German. Or (shudder) Italian. I have a doctorate; she went to trade school.
    And yet we do belong to different groups and classes and races, and somehow that’s important. So how do we identify ourselves without making invidious comparisons?
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – I don’t know how we hang onto the good points of group affiliation and lose the rest. Maybe we could spend one day a week seeing ourselves as members of a different tribe: those over 6 feet, those with hair long enough to make a ponytail, those who’ve been to PEI. Whatever. And slowly sneak up on being Earthlings? I fear this is less likely than managing to look after old people.

  2. Pingback: Kaboom! | Traditional Iconoclast

Comments are closed.