Annex V Learned Ignorance

Here is how I rationalized my decision to become a generalist.  I persuaded myself that I did not have to learn anything in depth, since I was the unconscious product of all the great minds in history who had influenced all my teachers and of everything else that had “nurturally” structured my mind up to this point. I felt that, this way, the “mistake” that I assumed we made when we first became conscious of our social nature, around the time of the agricultural revolution—mistake which I assume is still concealed deep in the teaching of all these “giants,” whether he be Plato or Einstein—would not be an obstacle to my search for it.

This is what I actually did. Consequently, my search for this mistake has been conducted during all these years, not in a state of competition on crowded shoulders of “giants,” but alone in their empty foot steps.  It is there indeed, in the footsteps of these giants, that I have been less affected by the standings of the specialists riding their shoulders, while ignoring me, than by their dropping.  It is their also that I was incognito stocking my mind with knowledge, as if it were a gondola of a lighter than air balloon, which I was always planning to use for trips over their heads. It is also there that I have had all the freedom to go wherever I needed to go and do whatever I needed to do, while all the time receiving good passing grades, no matter what; my originality always winning over these specialists’ ignorance of what I was doing.  

All along, though, I always had to “reinvent the wheel” every time I needed concepts already defined by past or present giants –which eventually gave me the liberty to adapt these rudely reinvented concepts to my specific needs.  For instance, it is this self-determination that eventually made me picture the field of quantum mechanics as a make-believe Wonderland at the bottom of black holes, in which specialized physicists have to let go of their sense of reality to create a Pleiades of nonsensical particles, theoretically staged to explain the dimensions of reality that they theoretically invented and to which we never had to adapt during our evolution, thus never having had to develop any concepts for them, as we have gradually developed the concepts of space and time, during the millions years of our evolution. To comfort them, though, I must say that I also came to see the field of social sciences, in so far as I am a zooanthropologist, as a zoo full of theory-spinning scholars, going nowhere in their cubicles, as domesticated hamsters in spinning wheels, and the university system in general, as a society of “individual savants,” perfectly good at what they do, but absolutely incapable of applying their compartmentalized knowledge to solve the global problems of humanity, thus inadvertently exacerbating them.

“Scientific thinking proceeds within a framework of presuppositions that it is the business of the scientist to use, not to argue for and still less to challenge . . . No doubt scientists can change their presuppositions, but they seldom do so consciously; their usual practice is to take them for granted. Metaphysicians, however, necessarily take a very different attitude toward presuppositions. It is their business to tell men how to understand the world, and this means that they must, among other things, put forward and argue for a set of interpretative principles. (Metaphysics, Encyclopedia Britannica, my emphasis.)

If I am somebody, I am a self-proclaimed “metaphysicist.” 

My supervisor told me once, while listening to me opening myself to him about all that, that the three smallest books that have ever been written were books about German humor, English fine cuisine, and French humility. He told me then that the one on French humility was so small that nobody has ever seen it. Soon after, I sent him a letter written in French, in which I was telling him that I had never seen this book, but that I had heard of it. It was a book of one sentence, which was of one sentence, was my Syntax (9th grade) Latin teacher , frère Alfred’s maxim, : “L’humilité c’est la vérité,” Truth is humble.

About André Gaudreault

Throughout my life, I have acquired two general BA’s and one unspecialised Masters of Art in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the university of Guelph, to understand, from a generalist point of view, the root cause of our maladaptation as a rational species. However. I have failed to become a generalist, generalists develop understandings of specifics “fields of knowledge” from the point of view of mastered disciplines and I have never (by choice) mastered anything. Throughout the superficial overview of many fields of study, I have constantly investigated the role of knowledge and academics in the the present predicament of humanity. At 70, I have thus become a self proclaimed “artisan of global thinking.” I am presently in the process of writing in absentia a PhD dissertation on the existential problems that we are facing as a species and on on our inability resolve them using the kind of specialized thinking that can but contribute to their aggravation. English is not my mother tongue.
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