In my last post I said I would choose happiness and ignorance over misery and knowledge, if somehow those were my options, almost without hesitation. But it wasn’t without hesitation. I took many years to overcome my sense of pride that I associate with knowledge and to recognise the true bliss of just being happy. I choose, unquestioningly, happiness over sadness. And knowledge can take a back seat on the discussion.
What I realised is I cannot feel ashamed of my ignorance if something is guaranteeing my happiness. None of the negativity I associate with ignorance can register with me, if happiness is the promise that comes in this deal. But it is a hypothetical question, and there is no reason to believe that anything short of magic, genies or facetious gods could actually face us with this decision. Surely knowledge can easily come beside happiness. Surely there is frustration and misery associated with ignorance. Reality will never face us with this choice, will it?
Well, the philosopher and Anglican priest Marilyn McCord Adams think reality may be offering us exactly this. She argues that there are evils in the world so deep that they can nullify the positivity of life, and you’d have to ignorant to think such an evil does not exist. She also argues that these evils are not going to be abated, and if you are knowledgeable about human history you know some of these evils (like torture and war and the death of your children) show no signs of being abated. Therefore, she concludes, the rational state to be in about the state of the world and its betterment is pessimistic. Oh me! Oh my! That’s destroyed my buzz.
If I had no escapes; if something forced me to keep the state of the world at the forefront of my mind; if I had to know every detail; if I could not distract myself from these things, I would be a very miserable person indeed. But I can distract myself from these things; I can focus on a world that is much smaller; I do deal, largely, with me and mine.
I still believe that most individuals are mostly good and will do the right thing, but I do not believe this about people. So it seems that reality is offering us this exact choice. And I deal with it by distraction. Does that makes me a bad person?