Learning On The Ignorance Of The Learned


Learning ignorance is a potent weapon in the hands of those seeking control over others, and its advocates have always advocated its use as a method for leading others by the nose.

Peels demonstrates how learned ignorance in Alexander Pope and Hamilton’s writing provides literary roots of fundamental dissent against scientificisation while outlining some of its notable properties and varieties (chapters 1-4).

De doctor ignorant

De Docta Ignorantia was written by Nicholas of Cusa (or Nicolaus Cusanus) of Germany during the Renaissance period and published on 12 February 1440 in Kues. This vital treatise led to a shift in how humans view the universe: celestial bodies were no longer thought to move along a straight path around the sun but followed elliptical directions instead, giving rise to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity as an outcome of this notion of relativity of motion that later prefigured Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity by several centuries!

Cusanus addresses God, nature, and Christ in his first book On Learned Ignorance, while subsequent books focus on soul development and God-man relationships. Although its order mirrors that of contemporary thinkers’ works, On Learned Ignorance unifies both philosophy and theology into one comprehensive examination of Christian Neoplatonic reality.

Cusanus believed that rational knowledge alone was insufficient to comprehend the infinite nature of divinities; to fully grasp them, one required both sound knowledge and mystical or contemplation knowledge or contemplation. Contemplation had long been part of mystic beliefs in Europe’s Middle Ages and early Renaissance; moreover, it provided the basis for coincidentia oppositorum, or the union of opposite theories.

Cusanus employs metaphors of unfolding and collapsing to contrast the infinite divine Original with limited created images. He searches for parallels between God and the universe by exploring both limitations, then builds his ideas by exploring their implications.

Cusanus made one of his most significant discoveries in Book II of On Learned Ignorance with his discovery that the universe lacks a center. For the first time in occidental cosmology, neither Earth nor the Sun was considered central in regards to the cosmos, thus paving the way for modern theories such as relativity and quantum physics.


Nicholas of Cusa was an influential medieval thinker, making essential contributions in philosophy, theology, political theory, canon law, papal legate to German dioceses, advisor to Roman Curia as well as serving as a bishop and writing several hundred Latin sermons influenced by ancient humanist works as well as practical Church matters that he experienced first-hand. He made significant contributions to canon law at Basel Council; was papal legate to German dioceses & advisor to Roman Curia as a canon law expert; canon law expert at Basel Council; canon law expert at the Council of Basel; canon law expert at the Council of Basel; also served as canon law expert at Basel Council; served at Basel Council; was papal Legate for German Dioceses; advisor to Roman Curia as advisor while serving bishop & writing several hundred Latin sermons besides writing treatises on Ecclesiology Cosmology Mathematics & philosophy that were heavily influenced by both ancient humanist works as well as practical experiences within Church matters!

Cusanus’ work marked one of the earliest expressions of learned ignorance – an idea similar to metaphysics’ impossibility but going further by asserting that humans cannot comprehend the infinite nature of existence. This idea formed a central element of Cusanus’ religious philosophy and his overall outlook.

In its second book, On Learned Ignorance (DDI), or Learned Ignorance, or DDI, outlines a theological cosmology characterized by God and creation being linked through an analogy of enfolding and unfolding (complication/explication). This concept draws from Chartres school of the 12th century, which is that Absolute Maximum encloses all things before unfurling in their present forms – thus the world being an unfolding of that which had been concealed within.

Cusanus utilizes opposite logic and their correlation throughout DDI to draw parallels between divine original and finite created images, drawing out their implications into a Christian Neoplatonic speculation that fits neither within medieval Aristotelianism nor Cartesian Rationalism.

This interpretation of docta ignorantia has its detractors. It cannot be easy to reconcile it with the theological tradition that Aquinas belonged to, as well as many epistemic principles held by contemporary Western philosophers. Furthermore, this view runs counter to humility–an integral aspect of understanding learned ignorance philosophically.


Learning ignorance stands as an antihegemonic principle to counteract the Enlightenment’s scientificisation of knowledge and its instrumentalization in education, providing teachers and pupils/students a space for engaging in substantively transformative dialogues that may enrich both propaedeutically informed, culturally grounded knowledge, opinions, and insights.

But this potential for “diffuse whimsy” is often missed, mainly when misquotes of the poem ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing” are taken out of context and made to mean shallow learning rather than adequate or no more than. Such misinterpretations effectively limit its potential and create an erroneous interpretation where “little” means shallow rather than suitable or no more than.

The pedant who “knows nothing but books” may know his way around words but is entirely unfamiliar with their uses or meanings. He spends his day’s transcribing works by other writers while parroting those who parroted others – his brain fills with authorities built upon authorities; when reading something by this author or people associated with its creation, he cannot escape their influence or stop thinking about its author and all who wrote it.

This antihegemonic principle can be easily integrated into many types of learning situations. A teacher or student’s admission of their learned ignorance can spark valuable co-partner explorations of virtually any topic while recognizing culturally specific knowledge allows teachers to expand upon and develop their expertise within this prosperous dialogue.

Learning ignorance also promotes humility – which is essential for an educational dialogue founded on trust. Acknowledging our ignorance allows us to realize that truth if it exists at all, resides in its pursuit rather than any fixed body of knowledge accumulated over time. Such an “ecology of knowledge” draws upon an awareness of multiple finite ways of knowing as well as its conditional nature as part of its ecological framework.


The Pope is an individual with supreme authority within the Catholic Church, as well as one of the world’s most influential people due to his wide-ranging diplomatic, cultural, and spiritual influence over 1.3 billion Catholics and non-Catholics globally. Additionally, his position is unique: being both political and spiritual powers combined in one individual person’s position is truly rare.

The pope’s authority over all aspects of Church life and, in particular, every department thereof cannot be denied; this doctrine was handed down from the Apostles themselves. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that a pope should possess all necessary powers to decide matters of faith and discipline as well as lay down laws essential for maintaining unity and purity within his Church.

To this end, he exercises jurisdiction over all Churches around the world and may impose penalties should any fall into heresy, depose bishops, confer jurisdiction on other prelates, and confer expulsion on bishops who go astray. His authority reaches beyond Church boundaries to include civil charges – thus giving him access to call upon government agencies to enforce his sentences.

Rejecting the argument advanced by some Protestant controversialists that the Pope’s claim of supremacy stems solely from personal ambition is absurd; early popes were driven to make such assertions by their zeal for protecting and caring for the Church and knowing it fell to them to guard its flock.

Theologians generally hold the view that the succession to Rome does not depend on human testimony alone, but is an irrefutable truth revealed to Apostles by God and passed down through Christianity. Therefore, it is considered universally that it is up to the pope himself to define and limit his right of jurisdiction to avoid confusion caused by overly vigorous use of power.