Ignorance is degrading only when found in company with riches. The poor man is restrained by poverty and need: labour occupies his thoughts, and takes the place of knowledge. But rich men who are ignorant live for their lusts only, and are like the beasts of the field, as may be seen every day; and they can also be reproached for not having used wealth and leisure for that which gives them their greatest value. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. ~ Thomas Jefferson
When we were in the midnight of crippling ignorance and superstition, science brought us to the daybreak of the free and open mind. MLK

Ignorance is the condition of being uninformed or uneducated; i.e., lacking knowledge or information.



  • Be ignorance thy choice, where knowledge leads to woe.
  • A large segment of the American public is sadly deficient in its knowledge of basic business and economic facts of life. The media, which many people say are their primary sources of their business and economic info, do not appear to be making any significant impact on this ignorance.
    • Frank Bennack, Jr., CEO of Hearst Corporation in 1984 (source: No Comment!. p. 59. ISBN 0275928209. ).
  • For "ignorance is the mother of devotion," as all the world knows.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part III, Section IV. Memb. 1. Subsect. 2. Phrase used by Dr. Cole, Disputation with the Papists at Westminster, March 31, 1559. Quoted from Cole by Bishop Jewel, Works, Volume III, Part II, p. 1202. Quoted as a "Popish maxim" by Thomas Vincent, Explicatory Catechism, Epistle to the Reader (c. 1622). Said by Jeremy Taylor, To a person newly converted to the Church of England (1657). Same found in New Custome. I. I. A Morality printed 1573. (True devotion).
  • The truest characters of ignorance
    Are vanity, and pride, and annoyance.



  • A truly refined mind will seem to be ignorant of the existence of anything that is not perfectly proper, placid, and pleasant.
    • Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Ch. 5 - Something Wrong Somewhere (1855-1857).
  • Ignorance never settles a question.
  • In Western society... [t]here are no more continents... little left to discover. I am, in part, an ant biologist... and I knew that much of the world of insects remains unknown. ...How ignorant are we? The question of what we know and do not know clung to me. ...In looking into the stories of biological discovery, I... began to find... a collection of scientists, often obsessive, usually brilliant, occasionally half-mad... Those individuals very often see the same things that other scientists see, but they pay more attention... and they focus on them to the point of exhaustion, and at the risk of the ridicule of their peers. ...[W]e are, before these discoveries, always more ignorant than we imagine ourselves to be. ...[W]e are repeatedly willing to imagine we have found most of what is left to discover. Before microbes were discovered, scientists were confident that insects were the smallest organisms. Before life was discovered at the bottom of the ocean, many scientists were confident that nothing lived deeper than three hundred fathoms. Once we made a tree of life that included four kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi, and prokaryotes), we were confident that there would be no more major branches to reveal. ...We are again at a stage when we believe we have found most of what might be found, but we are wrong. ...[W]hole realms of life remain to be found. ...And even before a new realm or kind of life is found, we still have to explore the realms we have already discovered. Most species on Earth are not yet named. Most named species have not yet been studied. When we lived in small communities, hunting and gathering, we knew only the animals and plants around us, particularly those... useful or dangerous. Living on the thin green surface of our small planet in a universe full of stars, we are not so different today. The wild leaps up and more often than not we do not event know its name.
    • Robert Dunn, Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalogue Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys (2009) Introduction.


  • Ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities.
  • Ignorance of one’s misfortunes is clear gain.


  • Ignorance is the dominion of absurdity.


  • Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine tätige Unwissenheit.
    • Nothing is worse than active ignorance.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Frederick Ungar, ed., Goethe's World View Presented in His Reflections and Maxims (1963), p. 58–59.
  • There are, however, some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry — the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.
    • Emma Goldman, responding to audience questions during a speech in Detroit (1898); as recounted in Living My Life (1931), p. 207; quoted by Annie Laurie Gaylor in Women Without Superstition, p. 382.
  • And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
  • To each his suff’rings; all are men,
    Condemn’d alike to groan,—
    The tender for another’s pain,
    Th’ unfeeling for his own.
    Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
    Since sorrow never comes too late,
    And happiness too swiftly flies?
    Thought would destroy their paradise.
    No more; where ignorance is bliss,
    ’T is folly to be wise
    • Thomas Gray, repr. In Poetical Works, ed. J. Rogers (1953). Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, stanza 10 (written 1742, published 1747).


  • The Socratic maxim that the recognition of our ignorance is the beginning of wisdom has profound significance for our understanding of society. The first requisite for this is that we become aware of men’s necessary ignorance of much that helps him to achieve his aims.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), Chap. 2 : The Creative Powers of a Free Civilization


  • Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong.
  • Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.
  • Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.
  • Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance.
    • Samuel Johnson, in reply to the lady who asked why "pastern" was defined in the dictionary as "the knee of the horse". Boswell's Life of Johnson, (1755).
  • He that voluntarily continues ignorant is guilty of all the crimes which ignorance produces.
    • Samuel Johnson, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 336.


  • So long as the mother, Ignorance, lives, it is not safe for Science, the offspring, to divulge the hidden causes of things.
  • We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know God's image is ineffably etched in being.
  • Softmindedness often invades religion. … Softminded persons have revised the Beautitudes to read "Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God." This has led to a widespread belief that there is a conflict between science and religion. But this is not true. There may be a conflict between softminded religionists and toughminded scientists, but not between science and religion. … Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.
  • There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness.
  • Ignorance is a kind of insanity in the human animal. People who delight in torturing defenseless children or tiny creatures are in reality insane. The terrible thing is that people who are madmen in private may wear a totally bland and innocent expression in public.


  • Ignorance plays the chief part among men, and the multitude of words; but opportunity will prevail.
  • He said that there was one only good, namely, knowledge; and one only evil, namely, ignorance.
    • Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, "Socrates", xiv
    • Variant: The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.
  • He declared that he knew nothing, except the fact of his ignorance.


  • Bring your ignorance to the Holy Spirit, the great teacher, who by His precious truth will lead you into all truth.
    • William Paton Mackay, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 337.
  • There are three degrees of comparison: stupido, stupidissimo, and tenore.
    • Pietro Mascagni, in Scott Beach, Musicdotes, (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1977), p. 94.
  • To be ignorant of one's own ignorance is to be in an unprogressive, uninspired state of existence.
  • It's innocence when it charms us, ignorance when it doesn't.
  • Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,
    The lowest of your throng.
  • The living man who does not learn, is dark, dark, like one walking in the night.
    • Ming-hsin pao-chien ("Precious Mirror for Enlightening the Heart") (compiled c. 1393 by Fan Li-pen). Translation for Chinese Repository by Dr. William Milne.
  • All wisdom is folly that does not accommodate itself to the common ignorance.
  • Knowledge and truth may be in us without judgment, and judgment also without them; but the confession of ignorance is one of the finest and surest testimonies of judgment that I know.


  • Not to know is bad; not to strive to know is worse.



  • People who don't know any better will always be in the dark because the power lies in the hands of men who take good care that ordinary folk don't understand, in the hands, that is, of the government, of the clerical party, of the capitalists.
  • From ignorance our comfort flows.
    The only wretched are the wise.
  • Scientia non habet inimicum nisi ignorantem
    • Knowledge has no enemy except an ignorant man
    • George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589), excerpted and translated in Wayne A. Rebhorn, ed., Renaissance Debates on Rhetoric.


  • Ignorance is death. A closed mind is a catafalque.
    • Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1998), p. 69.


  • If ignorance is bliss, then knock the smile off my face.
  • The words of Lord Buddha that "ignorance is the greatest crime because it brings all miseries to humanity" should be, by now, assimilated by the consciousness of people. Until the leaders of the countries possess brilliant intellects and especially a spiritual synthesis, which helps to embrace all the planes of existence, there will be no real progress.
  • Everybody is ignorant only on different subjects.
    • Will Rogers, Paula McSpadden Love, The Will Rogers Book (1972), p. 119. The author was a niece of Will Rogers, and curator of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma.
  • Ignorance cannot lead to evil, misconceptions lead to evil. It is not what people do know, it’s what they pretend they do.
    • Rousseau, as paraphrased by Tolstoy in A Calendar of Wisdom, P. Sekirin, trans. (1997).
  • Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.
    • Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1945), Book Three, Part II, Chapter XXI: Currents of Thought in the Nineteenth Century, p. 722.


  • So oft in theologic wars,
    The disputants, I ween,
    Rail on in utter ignorance
    Of what each other mean,
    And prate about an Elephant
    Not one of them has seen!
    • John Godfrey Saxe, "The Blind Men and the Elephant," moral, The Poetical Works of John Godfrey Saxe (1887), p. 112. While Saxe said this was a Hindu fable, the story may be found in The Udna, or The Solemn Utterances of the Buddha, chapter 6, section 4, trans. Dawsonne M. Strong, p. 93–96 (1902).
  • It is my own peculiarity that I cannot bear ignorance, nor the ignorance of ignoramuses, and even less the ignorance of the informed. Therefore, I decided long ago to converse with the reader on this matter, and to construct before his very eyes—and in his face, if necessary—a different, new reader, one constructed according to my own ideas.
    • Friedrich Schlegel, “On Incomprehensibility” (1800), J. Schulte-Sasse, trans., Theory as Practice (1997), p. 146.
  • Ignorance is degrading only when found in company with riches. The poor man is restrained by poverty and need: labour occupies his thoughts, and takes the place of knowledge. But rich men who are ignorant live for their lusts only, and are like the beasts of the field, as may be seen every day; and they can also be reproached for not having used wealth and leisure for that which gives them their greatest value.
    • Schopenhauer, “On books and reading,” Religion: a dialogue, and other essays, T.B. Saunders, trans. (1910).
  • "Man," I cried, "how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!"
  • Madam, thou errest: I say, there is no darkness, but ignorance; in which thou art more puzzled, than the Egyptians in their fog.
  • If one neglects the laws of learning, a sentence is imposed that he is forever chained to his ignorance.
    • Sterling W. Sill, The Power of Believing, (1968), p. 29.
  • Ignorant men
    Don't know what good they hold in their hands until
    They've flung it away.
    • Sophocles, "Ajax", trans. John Moore, in David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, eds., The Complete Greek Tragedies (1959), vol. 2, p. 250. There have been numerous translations of this play by Sophocles, with varying translations of these words, spoken by the character Tecmessa. The translation by George Young, The Dramas of Sophocles, p. 102 (1888) reads, "Men of perverse opinion do not know / The excellence of what is in their hands,/ Till some one dash it from them".
  • Ignorantia non est argumentum.
    • Translation: Ignorance is no argument.
    • Baruch Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrico demonstrata et in quinque parses distincta, Part 1, Addendum; Amsterdam, 1677.
    • Originally used to oppose traditional theological views that everything exists and is determined by divine intervention because no other plausible reason or explanation is seen.


  • Ignorance is the mother of devotion.
  • Blind and naked Ignorance
    Delivers brawling judgments, unashamed,
    On all things all day long.
  • We struggle onward, ignorant and blind,
For a result unknown and undesign’d;
Avoiding seeming ills, misunderstood,
Embracing evil as a seeming good.
  • Theognis of Megara , Elegies Lines 137-139, as translated by J. Banks, The Works of Hesiod, Callimachus, and Theognis (1856), p. 464
  • How can he remember well his ignorance—which his growth requires—who has so often to use his knowledge?


  • Ignorance served no useful purpose; it changed no fact, it offered no shelter.
    • Michelle West, Echoes in Assassin Fantastic (ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter, 2001), p. 267
  • I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.
    • Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I, spoken by Lady Bracknell (1895).


  • Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about.
    • Malcolm X: The Man and his Times, edited by John Henrik Clarke, Africa World Press (1990)
  • Don't be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn't do what you do, or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today.
    • Malcolm X quoted in James L. Conyers, Andrew P. Smallwood, Malcolm X: A Historical Reader, Carolina Academic Press, (2008)

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 385-86.
  • Causarum ignoratio in re nova mirationem facit.
    • In extraordinary events ignorance of their causes produces astonishment.
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, II. 22.
  • Ignoratione rerum bonarum et malarum maxime hominum vita vexatur.
    • Through ignorance of what is good and what is bad, the life of men is greatly perplexed.
    • Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, I. 13.
  • Non me pudet fateri nescire quod nesciam.
    • I am not ashamed to confess that I am ignorant of what I do not know.
    • Cicero, Tusc. Quæst. I. 25. 60.
  • Ignorance seldom vaults into knowledge, but passes into it through an intermediate state of obscurity, even as night into day through twilight.
  • Ignorance gives one a large range of probabilities.
  • Often the cock-loft is empty, in those whom nature hath built many stories high.
  • Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine thätige Unwissenheit.
  • Who ne'er knew salt, or heard the billows roar.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XI, line 153. Pope's translation.
  • It was a childish ignorance,
    But now 'tis little joy
    To know I'm further off from heaven
    Than when I was a boy.
  • Rien n'est si dangereux qu'un ignorant ami:
    Mieux vaudrait un sage ennemi.
    • Nothing is so dangerous as an ignorant friend; a wise enemy is worth more.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, VIII. 10.
  • A man may live long, and die at last in ignorance of many truths, which his mind was capable of knowing, and that with certainty.
    • John Locke, Human Understanding, Book I, Chapter II.
  • The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
  • But let a man know that there are things to be known, of which he is ignorant, and it is so much carved out of his domain of universal knowledge.
  • Quod latet ignotum est; ignoti nulla cupido.
    • What is hid is unknown: for what is unknown there is no desire.
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, III. 397.
  • It is better to be unborn than untaught: for ignorance is the root of misfortune.
  • Etiam illud quod scies nesciveris;
    Ne videris quod videris.
    • Know not what you know, and see not what you see.
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, II. 6. 89.
  • Illi mors gravis incubat qui notus nimis omnibus ignotus moritur sibi.
    • Death presses heavily on that man, who, being but too well known to others, dies in ignorance of himself.
    • Seneca the Younger, Thyestes, CCCCI.
  • The more we study, we the more discover our ignorance.
  • Omne ignotum pro magnifico est.
    • Everything unknown is magnified.
    • Tacitus, Agricola, XXX. Quoting Galgacus, the British leader, to his subjects before the battle of the Grampian Hills. Ritter says the sentence may be a "marginal gloss" and brackets it. Anticipated by Thucydides, Speech of Nicias, VI. 11. 4.
  • Homine imperito nunquam quidquid injustius,
    Qui nisi quod ipse facit nihil rectum putat.
    • Nothing can be more unjust than the ignorant man, who thinks that nothing is well done by himself.
    • Terence, Adelphi, I. 2. 18.
  • Ita me dii ament, ast ubi sim nescio.
    • As God loves me, I know not where I am.
    • Terence, Heauton timoroumenos, II. 3. 67.
  • Namque inscitia est,
    Adversum stimulum calces.
    • It is consummate ignorance to kick against the pricks.
    • Terence, Phormio, I. 2. 27.

See also

AltruismAsceticismBeneficenceBenevolenceBraveryCarefulnessCharityCheerfulnessCleanlinessCommon senseCompassionConstancyCourageDignityDiligenceDiscretionEarnestnessFaithFidelityForethoughtForgivenessFriendshipFrugalityGentlenessGoodnessGraceGratitudeHolinessHonestyHonorHopeHospitalityHumanityHumilityIntegrityIntelligenceJusticeKindnessLoveLoyaltyMercyModerationModestyOptimismPatiencePhilanthropyPietyPrudencePunctualityPovertyPuritySelf-controlSimplicitySinceritySobrietySympathyTemperanceTolerance

AggressionAngerApathyArroganceBigotryContemptCowardiceCrueltyDishonestyDrunkennessEgotismEnvyEvil speakingGluttonyGreedHatredHypocrisyIdlenessIgnoranceImpatienceImpenitenceIngratitudeInhumanityIntemperanceJealousyLazinessLustMaliceNeglectObstinacyPhilistinismPrejudicePretensionPrideRecklessnessSelf-righteousnessSelfishnessSuperficialityTryphéUnkindnessUsuryVanityWorldliness

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