Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

Ignorance and Uncertainty overviews a variety of approaches to the problem of indeterminacies in human thought and behavior. This book examines, in depth, trends in the psychology of judgment and decision-making under uncertainty or ignorance. Research from the fields of cognitive psychology, social psychology, organizational studies, sociology, and social anthroplogy are reviewed here in anticipation of what Dr. Smithson characterizes as the beginning of a "creative dialogue between these researchers". Ignorance and Uncertainty offers the conceptual framework for understanding the paradigms associated with current research. It discusses the ways in which attitudes toward ignorance and uncertainty are changing, and addresses issues previously ignored.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

A Vocabulary of Ignorance

Chapter 1. A Vocabulary of Ignorance

Abstract
Until recently, ignorance and uncertainty were neglected topics in the human sciences and even in philosophy. Even now, they do not share center stage with knowledge in those disciplines, but remain sideshow oddities for the most part. Instead, Western intellectual culture has been preoccupied with the pursuit of absolutely certain knowledge or, barring that, the nearest possible approximation to it. This preoccupation is worth investigating, since it appears to be responsible not only for the neglect of ignorance, but also the absence of a conceptual framework for seriously studying it. Accordingly, in this section I will briefly outline the orientations in Western science and philosophy which have motivated the neglect of ignorance. I will also take the position that these orientations have begun to change recently, and that one of the spinoffs has been an unprecedented interest in ignorance, uncertainty, and related topics.
Michael Smithson

Normative Paradigms

Chapter 2. Full Belief and The Pursuit of Certainty

Abstract
Without attempting a thoroughgoing survey of classical philosophy, some initial insights may be gained into Western intellectuals’ traditional orientations toward ignorance by briefly examining the varieties of ignorance referred to in classical philosophical literature. Every theory of knowledge draws a distinction between knowledge and ignorance, and most between ignorance in the sense of incomplete knowledge and ignorance in the sense of erroneous belief. The earliest forms of philosophy amount to various kinds of dogmatism or skepticism, both of which necessarily refer to and utilize ignorance. I will discuss dogmatism first.
Michael Smithson

Chapter 3. Probability and the Cultivation of Uncertainty

Abstract
If there is any approach to ignorance that bears a creditable claim to generalizability and rationality simultaneously, it is probability. Virtually all modern accounts of uncertainty refer to the concept and theory of probability as a benchmark. However, it is crucial to realize that probability theory actually consists of a cluster of competing approaches, each of which claims either exclusive or universal status as the one true theory. The differences among these theories are considered fundamental by many probabilists, especially the division between the so-called ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ approaches.
Michael Smithson

Chapter 4. Beyond Probability? New Normative Paradigms

Abstract
The modern orientation towards ignorance contrasts starkly with traditional approaches. In the older view there is no room even for irreducible uncertainty, and all intractable forms of ignorance are banished from analysis. The modern view, on the other hand, in the words of Renee Fox (1980: 9) sees “errors and mistakes, as well as uncertainty and chance, as perennial parts of the… human condition.” Nor is this view consensual or stationary. At the very least, the past two decades have seen a dramatic increase in public awareness of uncertainty and fundamental challenges to traditional methods for coping with it. Concurrently, applied mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and philosophers have questioned the exalted position of probability theory as the dominant formalism for analyzing uncertainty.
Michael Smithson

Descriptive and Explanatory Paradigms

Chapter 5. Psychological Accounts: Biases, Heuristics, and Control

Abstract
The field of psychology is ostensibly concerned with explaining human thought, emotion, and behavior, and we may properly turn to it when seeking explanations of how individuals perceive and respond to ignorance. However, traditionally psychology also has provided clear normative messages concerning ignorance (and especially uncertainty), of sufficient consistency across theories and schools of thought that they qualify as a dominant ideology. Those messages, in turn, are derived from frameworks which have crucially influenced psychological research and theories on these topics, as have debates over the relationship that should obtain between normative and explanatory frameworks. This chapter is an attempt to construct an overview of the interactions between the normative and the explanatory in the psychological literature which addresses ignorance. Once again, the reader should not expect an exhaustive treatment; preference has been given to the modern mainstreams of theory and research and a comparative synthesis.
Michael Smithson

Chapter 6. The Social Construction of Ignorance

Abstract
Ignorance has been a marginal and neglected topic in the social sciences, as is the case in cognate disciplines. Indeed, most of what mainstream social science says about ignorance is merely implicit in its outpourings about knowledge. As for direct statements about ignorance or even uncertainty themselves, at best, one could say there is a fragmentary literature that is loosely held together by common themes. This state of affairs might seem to justify ignoring altogether whatever contributions sociologists, social psychologists, and anthropologists may have made in this area. However, this literature has important redeeming features in that it discusses several aspects of ignorance that are not effectively covered in the perspectives we have reviewed so far. Moreover, at least some social scientists bring to their commentary philosophical perspectives that differ in crucial ways from those that inform either applied mathematicians or cognitive psychologists.
Michael Smithson

Chapter 7. A Dialog with Ignorance

Abstract
What are we to make of the recent intellectual ferment over ignorance? Clearly its explanation presents a fascinating problem in social psychological history, and the social psychological study of science in particular. While we are far from being able to obtain a complete account, I should like to suggest what such an account might look like. After all, this problem should hold more than the promise of intellectual interest; the more we know about why we are collectively and individually preoccupied with ignorance, the more able we will be to adopt mindful strategies and choices regarding ignorance.
Michael Smithson

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen