Naivete vs Ignorance

I tend to be naive. My default assumption is that things will go the way they should and that people will be decent towards each other. For a long time, I regarded this as a preservation of my youth, a way to stay connected to that idyllic future that I expect will always emerge from the haze of the future. I have to adjust my perspective in nearly all situations. And lately I’ve been realizing that naivete is not the wholesome quality I thought it was.

Is it any better to be willfully naive than to be willfully ignorant? Ignorance is not a quality we tend to associate with admirable people. The cliche is the bigoted redneck that shuns anything outside his cultural norm, actively avoiding any sort of broadening experience, all under the claim of some sort of cultural superiority. But, couldn’t this redneck’s desire to remain ignorant stem from the same place as my desire to stay naive? Maybe Mr. Redneck firmly believes in the purity and holy righteousness of his world-view and by denying the legitimacy of contradictory views he is preserving his attachment to his own perfect future.

So, is my naivete doing harm? By denying the harsh reality of a world that does not align with my hopes for the future, am I keeping myself from growing and becoming a better citizen in the real world? Even worse, am I somehow denying the valid beliefs of someone around me?

At the same time, I feel like to abandon my naive outlook is to give in to cynicism. Is this what it means to become a jaded adult? I can still be idealistic without being naive, right? In fact, wouldn’t acknowledging the way the world actually works help me pursue my ideals more effectively?

What do you think?

What’s worse: naivete or ignorance?

Sometimes it’s pretty tempting to give in to both and just live my life naively in ignorant bliss.


5 thoughts on “Naivete vs Ignorance

  1. This makes me think of game theory (you might find this podcast fun: A lot of people aren’t decent towards each other, so being (naively) decent would not particularly be in your interest. It might even hurt you. Which in turn explains why there will always be people not being decent. On the other hand, it would be in everyone’s interest if everyone would be decent towards each other (an idyllic future indeed). It’s a maddening paradox.

    Just try to be true to yourself, and realize that being ‘good’ might come down to being ‘good enough’. That’s how I see it.

    • That’s a really good point, Mike. Hmm.

      In general, trying to be decent does tend to leave me at a disadvantage. But that is part of the reason it is worth doing. Because it would be so easy to give in to the desire of self-interest. Is that naive?

      Wow. Really good thought. Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. Pingback: "Naivete vs Ignorance" response | Mossy Window

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