Monday Anosognosia

I once had a law partner who was describing an opposing lawyer with great frustration. He said: “It’s not that he doesn’t know; it’s that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.”

I love that quote. Unknown unknowns. They haunt me. And today I learned there is a word (which I did not know) that describes this very phenomenon. It is called anosognosia. This is a condition where a person who suffers an impairment is unaware of the existence of that impairment. They don’t know they don’t know.

Today begins the first in a New York Times series by Errol Morris on this affliction. Here is a link. Read this article.

Of course there are things we know; and things we know we don’t know. But what about the unknown unknowns? The things where we don’t even know what questions to ask?

This is why I marvel at people who are always so self assured in their beliefs. About religion. About politics. About business. About law. About science. I have things I believe, but not the cocksure attitude that what I believe is infallible. I marvel because if history has taught us anything it is that what we believe isn’t necessarily the case (and often never is). And this strict adherence to these beliefs make us ignorant to not only other ideas but the very existence of questions about other ideas.

There is a great scene from the movie Diner where the guys are driving through the countryside when a beautiful girl rides up on a horse and gives an alluring smile before she rides away. It is clear that the guys are out of place and have entered a world completely foreign to the one they know. Fenwick, played by Kevin Bacon says: “Do you ever get the feeling there is something going on that we don’t know anything about?”

All the time.


3 thoughts on “Monday Anosognosia

  1. If someone had the absolute truth in any subject of debate than there would be no need for a debate. It would be so obvious to everyone and life would be perfect. I agree 100% with you. Be wary of the snake-oil salesman.

  2. True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. – Socrates

    That was the central message of all of his teachings. You’re in good company. TCU v. OU in the finals?

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