Friday, July 02, 2010

Ignorance: Invincible and Vincible

Jimmy Akin, in an article entitled "Ignorance - Invincible and Vincible," which was published in This Rock magazine (July/August 1999 edition) got it right when he said that, "In moral theology, ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge that a person ought to have. Ignorance is distinguished from mere nescience, which is a lack of knowledge that a person has no need of. For example, a person who did not know the square root of 1429 would be ignorant of it if he were taking a test that required him to know the answer, but he would be nescient of it if performing a task that didn't require the number.

Moral theology divides ignorance into a number of categories. The two I will consider here are invincible and vincible. Ignorance is invincible if a person could not remove it by applying reasonable diligence in determining the answer. Ignorance is vincible if a person could remove it by applying reasonable diligence. Reasonable diligence, in turn, is that diligence that a conscientious person would display in seeking the correct answer to a question given (a) the gravity of the question and (b) his particular resources.

The gravity of a question is determined by how great a need the person has to know the answer. The answers to fundamental questions (how to save one's soul, how to preserve one's life) have grave weight. The answers to minor questions (the solution to a crossword puzzle) typically have light weight.

The particular resources a person has include (a) the ease with which he can obtain the information necessary to determine the answer (e.g., a man with a good textbook on the subject may be able to find the information with greater ease than a man who lacks such a textbook) and (b) the ease with which he can make an accurate evaluation of the evidence once it is in his possession (e.g., a smart man may be able to evaluate the evidence with greater ease than an ordinary man). The graver the question and the greater the resources available, the more diligence is needed to qualify as reasonable..."

Now, bearing all of this in mind, especially the last sentence in bold, read this article from Joe Sacerdo regarding Father Bryan Hehir and his excuse for having honored Mayor Thomas Menino even though the Mayor's opposition toward Catholic moral teaching regarding homosexuality and abortion are well-known by virtually every citizen who lives and works in and around Boston.

Would such ignorance be vincible or invincible? Come on, you know the answer.

Although Akin doesn't go into it, there is a category of ignorance known as affected or studied ignorance. When a person deliberately avoids knowledge in order to plead ignorance as an excuse, for example, refusing to read material or avoiding those persons who might inform him, this form of pretense is called affected or studied ignorance.

Something to reflect on this holiday weekend.


Jonathan said...

This is why Sacred Scripture says God will not be mocked. He can neither deceive nor be deceived. Father Hehir is in a position most Catholics are not. He has more resources than most. For him to plead ignorance of Menino's ideology is just ridiculous.

Betty said...

The demagogue employs half-truths, ambiguities, and even outright lies to preserve and augment his power. If truth and honesty get in the way, these are immediately sacrificed for self-glorification in the eyes of the world.

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