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03-27-2008

New Book by Clarkson University Prof Finds Power in Ignorance

A new book, coedited by Clarkson University Professor Bill Vitek and Wes Jackson, puts forward the idea that as our dependence on technology has increased precipitously over the past centuries, so too has the notion that we can solve all of our problems with scientific explanations.

The Virtues of Ignorance: Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge proposes an alternative to this worldview.

If human knowledge is insufficient to run the world and if it is causing more harm than good, then what might a worldview based on ignorance look like? says Vitek. "How might an ignorance-based worldview better inform our choices, beliefs and attitudes?"

The contributing authors to the book argue that our reliance on scientific knowledge has created many of the problems that now plague the globe and that our wholesale dependence on scientific progress cannot be continued. They conclude that we must simply accept that our ignorance far exceeds our knowledge and always will.

With essays from across the intellectual spectrum, The Virtues of Ignorance identifies the many problems caused by a knowledge-based worldview, gives voice to an ignorance-based perspective, and provides examples and suggestions for putting this perspective to work in our professional and personal lives.

This is the second book that Vitek and Jackson have edited together. The first was Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place. They are currently writing a book together titled Consulting the Genius of the Place.

Bill Vitek is an associate professor of philosophy at Clarkson University, where he has taught for 20 years. He is the author or coeditor of several other books, including Promising, and Applying Philosophy. He is currently writing a book of his own essays, titled Toss the Paddle!: Finding Our Way Out of Carbon Creek. He was a 2007 Visiting Scholar with The Center for Humans and Nature and with The Land Institute. Vitek is also a jazz pianist and award winning music producer.

Wes Jackson is the president of the Land Institute and former professor at Kansas Wesleyan and California State universities. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1992 and The Right Livelihood Award in 2000, Jackson is the author of several books, including Becoming Native to This Place, and Altars of Unhewn Stone. He received an honorary degree from Clarkson in 1999.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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