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THE VIRTUES OF IGNORANCE THE VIRTUES OF IGNORANCE COMPLEXITY, SUSTAINABILITY, AND THE LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE COMPLEXITY, SUSTAINABILITY, AND THE LIMITS OF KNOWLEDGE EDITED BY BILL VITEK AND WES JACKSON VITEK AND JACKSON KENTUCKY “This is a bid to make ignorance an explicit and powerful underpinning of a new epistemology. It will attract widespread attention as a result and potentially be one of those books that show up in citations for decades to come.” —Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future “As peak oil, climate change, and other imminent events impose themselves on our industrial economies and begin to undermine the fundamental premises of our culture, I believe that The Virtues of Ignorance will rapidly become a crucial part of the literature of our changing paradigm and will likely be a cornerstone of our new way of being in the world for several decades.” —Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center, Iowa State University Culture of the Land A Series in the New Agrarianism Series Editor: Norman Wirzba The University Press of Kentucky NATURE/SUSTAINABILITY THE VIRTUES OF IGNORANCE Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge Edited by Bill Vitek and Wes Jackson Human dependence on technology has increased exponentially over the past several centuries, and so too has the notion that we can fix environmental problems with scientific applications. The Virtues of Ignorance: Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge proposes an alternative to this hubristic, shortsighted, and dangerous worldview. The contributors argue that uncritical faith in scientific knowledge has created many of the problems now threatening the planet and that our wholesale reliance on scientific progress is both untenable and myopic. Bill Vitek, Wes Jackson, and a diverse group of thinkers, including Wendell Berry, Anna Peterson, and Robert RootBernstein , offer profound arguments for the advantages of an ignorance-based worldview. Their essays explore this philosophy from numerous perspectives, including its origins, its essence, and how its implementation can preserve vital natural resources for posterity. All conclude that we must simply accept the proposition that our ignorance far exceeds our knowledge and always will. Rejecting the belief that science and technology are benignly at the service of society, the authors argue that recognizing ignorance might be the only path to reliable knowledge. They also uncover an interesting paradox: knowledge and insight accumulate fastest in the minds of those who hold an ignorance-based worldview, for by examining the alternatives to a technology-based culture, they expand their imaginations. Demonstrating that knowledge-based worldviews are more dangerous than useful, The Virtues of Ignorance looks closely at the relationship between the land and the future generations who will depend on it. The authors argue that we can never improve upon nature but that we can, by putting this new perspective to work in our professional and personal lives, live sustainably on Earth. Bill Vitek is associate professor of philosophy at Clarkson University. He has published three books: Promising; Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place; and Applying Philosophy. Wes Jackson is president of the Land Institute and former professor at Kansas Wesleyan and California State universities.The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, he has published several books, including Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place, Becoming Native to This Place, and Altars of Unhewn Stone. Continued on back flap Continued from front flap The Virtues of Ignorance 2/4/08 12:11 PM Page 1 ...


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