Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ignorance is...bliss?

No, ignorance is not bliss. defines Ignorance as The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed. Socrates posited that he who knows nothing but thinks he knows is worse off than he who neither knows, nor thinks that he knows. Thus, his conclusion is that it is better to have honest ignorance, than self-deceiving ignorance. Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, has said "The central dilemma in journalism is that you don't know what you don't know. " Which is one of the tenants of my philosophical outlook: "First, you must know what you don't know. Then, and only then, can you begin to resolve those things about which you know little, or nothing." Consider this Harrington Maxim #1. I shall go so far as to submit for your consideration, that this is an axiom.

Many a noted person has expressed their sentiments about Ignorance. To wit:

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge.
~ Daniel J Boorstin
If you are of the opinion that you are knowledgeable about the business of photography, yet you continue to do things that are quantifiably bad business practices, then you are suffering under an illusion.
To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.
~ Amos Bronson Alcott
This falls in line with Socrates' and Woodward's sentiments.
Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us worthy evidence of the fact.
~ George Eliot
I can't tell you how many times I've encountered this reality. The only response - especially in polite company, is to just smile and say nothing. There's no use in debating a know-it-all who is not humbled by the fact he doesn't know it all. Let reality smack them upside the head on some idle Friday.
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
King''s take on Socratic thinking, while not revelatory, certainly is of value because it furthers the message.
Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
~ Will Durant

Education is the key, in the end. The tide of doe-eyed camera-toting people eager to hang out their shingle as a photographer and put themselves out of business in short order and incrementally impact in a negative manner the profession will only be stemmed by education.

Spread the word. Pay whatever knowledge you have gotten here, or from my book, or from other books on the subject of photographic business practices, forward. Pass a link to this blog, with a few relevant posts that you enjoyed, on to your friends, colleagues, or listservs and forums you're on. I know the good folks at,,, and, yes, even, all are sending traffic this way, and hopefully it's helping people. The private e-mails I am getting seem to indicate as much.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

Do you think that things such as typographical errors weaken the effect of your posts, especially the ones where you attack the intelligence or ethics of others?

Anonymous said...

While John may have some typo's, I don't see an attacks on the ethics of others.

When did commentary become an attack? Or, do you just like to make snide remarks when you disagree with someone's posts?

Anonymous said...

It was meant as a general question regarding typographical errors and was not meant to be snide, but rather meant as an actual inquiry. As for my use of the word "attacked", my reading of several posts was that either the intelligence or professional ethics (or both) of a group of photographers were being more than just "commented" upon, and the word "attacked" seemed the best fit.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld's famous, ''things we don't know we don't know'' speech.

Although he was widely slated for what many saw as an exercise in obfuscation, and his ploitical stance is nothing to be admired, I thought that was actually a pretty good illustration of the basic principles of epistemology (the theory of knowledge).

I think as photographers we have to constantly admit our weaknesses and ignorance if we are to learn and grow.

There's a Zen story about a guy(or girl) who goes to a Zen master to learn Zen. The master invites the new student inside and says, ''OK, let's first have some tea''.

The student sits down and the master brings out a tray with a pot and two cups and begins to pour the tea into one of the cups.

The master pours and pours, until the cup is full. But then he keeps pouring. The tea spills over the side of the cup and onto the tray.

Staring in disbelief, the student remains silent out of politeness.

The master continues to pour, until the tea flows over the edge of the tray and onto the floor.

Finally the student can take it no longer.


The master stops pouring, looks into the student's eyes and says,

''You're just like this cup. You're so full of your own ideas, how do you expect to learn anything?''

Unknown said...

Anonymous, your criticism of John might be more effective if you had the balls to identify yourself. You are serving as another example of a problem John himself has identified recently in his posts, of people who take advantage of the potential anonymity of the internet to sling shit at other people while shying from accountability for their words.

John Harrington said...

Let's see...why typos? Could it be that I made that post while in a bumpy train coming back from an assignment at 1am? According to spellcheck (I cut and pasted the text into Word to check it), I mis-spelled: "decieving" (should have been "deceiving") and "relevatory" (should have been "revelatory"). These have been corrected. If there is a mis-spelling of a quoted person's name, it's because of my cut-and-paste of previously mis-spelled names.

Since Blogger doesn't have a spell check, you'll just have to overlook a few typographical errors from time to time. If those errors cause you, or anyone, to think less of the sentiments, then so be it.

Or, perhaps, this post hit too close to home for you, and you became uncomfortable.

If you're genuine concern is that you really want my posts to have maximum impact, and you honestly feel that the power of the message would improve with a correction, perhaps you'd do better to click on the link to e-mail me, and share that insight, as others have done.

If, on the other hand, you are referring to errors in previous posts, and "attacks" I may have made, then perhaps you're taking this opportunity to obfuscate (thanks Tom) with your extraneous challenge when what you do realize is that, for example, signing WMFH contracts is bad, and you just don't know how to do things the right way in order to succeed.

Welcome to the Forum, Anonymous. Whatever your reason for being here, we value your opinion, and encourage you to continue to participate, both here, and on Flickr. Hopefully, you'll be exposed to information and insights that will help you grow, both personally, and professionally. Please excuse the typos from time to time.

Anonymous said...

From my understanding of Blogger and Gmail accounts, it would seem that even posts with names could still be rather anonymous. Whether the question would have been taken differently if it had been signed with a Blogger account with no information behind it is itself an interesting question.

How would you phrase the original question if you did not want to log into a Blogger/Gmail account?

Anonymous said...

Louisa May Alcott said that "stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary, but I think George Eliot used the word "say" :)

John Harrington said...

"stay"->"say" fixed. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Tempest in a teapot.

Somebody just pissing in the wind, hiding behind the anonymous tag. Don't worry about this guy/girl who is afraid to post their name.

You are doing this industry a favor by sharing your perspective and approach. It is just one opinion amongst many, but at least you wrote a book about it and are willing to take the time and energy to share.


Anonymous said...

Allow me to pose a rhetorical question. Who is "bcd" anyway? They joined Blogger this month according to their profile. The profile (currently) has only 3 views. Is this poster seen as being less "afraid" about posting their name because they didn't use the "anonymous" button? Is a pseudonymous post different? It is said that Mary Ann Evans wrote under the name George Eliot to be taken seriously. What will future historians say about anonymous posting and pseudonymous posting from this time period?

Unknown said...

Two things John -
1. Your writing about photography not english or typing - both of which I'm can't comment on.
2. some quote you may find interesting I pulled from Forbes some years ago. -
On Stupidity
Strange as it may seem, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and formal education positively fortifies it.
Steven Vizinczey

One great mistake made by intelligent people is to refuse to believe that the world is as stupid as it is.
Madame De Tencin

A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.
Benjamin Franklin

The two most common elements in the world are hydrogen and stupidity.

Anonymous said...

"I have as much privacy as a goldfish in a bowl"

HRH Princes Margaret Rose of York, Countess of Snowdon

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Of course, trusting the government with your privacy is like having a Peeping Tom install your window blinds.

John Perry Barlow (1947 - )

Anonymous said...

I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.


Anonymous said...

I'm not aware of too many things, but I know what I know, if you know what I mean.

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Business Owner said...

yeah bruce is right., why will you attack the person if you dislike his post, if you dont like it, better keep it to your self, or say it nicely

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