Asserting Ignorance

Rik Peels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This article explores to what extent ignorance is assertable. More specifically, can one properly assert that one is ignorant with respect to some specific proposition p? This article argues that, depending on one’s account of ignorance, there are six or seven different kinds of ignorance. Subsequently, it examines whether or not each of these varieties of ignorance is assertable. It defends the view that only two out of six or seven kinds of ignorance are assertable, at least de dicto: what the author calls “suspending ignorance” and “undecided ignorance.” The other four or five kinds of ignorance are unassertable: what the author calls “disbelieving ignorance,” “unconsidered ignorance,” “deep ignorance,” “complete ignorance,” and, on some accounts of what it is to be ignorant, “unwarranted ignorance.” It turns out they are unassertable for very different reasons, though. Finally, the article applies its argument to two issues. First, the debate about whether there is inexpressible ignorance has focused entirely on various kinds of propositions or facts that are supposed to be such that one cannot express ignorance with regard to them. It has failed to pay attention to the various attitudes that ignorance can consist in. Second, Transparency as an account of self-knowledge may be true for belief and some other mental states, but not for various kinds of ignorance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Assertion
EditorsSanford Goldberg
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190675233
ISBN (Print)9780190675233
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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