Mark Lilla


Professor of Humanities, Columbia University

Guest, Albert Hirschman Fellowship
(July 2016)


Ignorance and Bliss

Contemporary philosophy places a premium on epistemological questions, of the sort, Is knowledge possible? What are its limits? A deeper question, which shows up in an older philosophical tradition but also in myth and theology, is: What is the value of knowledge? Does it always make us happy and good?  I’m working on a book titled Ignorance and Bliss which explores these latter questions. Two themes are central to it: concerns about the loss of innocence and about the power of curiosity. At the IWM I will be working on a chapter about political nostalgia: the conviction that societies can recover their original innocence and goodness through political action.