National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, Volume 10 (2014)


Copyright 2013 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


During the last week of my last semester in my last year in college, I took a course in aesthetics. David Miller was the teacher, and he required all of the students to make a presentation. I decided to work up a presentation on Picasso. I didn’t know much about Picasso, but of course that did not deter me. A word of advice to students: never let the fact that you do not altogether know what you are talking about keep you from talking. After all, not knowing what they are talking about does not stop your parents from talking, does it? And how do you think professors could possibly lecture for an entire semester without occasionally talking about things that they don’t know much about? Certainly they do not know all there is to know about all the things that they talk about.

In a university, you keep on talking precisely because your knowledge is partial, incomplete, provisional. That is perhaps the best way for you to learn what you don’t know, and learning some of what you don’t know is fifty percent of the reason to go to college in the first place. Learning that you don’t know is the other fifty percent. Socrates called that “learned ignorance.”