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What according to William Hazlitt is the "ignorance of the learned"?

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lalzarzova | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 6, 2010 at 6:11 PM via web

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What according to William Hazlitt is the "ignorance of the learned"?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 7, 2010 at 2:46 AM (Answer #1)

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William Hazlitt, known for his biting satirical essays, attacks formal education in "On the Ignorance of the Learned." This essay in particular demonstrates that Hazlitt was a little before his time in regards to his logic about education and practical knowledge.  He writes that those who have "learned" from books and formal schools do not possess true knowledge.  They might be described as "learned" men, but in Hazlitt's opinion,

"the knowledge of that which is before us, or about us, which appeals to our experience, passions, and pursuits, to the bosom and businesses of men, is not learning."

Rather, knowledge is common sense, intuition, and what we refer to as street smarts.  Because Hazlitt believes that the learned spend too much time reading other people's opinions instead of getting out into the real world of business, he writes that they are ignorant in the following areas.

1. Imagination--they use books to think for them instead of using their own imagination.

2.  Morality--instead of observing what seems to be right and wrong in the real world, they read about others' views of morality.  Hazlitt cites Shakespeare as an example of someone who used his own observations about vice and virtue to formulate personal morality.

3.  Physical Fitness--Hazlitt even stresses that the learned look at sculptures and paintings and read about the human form and fitness but don't use their own bodies to run, walk, or work with their hands.

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