Though a great man of letters and an avid reader himself, Hazlitt, in "On the Ignorance of the Learned," sharply criticizes those who derive their knowledge of the world from books rather than experience. Such people may be learned in that they know a lot of things, but they are also ignorant in that they often lack common sense, intuition, and imagination, which for Hazlitt are important sources of knowledge.
As a particularly acute, incisive literary critic of the Romantic era, Hazlitt understood the value of imagination, not just as a wellspring of great art, but also, as we've seen, as a source of knowledge in its own right. However, those who derive their knowledge solely from books tend to lack imagination and so don't really appreciate it.
The learned ignoranti essentially allow the books they read to do their thinking for them instead of using their imagination, and for Hazlitt this does not produce true knowledge as he understands it.
Hazlitt's conception of knowledge is very...
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