Is Ignorance Bliss? | Rachel Martin

Photo by Fransiskus Filbert Mangundap on Unsplash
  • The saying “ignorance is bliss” is something that has always fascinated me, and I thought it was a topic I could write a lot about. 
  • I tried to write it once, for a college essay, and I kind of just rambled until I realized it was not much of anything. It’s still something I’m passionate about though, and like I said, I don’t know how to write it out. 
  • This seemed like a good idea to bullet point, kind of ramble on about each new thought I had about the subject. 
  • If you knew when the world was going to end, would you want to know? 
  • I just saw the movie, Knock at the Cabin that deals with the apocalypse and making a sacrifice in the name of saving the world. The whole time I was wondering what I would do if I had to make the same sort of choice, and I couldn’t come to a decision at all.  
  • If someone was talking bad about you, would you want to know? 
  • Clearly, not knowing this information could make you feel better. Bliss does not mean satisfied; it means something like being better off or to me, in a dreamlike state.  
  • Say your best friend of three years was talking about you on the playground. Something about how much you suck at basketball, and that Molly is way better at basketball than you, therefore making her a better friend than you are (based on grade school logic of course). If a third party (we’ll use the name Kevin, the guy your friend was gossiping to) came up to you afterwards and told you what was being said, there’s no way that could make you happier. Like, at least you know not to trust that friend anymore, but ultimately, you’d just be upset that you are being replaced by Molly or something.  
  • “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.” Same concept, not knowing information, which can be seen as ignorance, keeps the person from being hurt.  
  • During the pandemic, those people who chose to ignore health and safety protocols made by professionals like doctors and scientists felt happier about their situation. 
  • Ignoring stay at home orders allowed people to continue life “as normal.” 
  • This happens a lot in TV shows and movies, like dramatic irony that allows the audience to know things that are coming or will happen to a particular character, but the character does not know what’s to come. 
  • Like in Psycho when we have the killer’s POV, we as the viewers can see motivation, timing, and planning. But the victim has no idea and could potentially be living their last moments in happiness.  
  • Sometimes this could be the opposite of bliss though, because if you knew someone was plotting your murder, you’d probably be able to avoid strangers in white vans or shiny knives.  
  • Being alive still is nice, but you don’t really have the ability to be relaxed after hearing such information.  
  • How many times have you told someone that you wish they hadn’t told you something? 
  • Sometimes people feel really burdened by secrets or stories they can’t share with others, because they know too much or things like this.  
  • I could never work for the F.B.I. or the government. As far as I’m concerned with U.S. motives and the like, I’m in ignorance and that’s a personal bliss I’d like to keep.  
  • So sometimes learning things makes you more informed, but it doesn’t make you necessarily happy or safe either.  
  • One example that came to mind recently is when people in the music scene get “canceled” for serious allegations of sexual assault and the like. This happens in every industry but as a music lover myself, it was hard to hear about the drummer in a band I really enjoyed (SWMRS) being accused of sexual coercion. Now that I had this information, I was left to decide; should I continue to listen to their music, thus supporting someone who I really felt like did not deserve my support? Just because I liked the music he made? Separating art from the artist is easy in theory, but much harder in practice. It’s in situations like these that ignorance really does make things better, and I would have gone my whole life continuing to support the band I thought I knew.  
  • Ever walk into class and forget there was a test that day?  
  • Google tells me, “the 18th century poet Thomas Gray is responsible for the often-quoted phrase: Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. President Thomas Jefferson embellished that quotation with one of his own. He said, if ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?  
  • Jefferson is getting at the same thing I am here, sort of. He’s saying, in a sense, that nobody knows anything, yet nobody is as blissful as the saying goes, leaving Jefferson to wonder how true it really is. 
  • I don’t know, though. It’s something I like to play with philosophically in my mind, the question of, “ could knowing more things make you less happy?” 
  • Another example, “what about children?” Before they grow up and experience the “real world” aren’t they filled with some sort of “child-like wonder” that makes life all magical and wonderful? This is another perspective on the saying.  
  • Babies don’t know how to talk, which can be harmful when trying to tell Mom that they’re hungry. But since they don’t know how to talk, they don’t have to give book reports, or take a French class, or study the parts of the cell (yet).  
  • Because kids don’t know how taxes work, they don’t have to pay them. (And the whole no-more-child-labor thing) 
  • When I was younger, my parents did their best not to tell me when money was tight. It was their way of protecting me, so I wouldn’t stress about “adult stuff” at the prime age of five. Now, at almost twenty, I have a lot more worries when it comes to financial situations, as I myself have come into money problems here and there (and attending a private university).  
  • Being president of the United States seems to make people so unhappy. The before and after photos of Barack Obama for example are crazy, it’s like, he knows too much. And all the secrets they swear on their life to protect. Like nuclear codes or war decisions that really impact the entire country if not the world. We may have checks and balances, but I wouldn’t say that takes the stress off anyone in power in the slightest.  
  •  I’m sure everyone in any sort of high-level position like that has once thought about how much easier their life would be as a client, entry level employee, not knowing anything (in comparison). 
  • The show Undercover Boss kind of illustrates what I mean here. Bosses figure that everyone below them is fine, life is great not having to make big choices or speak for an entire company. It’s not like I would know what to do either, but the CEOs and bosses typically have a changed perspective after going undercover as a low-level employee at their own company. They see the hardships of the “everyday worker” and realize that everyone has it rough, not just the big guys. They may not know that the brand is going bankrupt, so it is less stressful, but they also don’t know that the brand is going bankrupt, so they feel falsely secure in what they currently have.  
  • I also tend to think about how most people don’t or haven’t thought about this phrase in this way either. Like, wouldn’t that also make them ignorant to this idea that I spend way too much time thinking about? Are they in that blissful state too? If so, I’m sorry for bursting your bubble with this philosophical idea I keep tossing around in my head, I hope it’s not too troubling.  


  1. Hello Racheal, I really loved the whole idea of having your writing in bullet points! I think it is unique and it helped me stayed intrigued because the writing did not appear so long and dreadful! I also loved the way you approached the whole ignorance is bliss statement because I personally never thought about it in the way you presented it!

  2. The topic of whether “ignorance is bliss” is an interesting philosophical concept. The idea that not knowing certain information can lead to a state of happiness or contentment is intriguing. And I have been thinking about this topic sometimes too, and I could never put it into these words. I believe that it is essential to strike a balance between knowing and not knowing certain information, depending on the situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *