For many years I was Philosopher-in-Residence of the Curriculum
on Medical Ignorance at the University of Arizona Medical
School. I worked with wonderful students, and developed many
innovative offerings collaboratively with esteemed colleagues
Marlys and Charles Witte M.D.
We aimed to encourage aspiring and established physicians
to wonder, ponder, doubt, revise, and research: in other words,
to explore their dynamic ignorance fully, fruitfully, and
fearlessly. Why ignorance? If
we knew all, we wouldn't need physicians. We wouldn't need
research. We could dispense with universities...and hospitals.
But we don't know all. We know, in fact, far too little to
effectively prevent disease, to cure, heal, and alleviate
suffering.So medicine is predicated on our ignorance: on our
inability to understand our complex systems and means of repair
and renewal. Moreover, modern Western medicine dedicates significant
resources to the ongoing discovery of basic biologic processes
and sophisticated innovations in diagnosis and treatment.
This is terra incognita. The unknown. Fertile ignorance. Even
a philosopher realizes that medical students like to ponder
concretely. If they are to explore ignorance---as I required---they'd
like a bit of "structure" to prod them. Something
tangible. Something "real". A tool, they suggested.
A chart perhaps, a diagram. "Of the unknown?" I
ventured. "Absolutely," they said. Thus, I Iwas
compelled to invent. And thus the Map of Ignorance came to
be circa 1983.
This little map has traveled the
globe. On its clones have scribbled Nobel Laureates, U.N.
delegates, educators, physicians, artists, students, politicians,
inventors, scientists, poets and ponderers from many walks
of life. It's just a prop, a cosmic swerve, a silly prompt
for exploration and celebration of the fertile home territory
of learning. Gladly it receives the
epiphanic trials and triumphs of very blessed wanderer: every
ignoramus. It awaits you.
Would you like to dialogue with the unknown?