Health and Medicine

Anthony Fauci, the “Learned Ignoramus”

In the technocratic, therapeutic, public administration states of modernity, the media, the educational system, and “think-tanks” assume the role of the “New Church,” i.e. the institution responsible for formulating and disseminating the dominant values of the society. And it is the “knowledge industries” (science, medicine, law, technology) that serve as its priesthood, with the “communications industries” (marketing, advertising, public relations) and “human development industries” (from human resources to mental health) being its missionaries.

By Zachary Yost

Mises.Org

As the COVID-19 shutdown across the US continues, one cannot but help see the importance of specialization and the division of labor time and time again, as many Americans deal with true shortages of goods for the first time in their lives. Specialization has allowed us to enjoy a much more prosperous life than we would were we all to do everything ourselves. However, as with everything in this imperfect world, specialization comes with certain tradeoffs that are important to understand. As the unemployment numbers continue to rise by millions more every week, as meager savings are eliminated, and as our highly organized society slides into chaos it is important to understand the way in which an unbalanced intellectual specialization has contributed to bringing about the current crisis.

In his 1930 book The Revolt of the Masses, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset addresses what he considers to be a strange byproduct of the prevalence of specialization in everything, specifically the intellectual sphere. “Previously,” he writes, “men could be divided simply into the learned and the ignorant, those more or less the one, and those more or less the other.” Now, however, a new kind of person has emerged, “an extraordinarily strange kind of man,” who cannot be called “learned for he is formally ignorant of all that does not enter into his specialty,” yet at the same time cannot be considered “ignorant because he is ‘a scientist’ who ‘knows’ very well his own tiny portion of the universe.” Thus, Ortega y Gasset says that the only fitting name for such a person is a “learned ignoramus.”

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