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Chapter 6. The Parts of Thinking > Distinguishing Between Inert Information, Ac...

Distinguishing Between Inert Information, Activated Ignorance, and Activated Knowledge

The mind can take in information in three distinctive ways: 1) by internalizing inert information; 2) by forming activated ignorance; and 3) by achieving activated knowledge.

Inert Information

By inert information, we mean taking into the mind information that, though memorized, we do not understand—despite the fact that we think we do. For example, many people have taken in, during their schooling, a lot of information about democracy that leads them to believe they understand the concept. Often, a good part of the information they have internalized consists of empty verbal rituals. For example, many children learn in school that “democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.” This catchy phrase often sticks in their mind. It leads them to think they understand what it means, though most of them do not translate it into any practical criteria for assessing the extent to which democracy does or does not exist in any given country. Most people, to be explicit, could not intelligibly answer any of the following questions:


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