If Ignorance is Bliss, We Should All Be Ecstatic explores the limitations of knowledge and argues that neither reasoning nor direct observation can be trusted. The author Fred Leavitt talks to Book Glow about the book.
Describe the book in one sentence.
The book uses abstract reasoning plus many real life examples to show that ALL “knowledge” is illusory.
What led you to write it?
I was trained as a scientist, received a doctorate in psychopharmacology, and became convinced that drugs would soon be developed that would prevent or cure most major diseases. But, while teaching university classes, I continued studying and became disillusioned. The drug field was riddled with methodologically unsound studies and outright fraud. One eminent scientist wrote that the conclusions from well over half the articles published in the best medical journals are incorrect. I wrote a book about it—The REAL Drug Abusers—that one reviewer called one of the most important drug books of the decade. That inspired me to look at other fields, and they were no better. Eventually I followed the path forged by Plato, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell and concluded that none of our beliefs—none—can be trusted.
How long did it take to write?
That’s hard to say. I thought about the issue for many years before ever writing about it.
Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
No. My best work, which culminates in the present book, has been in academic nonfiction. But I’ve enjoyed working in other genres and even fancied myself a poet for a while. (None of my readers agreed.)
What book most influenced your life?
I’m not sure, but two very different books are the major contestants: Bertrand Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian set me on a path to become a critical thinker and skeptic. I don’t recall which of S.J. Perelman’s books I read first. His writing made me want to be a humorist. Now, even when writing about serious material, I try to use a light touch and hope that readers will be amused as well as informed.
Where do you write?
I have an office in my house and do the actual typing there. But when I’m working on a project, I think about it throughout the day and often get my most meaningful ideas while playing pickup basketball, eating, or talking with my wife.
Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
Any advice for novice writers?
I’m old but not wise enough to give advice. I’ve always written about things that are important to me, but that strategy is probably not the best for people who want to attract large readerships and make lots of money.
Writing has been a big part of my life since I was in grade school, so I hope that there’s a next. But after proving that no knowledge is possible, I haven’t figured out a good follow up.