The phenomenon of ignorance was an issue in Greek philosophy as early as Plato’s first dialogues (e.g. Meno). The importance of the consciousness of ignorance is illustrated by the famous Oracle of Delphi: It acknowledged Socrates as the wisest of all human beings because he said, ‘I know that I know nothing’.
Mainstream Economics is particularly strong in dealing with risk and, to some extent, uncertainty. In contrast, Ecological Economics focuses on the boundary between what we know, what we know that we do not know, and where we are even unaware of our lack of knowledge. To this end, we outline different forms of ignorance, such as personal and social, open and closed, reducible and irreducible ignorance. This concept enables us to improve our understanding of natural processes and our political decision-making.
The example of joint production shows how manufacturing one good results in at least one waste product. Various joint products, however, can go unrecognized for a long time, with detrimental effects. Responsible action therefore demands that we deal explicitly with ignorance.