Anorexia Mentalia
The symptoms, then the cure.

How's this for a new disease? Anorexia Mentalia: aversion to feeding the mind.

Symptoms: "Don't tell me! I don't want to know! Why do you burden me with that? Ignorance is bliss! Once I know it, what can I do with it? My brain is too full already!"

Anorectic patients starve themselves because they think food will harm them. Mental anorectics think knowledge will harm them. "Too little knowledge may be dangerous," they say, "but too much is worse. I want to know if the boss is out, but I don't want to know if he's out cheating on his wife." This attitude makes life a precarious balance between knowing too little and knowing too much.

When you think about it, a boss who cheats his wife might also cheat his employees. So knowing would be good for you. On the other hand, if you refuse to warn his wife, then you're helping the boss cheat; and if you do warn his wife, the boss will fire you. So knowing would be bad for you. You wonder which is worse, the risk of being cheated or the risk of being fired.

Knowledge is power because power is the ability to do things. To consider knowledge a threat is to consider the ability to do things a threat. Why would I think that way? Because I dread deciding what to do.

The more I know, the better my chances of doing something smart instead of something dumb. But what if I assume that I will do something dumb anyway? With confidence in my methods of choosing, I relish having more choices. Without that confidence, I dread having more choices. With certainty, more choices means more chances to be right. Without certainty, more choices means more chances to be wrong.

That's the self-starvation of Anorexia Mentalia: enough knowledge to dodge the snags, but not so much that a decision must be made. The disease is progressive, because the desired balance does not exist. Eventually, all knowledge will be too much knowledge. Without a cure, the mind will die of starvation.

To see the cure, think of the difference between awareness and knowledge.

If you drive to an intersection, and see a pole with a red light on it, that is awareness. If you stop, that is knowledge. You identify the stop light, and relate it to what you are doing, and act in accordance with that relationship. That is, you process the awareness in order to grasp the reality of the situation, so you can act accordingly.

If you run a red light by mistake, you see that the processing is not automatic. It requires methods to use and skill in using the methods. The essential of mental anorexia is despair because the process is not automatic.

Mental anorectics are saying in effect, "I can't take all this awareness crowding in on me when I have no idea how to handle it!" The cure is to learn how to handle it.

Aversion to knowledge is a disease caused by mental chaos, and cured by regular doses of Ayn Rand's epistemology.

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