I'm looking for a word or short phrase that encapsulates the desire to eschew new knowledge, whether it be due to a fear of change or possibly a fear of science or research as a whole.

An example might be a group of people looking to have their congressional representative allocate money elsewhere as opposed to scientific endeavors. They may claim that the "elsewhere" is of a higher priority or for the greater good, but they may really be acting out of ________ or because the group is a group of _________(s).

This example is not all-inclusive.

edit: There's a word or phrase I'm trying to think of that almost implies a sort of smugness.. A "my ignorance is better than your knowledge" kind of attitude.


10 Answers 10


Anti-intellectualism is a handy (and self-explanatory) term, particularly in American politics today. It has great currency in the news media of late, largely with regard to situations such as the one described in your example.

  • 4
    ...or Luddite. Though it is usually used for anti-technology, it can also be used for reactionary scientific thinking.
    – Mitch
    May 12, 2015 at 21:02
  • 1
    @Mitch - Hey!!?? We Luddites know more than most people -- that's why we know how bad things are!
    – Hot Licks
    May 13, 2015 at 1:05
  • 1
    The irony being that the actual Luddite movement wasn't anti-tech, rather it was anti-exploitative labour employment. They broke a bunch of industrial equipment in protest and they caught the unfortunate misattribution as a result @Mitch
    – kolossus
    May 13, 2015 at 5:43
  • While I don't like the style of this word quite as much as misosophy or philistine, it definitely satisfies the definition (as I described it) with the most precision.
    – ebwb
    May 13, 2015 at 14:38

There is a rare word misosophy defined as the hatred of wisdom or knowledge.

An example from OED:

Much of modern philosophy is in fact not at all a ‘love of wisdom’ but a hatred of it so that it should appropriately be called ‘misosophy’.

S. H. Nasr, Ideals & Realities of Islam, 1966

It is from the ancient Greek μισόσοϕος hating wisdom ( < μισο- miso- comb. form + -σοϕος , combining form of σοϕός wise) + -y suffix. [OED]

Additionally, you can call the person a misosophist.

Another similar rare word is misogrammatist, a person who hates letters or learning. [miso- comb. form + ancient Greek γράμματα ‘letters’, plural of γράμμα letter + -ist suffix].[OED]

  • That doesn't have quite the connotation I'm thinking of, but it does satisfy the question. If no other closer answers turn up, I'll accept this one and consider a better wording for my question. Edited question for, perhaps, more clarity.
    – ebwb
    May 12, 2015 at 20:31
  • @Waterbagel: How about "sweet ignorance" ?
    – ermanen
    May 12, 2015 at 20:37
  • Good, much like blissful ignorance in relation to @Area's answer.. But that describes more of a state of being rather than a group.
    – ebwb
    May 12, 2015 at 20:39
  • @Waterbagel: I think you could say "blissfully ignorant people" also but it might be too cumbersome. There is blissful ignorance effect along the same line.
    – ermanen
    May 12, 2015 at 20:53

Not precisely opposed to knowledge or intellectualism, but a close relative nonetheless is philistinism.

A philistine is one who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts. Adjective is philistine as in a philistine government.

This sense of philistine (no capital letter) arose as a result of a confrontation between town and gown in Jena (now in Germany), in the late 17th century; a sermon on the conflict quoted: 'the Philistines are upon you' (Judges 16). which led to an association between the townspeople and those hostile to culture. (Oxford Dictionary Online)

  • +1 Definitely a good word, and I look forward to using it as well. It's the right style of word I'm looking for, and if it had the connotation of opposing knowledge of well, it would be perfect. Thanks for bringing this one up.
    – ebwb
    May 13, 2015 at 14:27

This one just applies to your second blank: "... or because the group is a group of lowbrows."

Noun 1. lowbrow - a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits

Most of the “lowbrows” that I’m unfortunately related to are quite smug and happy with their close-minded condition.
(I’d officially suggest ”pretentious lowbrow,” but mine take it as a complement.)


You could coin a new word from the Greek roots: gnosiphobia. Failing that, you have the already known "obscurantist".

  • 1
    Obscurantism is about hiding knowledge from others, not about fear of knowledge.
    – Mitch
    May 12, 2015 at 20:06
  • @Mitch: True, though I bet that in the heyday of 19th-century anti-clericalism it got used my way as well. I was distracted by an incoming mail while trying to retrieve another word from the back of my mind, why don't you have a go? I think it's the same vintage, the time of Huxley and Freud.
    – David Pugh
    May 12, 2015 at 20:12

If you're open to expressions, people in given situation might say

ignorance is bliss (dictionary.com)

Not knowing something is often more comfortable than knowing it.

Note : This proverb resembles “What you don't know cannot hurt you.” It figures in a passage from “On a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” by the eighteenth-century English poet Thomas Gray: “Where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise.’”

As in:

"I don't wanna know where the money came from. Like they say, ignorance is bliss."

  • That idiom is definitely on the right track, but I'm looking for something more like a noun or noun-phrase.. possibly an adjective that can be used to describe a group of people.
    – ebwb
    May 12, 2015 at 20:24

"Misosophy" is just the word I need for a story I'm writing! I really like the "gnosiphobia" suggestion. Another word one might invent is ""philamathis", Greek for the love of ignorance. A group of such people might be "philamathics"? You could cover all possibilities with "philamathignosiphobia" or "gnosiphobiaphilamathis"...Or, my personal favorite, a word I invented to describe certain people: "phalocephalic" ("phallus" + "caphaly").A group would be "phalocephalists", suffering from phalocephalitis, perhaps, since this sort of thinking/behavior tends to be contagious. I can call someone a phalocephalic in the most polite or uptight company, and never be accused of using "dirty words"....


In trying to justify "philamathics", I came across "agnatology" which sounds like your subject area. That led me to "negationism" but that feels more like official disinformation, not the smugness implied in your need.

More searching led me to "misology", the hatred of reason, argument, or enlightenment.


It has been touched upon and gotten near the mark, I'm pretty sure the common term (or at least the one I hear all the time) is blissful ignorance.

Blissful Ignorance - unawareness or inexperience of something unpleasant

Collins Dictionary


This feels a bit like a shotgun approach, but:

  • conservatives (in the literal sense) would oppose because the new might not keep all the benefits of the old,
  • traditionalists would oppose because we've never done it that way (there's a slight undercurrent of smugness here, but also a slightly negative connotation)
  • neophobes are simply afraid of the new, no smugness here, (and frankly, is that even a proper word?),
  • myopic, blinkered or short-sighted people would oppose because they do not value a benefit that is long-term or in other fields,
  • luddites in particular oppose industrialization and technology.

(I have a sense that petit bourgeois could go in here, but that's probably a false friend with Kleinbürgertum, Spießertum and Biedermeier, which have a stronger socio-political connotation in German than their counterparts)

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