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The proverb "ignorance is bliss" is used to express that somebody feels better by not knowing all the details about a topic.

In an existing thread titled "ignorance is not bliss", it is claimed that an example of the opposite of "ignorance is bliss" is the discovery of a brain tumor, which, while devastating, allows starting the necessary life-saving treatment. In other words: ignorance is worse. Arguably, however, this is not the opposite of "ignorance is bliss" at all: when the cancer patient was ignorant, he was certainly much happier than when he found out about his life-threatening condition. Sure, it is better to know the details in that situation, but that doesn't mean it feels better, which is exactly the point made with the proverb "ignorance is bliss".

I'm looking for the actual opposite of this proverb, namely that it feels better to know more details, or even that it feels worse not to know all the details.

This can be applied to several contexts:

  • Sometimes people overthink and over-worry about hypotheticals, and in such cases they are better served knowing the full story.
  • Technological doomspellers claim that artificial intelligence will soon destroy the world. Yet, being a researcher in artificial intelligence myself, I am a lot less worried about this knowing the details of what is and isn't feasible. The opposite of "ignorance is bliss" is again more applicable here, since those who have a vaguer idea about the situation sleep worse at night, not better.

Does such an opposite exist in another proverb? If not, is there a common change English natives make to the proverb to flip the meaning (e.g. "ignorance is worry")?

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  • I was 12 when our English teacher asked What are people most afraid of? The context being the lead-up to 1984's Winston Smith, wondering what might await him in Room 101. My hand shot up: Please, sir! I know the answer! We're afraid of pain! But the right answer, as any fule kno, is that the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. So the opposite of Not knowing is blissful must surely be Not knowing is absolutely terrifying. Nov 26, 2023 at 19:50
  • There is the Biblical line "the truth will set you free". Not an opposite, necessarily, but that's what came to mind.
    – ralph.m
    Nov 26, 2023 at 21:59
  • @ralph.m It's a good suggestion, but I believe that "the truth will/shall set you free" refers to having a conscience at ease due to never lying. In other words, the truth comes from oneself, not from the outside world, which is what would resolve "ignorance".
    – Mew
    Nov 26, 2023 at 23:48
  • @Mew — I'd argue it's a lot more than just not lying, but also an apprehension of the true state of things that sets one free. But I'm starting to feel like an evangelist now, which I'm not! Just interested in language and philosophy. :-)
    – ralph.m
    Nov 27, 2023 at 4:50
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    Isaac Azimov said "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them".
    – Graffito
    Nov 27, 2023 at 16:20

3 Answers 3

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Forewarned is forearmed

Cambridge Dictionaries explains: "said to mean that if you know about something before it happens, you can be prepared for it" (Forewarned is forearmed, Definition of forewarned is forearmed from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, Cambridge University Press).

The element of foreknowledge makes this a bit more specific than "ignorance is bliss", but knowledge after the fact isn't much use.

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Knowledge is Power

Francis Bacon

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  • Apparently he didn't say those exact words but rather "ipsa scientia potestas est" which is Latin that is usually translated to almost that same quote.
    – Laurel
    Nov 28, 2023 at 21:45
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Though not a saying, there is the well-known and common expression, to put one’s mind at ease. It refers to the experience of having one’s anxiety lessened by acquiring information.

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