Luhmann argues that society consists entirely of communication. In order for society to continue to exist it must produce new communications from moment to moment, for the ones that just took place fade away or disintegrate. In order for new communications to be produced, someone must be ignorant. If there were no one who didn’t know, then there would be no reason for communication to take place and society would cease to exist. A communication that merely repeats what is already known has no reason to be communicated. Communications that merely exchange existing knowledge therefore very quickly lead to the entropic decay of the social system. Recall when John F. Kennedy, Jr’s plane crashed and the cable news networks reported on its nonstop. People tuned out.
Academia is not merely distinguished by its disciplines, but is also a social system. Like any other social system, academia must produce new communications in order to exist. A good move in research is thus not one that produces knowledge, but one that produces new forms of ignorance. For in producing new forms of ignorance, a good theory will ensure that new research and controversies can emerge. We could even say that the aim of education is to create ignorance rather than knowledge.
I wonder if we could make the same claims about ethics. If we treat ethics as a form of communication– rather than approaching it primarily as a theory of the right and wrong, the good and bad, and the good life –could we say that ethical theory has to produce new forms of evil and wickedness to ensure that communication about ethics continues as a social practice?