Summary of “Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones”

Although science is driven by “Thoroughly conscious ignorance” and the spiritual path paved with admonitions against the illusion of thorough understanding, we cling to our knowledge – our incomplete, imperfect, infinitesimal-in-absolute-terms knowledge – like we cling to life itself.
That’s what Lebanese-American scholar, statistician, and essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb explores in a section of his modern classic The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable – an illuminating inquiry into the unknowable and unpredictable outlier-events that precipitate profound change, and our tendency to manufacture facile post-factum explanations for them based on our limited knowledge.
You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly.
The more you know, the larger the rows of unread books.
Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
Eco himself has since touched on humanity’s curious relationship with the known and the unknown in his encyclopedia of imaginary lands, the very existence of which is another symptom of our compulsive tendency to fill in the gaps of our understanding with concrete objects of “Knowledge,” even if we have to invent them by the force of our imagination.
We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended.
Let us call this an antischolar – someone who focuses on the unread books, and makes an attempt not to treat his knowledge as a treasure, or even a possession, or even a self-esteem enhancement device – a skeptical empiricist.

The orginal article.