How can you know that you can't know?

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How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#1  Postby Toledoroy » April 16th, 2017, 10:32 am

How can you know that you can't know?
This is a question I'm exploring deelply lately for two reasons.
First is that when trying to discover new knowledge it seems imperative to be able to judge whether the thing you're looking for is possible to know. For obvious reasons, as that there's no point spending time and effort on trying to figure out things which can't be understood.
Second, is the reason that thinking about the unthinkable seems to be closely related to the mental phenomenon we call Anxiety.

For example, if you try to wrap our head around a paradox, or an infinite loop, and really force the mind to find a solution to a problem which has no solution, the feeling you'd get while frying your mental CPU is what AFAIK is a sort of anxiety.

So as I started looking deeper and deeper into this subject I came up with these two thinking patterns, paradoxes and infinite thinking loops, which will always lead to no result. Paradoxes I'm sure you're all familiar with and there's no need to elaborate. As to infinite loops, what I mean is thoughts in the pattern of "trying to think what do they think about what you think?" or "If I want to go I better stay, but if I want to stay I better go."

Can you think of any other similar thinking patterns which would never result in a conclusion?
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#2  Postby LuckyR » April 20th, 2017, 11:54 am

Toledoroy wrote:How can you know that you can't know?
This is a question I'm exploring deelply lately for two reasons.
First is that when trying to discover new knowledge it seems imperative to be able to judge whether the thing you're looking for is possible to know. For obvious reasons, as that there's no point spending time and effort on trying to figure out things which can't be understood.
Second, is the reason that thinking about the unthinkable seems to be closely related to the mental phenomenon we call Anxiety.

For example, if you try to wrap our head around a paradox, or an infinite loop, and really force the mind to find a solution to a problem which has no solution, the feeling you'd get while frying your mental CPU is what AFAIK is a sort of anxiety.

So as I started looking deeper and deeper into this subject I came up with these two thinking patterns, paradoxes and infinite thinking loops, which will always lead to no result. Paradoxes I'm sure you're all familiar with and there's no need to elaborate. As to infinite loops, what I mean is thoughts in the pattern of "trying to think what do they think about what you think?" or "If I want to go I better stay, but if I want to stay I better go."

Can you think of any other similar thinking patterns which would never result in a conclusion?


Many if not most "paradoxes" are really syntactical wordplay, that are just as susceptible to mental manipulation as any other issue/problem and thus are great for exercising one's mind. Your post reminds me of Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk physically destroys a future computer by talking to it... Illogical...
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#3  Postby Toledoroy » April 20th, 2017, 1:29 pm

LuckyR wrote:Many if not most "paradoxes" are really syntactical wordplay, that are just as susceptible to mental manipulation as any other issue/problem and thus are great for exercising one's mind. Your post reminds me of Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk physically destroys a future computer by talking to it... Illogical...


People can be destroyed by irrationalities as well, or at least become very angry :)
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#4  Postby LuckyR » April 20th, 2017, 1:35 pm

Toledoroy wrote:
LuckyR wrote:Many if not most "paradoxes" are really syntactical wordplay, that are just as susceptible to mental manipulation as any other issue/problem and thus are great for exercising one's mind. Your post reminds me of Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk physically destroys a future computer by talking to it... Illogical...


People can be destroyed by irrationalities as well, or at least become very angry :)


Various stressors don't create mental illness, though they can make preexisting mental illness worse
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#5  Postby Toledoroy » April 20th, 2017, 1:56 pm

LuckyR wrote:Various stressors don't create mental illness, though they can make preexisting mental illness worse


How does mental illness relates to this?
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#6  Postby Spectrum » April 21st, 2017, 3:10 am

This issue is no other than 'Meno's Paradox'.


If it is a contradiction, it is certain one cannot know it.

What is knowledge to humans is always known within a box and in all cases it is a human-made box.

What is known is always things-by-ourselves [with a box] but never thing-in-itself [without a box].

So whatever one needs to know, build a box and if there enough consensus it will be accepted as 'knowledge' within the group and that box.

The question is, is that supposedly 'knowledge' [information] objective?

The Scientific box generate objective knowledge [i.e. verifiable, repeatable, testable, etc.] while the theistic box make illusion [God] as if real which cannot be empirically tested.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#7  Postby LuckyR » April 21st, 2017, 2:18 pm

Toledoroy wrote:
LuckyR wrote:Various stressors don't create mental illness, though they can make preexisting mental illness worse


How does mental illness relates to this?


The OP mentioned anxiety in wording that implied an Anxiety Disorder as well as "frying your mental CPU".
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#8  Postby Toledoroy » April 21st, 2017, 2:32 pm

LuckyR wrote:The OP mentioned anxiety in wording that implied an Anxiety Disorder as well as "frying your mental CPU".


Sorry, didn't mean the disorder, just a temporary state of anxiety.
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#9  Postby Felix » April 21st, 2017, 4:48 pm

Can you think of any other similar thinking patterns which would never result in a conclusion?


There is the the double bind, which has the logical form of the statement "I am lying," which is false if true and true if false. Between parents and children, it would take the form of a command to do what will be acceptable only if it is done voluntarily or spontaneously, as in "you must love me."

Gregory Bateson observed that schizophrenic children were commonly found in families that routinely used this psychological trick on them (perhaps unintentionally). Alan Watts observed that the double bind is characteristic of religious injunctions: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," "Be unselfish," "You must have grace; you cannot get it by seeking, you cannot get it by nonseeking," etc., but that it can also be used as a sort of psychic jui-jitsu to help someone become aware of the absurdity of their mental attitude and lifestyle. In Zen the koan is used for this purpose.
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#10  Postby Toledoroy » April 22nd, 2017, 3:43 am

Felix wrote:There is the the double bind.


Perfect Felix, Thank you! That's exactly what I was looking for.
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#11  Postby Moreno » May 2nd, 2017, 6:05 am

Toledoroy wrote:How can you know that you can't know?

I would guess that one cannot (always) determine, in advance, what one can know. In fact I would guess that much of the time one cannot know in advance, at least in part because you do not have that knowledge yet. I might think I would never be able to learn calculus since I had so much trouble with algebra, but then I find the right teacher, gain better focus or motivation, and manage. But perhaps you mean, are there things that no once can know and ask whether we can know this in advance. Oh, that is something no limited finite being could know. I think one should be cautious deciding such things. I mean if the sum of information is likely to great - like say, could I possibly know the positions of all the atoms in the universe - ok, then I think we can be on fairly good ground ruling out certain kinds of knowledge - if we call that knowledge rather than a vast chunk of information. ((and no need to bring in the uncertainty principle so show me how silly my example was)) But other kinds of knowledge, where we likely have the brain capacity to hold the conclusion, I think it would be a guess as to whether we could rule out every knowing something.

I think it would be helpful to give specific examples.
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#12  Postby Felix » May 2nd, 2017, 4:54 pm

First is that when trying to discover new knowledge it seems imperative to be able to judge whether the thing you're looking for is possible to know. For obvious reasons, as that there's no point spending time and effort on trying to figure out things which can't be understood.


It seems like that is mostly what philosophers do: try to understand that which cannot be understood.

-- Updated Tue May 02, 2017 3:58 pm to add the following --

But how will you know something can't be understood unless/until you try to understand it? Why take someone else's word that such & such cannot be known?
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#13  Postby Toledoroy » May 3rd, 2017, 2:46 am

Felix wrote:But how will you know something can't be understood unless/until you try to understand it? Why take someone else's word that such & such cannot be known?


Hi Felix,
Well, this is not about taking someone else's word, this is about recognizing certain thought patterns which have no end so we can abandon these thoughts and invest the little time we have more effectively.
There are ways to identify endless thought patterns, such as the double bind, the paradox, and infinite loops. I'm, just working on collecting all of them and defining them, so hopefully, people can make better use of their 3-pound ball of neurons.
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#14  Postby Moreno » May 3rd, 2017, 7:53 am

Toledoroy wrote:
Felix wrote:But how will you know something can't be understood unless/until you try to understand it? Why take someone else's word that such & such cannot be known?


Hi Felix,
Well, this is not about taking someone else's word, this is about recognizing certain thought patterns which have no end so we can abandon these thoughts and invest the little time we have more effectively.
There are ways to identify endless thought patterns, such as the double bind, the paradox, and infinite loops. I'm, just working on collecting all of them and defining them, so hopefully, people can make better use of their 3-pound ball of neurons.

Can you give specific examples of issues/problems that come up, that fit the categories you are talking about and which you have decided, Oh, I would be better off not wasting my time investigating that?
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Re: How can you know that you can't know?

Post Number:#15  Postby Toledoroy » May 3rd, 2017, 9:11 am

Moreno wrote:Can you give specific examples of issues/problems that come up, that fit the categories you are talking about and which you have decided, Oh, I would be better off not wasting my time investigating that?


Well, if you believe that you can know everything then it's better that you don't waste our time.
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