More on Unknowable

“Unknowable” has been a controversial concept, and I have been roundly criticized for presenting it. Here is another attempt to explain the concept underlying “unknowable.”

(1) We use this universe as our reference point to perceive, evaluate and understand things.

(2) But we cannot understand the universe fully by using universe as our reference point.

(3) To understand this universe fully we must use a reference point that is beyond this universe.

(4) That point beyond the universe cannot be known from a viewpoint derived from this universe..

(5) Actually, from the reference point of this universe, anything beyond this universe cannot be known.

(6) “Unknowable,” therefore, means simply That, which cannot be known from a viewpoint derived from this universe.


Note added December 24, 2022:
Are we assuming the universe to be made up of knowable only?


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  • Chris Thompson  On February 11, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    Good recap. And yes, you have been bad. Very bad to try to make the unknowable known and this has not gone unnoticed by the Unknowable who wishes to remain anonymous. Not the Anonymous of current social fame, but the anonymous of, er, uh well forget it.

    I like your recap and the points are succinct and easy to grasp. It seems to me the obvious question that is begging to be asked is whether or not we are that exterior viewpoint.

    But one obvious question more basic might be whether or not a viewpoint from within a system can ask a question at all about that which is without? The answer to this might be knowable.


    • vinaire  On February 11, 2012 at 11:14 PM

      Of course, any speculation would be knowable.



  • allzermalmer  On February 12, 2012 at 12:07 AM

    [I have added the book description from the site. ~Vinaire]

    “The realities of mankind’s cognitive situation are such that our knowledge of the world’s ways is bound to be imperfect. None the less, the theory of unknowability—agnoseology as some have called it—is a rather underdeveloped branch of philosophy. In this philosophically rich and groundbreaking work, Nicholas Rescher aims to remedy this. As the heart of the discussion is an examination of what Rescher identifies as the four prime reasons for the impracticability of cognitive access to certain facts about the world: developmental inpredictability, verificational surdity, ontological detail, and predicative vagrancy. Rescher provides a detailed and illuminating account of the role of each of these factors in limiting human knowledge, giving us an overall picture of the practical and theoretical limits to our capacity to know our world.”


    • vinaire  On February 12, 2012 at 7:56 AM

      I want to keep it very simple. The simpler it is the better…



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