Plato's problem is the term given by Noam Chomsky to "the problem of explaining how we can know so much" given our limited experience.

In the field of linguistics, Plato's problem is the problem of finding an explanation for how a child acquires language, even though the child does not receive explicit instruction and the primary linguistic data a child does receive is limited.

What is the opposite of this problem, and who asked for it?

I.e., "the problem of explaining how we know so little given the proliferation of information in the modern world!"

  • 2
    Please tell us what you understand by the term "Plato's problem". The first passage of your question seems much to vague to prompt any focused answers. Chomsky coined the term when investigating how children acquire the use of language. - How to decide whether we know much or little? What is the measure?
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 20 at 14:14
  • @JoWehler, Please tell us what you understand by the term "Plato's problem". --- Updated OP.
    – user366312
    Nov 20 at 15:07
  • be careful when inverting things to ask two questions: it may be that they aren't very related hah
    – user67675
    Nov 20 at 15:10
  • Our knowledge is bound by what we can perceive. Beyond what we can conclude indirectly, i.e. through induction, we didn't know much about what happens in the depth of the ocean, or the composition of other planets and stars, or even the insides of our own bodies, until we had some means to perceive that. It's just a practical limitation.
    – NotThatGuy
    Nov 20 at 15:14
  • @user366312 OK, you define Plato's problem as a problem in linguistics. - In which domain do you locate the opposite problem? - How to measure much and little in the corresponding domain?
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 20 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


In linguistics Chomsky has a position on this as well: deep structure to language is much more complex than the surface level we do understand, which we grasp largely through innate knowledge and relatively small triggers to unlock it.

Deep structure is just that, it’s so complex we might never even fully understand it according to Chomsky.

Outside of linguistics I think you’d need to add more info. Chomsky does say physicalism is a hollow term for the past 200 years so that may be one way he thinks we are bereft of understanding of the wider world even with so much knowledge, but again this is getting out of scope. He believes all creatures have inherent limits to understanding the world.

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