What I'm asking is if is there any possibility for a Non-human Philosophy, that is, a Philosophy founded on questions which we can't even conceive. Is possible a Philosophy of questions which only can be though by God, by advanced civilizations, by machines or IA or, even, by less advanced species of thinking entities like animals or colonies of bacteries? If Philosophy is etymologically love of wisdom, why are we so secure of that we are the only ones that we can love the wisdom by itself?

There aren't no possibility for a Philosophy of the noumenonological parts of the Being which we can't conceive, that is, a Noumenological Philosophy based on a reasoning of these entities which we can't understand?


9 Answers 9


You have answered your own question, in part: there is no particular reason why some non-human entity could not have philosophy based in part upon, for instance, Xyoqi, which is something that said entities have that we don't and which is not easily describable (e.g. akin to qualia--very hard to describe to a qualia-free being, I would imagine).

However, if they still exist in the same universe, and this field is going to have enough of the same properties as human philosophy to deserve the name philosophy (as opposed to e.g. Xyoqi-flibbening), there is going to be a lot of overlap. Modus ponens, for instance, cannot be different or be ignored as it describes a fundamental aspect of how the universe works. (In a universe where things happened purely randomly, modus ponens might be a useless construct.)

It would be interesting to see, upon encountering such entities, how much of supposedly human-independent philosophy (e.g. Kantian morality) was recapitulated and how much was actually more dependent on who we are than we had anticipated.

  • I can hardly see how this answer provides any useful input other than fantasizing about an imaginary universe with imaginary creatures capable of creating philosophy. But that's mainly because of the hypothetical nature of the question. The bottom line is if any creature is capable of rational thinking, they are capable of philosophizing as well. But we don't have any evidence of any entities other than human beings capable of reasoning, but if we did, they would subsequently be able to form their own philosophies, however in that case I believe their works would be comprehensible to us.
    – infatuated
    Jul 31, 2014 at 15:34
  • @infatuated - I'm not sure where you get the "imaginary universe" bit from. The creatures are imaginary of course, but there's no compelling reason why they couldn't exist (c.f. philosophical zombies). And my point, if you didn't catch it, was that rationality is in common but what you try to explain with rationality may not be. We care a lot about qualia; other beings may care a lot about other things that are difficult for us to subjectively understand and said understanding may be necessary for philosophizing (as qualia are often thought to be).
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 31, 2014 at 19:41

You have to take into account that philosophy has to be expressed in some form of a language that other humans could understand. As Wittgenstein said,

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

That's not to deprecate "things that cannot be put in words", but philosophy seems to be based on rational communication. "Philosophy founded on questions which we can't even conceive" would have been inexpressible, and as such much closer to art or mysticism.

  • I always think of the lion -- which even if it could speak to us would still be incomprehensible :)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jul 29, 2014 at 21:11

Anything that can be expressed in a language can be expressed on a turing machine and can therefore be understood by humans or implemented on a machine. The computer scientist Alan Turing and the linguist Noam Chomsky were the prime sources for this research. To suppose that a philosophy exists which could not be held by humans then is to suppose that a philosophy exists which cannot be expressed in any language. On a side note, anything "understood" by a machine must necessarily be expressible on a turing machine (by definition) and therefore, there can be no philosophy understood by a machine which can not be understood by a human.


Let's take your idea seriously and see where it leads. You suggest that there is a being X that can understand stuff that it is inherently impossible for us to understand. So then there is some aspect of the world Y that is understood by X and can't be understood by us.

First note that proposing X's ability to understand Y solves no problems that we can understand. If we can't understand Y then we can't understand whether or not X has solved that problem. So then we can have no reason to propose such an ability.

Second the supposed existence of Y actually means that we don't understand anything. If Y exists it sometimes affects the stuff we supposedly understand and when it does so we can't understand the results. So then we don't really understand any of the stuff we understand now.

Your specific candidates also don't stand up to serious scrutiny.

The existence of God wouldn't solve any problems. Suppose that God is proposed as an explanation of Z. We have two options. (1) God made Z the case on whim in which case we might as well just say shit happens and be done with it. (2) Goid made Z the case for some reason, in which case we can just propose that reason as the explanation for Z. For example, if we say God made frogs to spread frog genes then we can just say that frogs evolved to spread frog genes.

All of your other candidates are physical systems. The laws of physics as we currently understand them seem to imply the Turing Principle: any finite physical system can be simulated by a universal computer. Our brains are universal computers and so there is no reason to think that a person can't model any physical system with arbitrary accuracy. Doing the calculation yourself might be boring and you might farm that out to a dumber computer, like the one on your desktop and then just interpret the results.

It also seems to be the case that the world can be understood piecemeal. For example, we can work out many of the circumstances under which water boils and qualitatively describe some phase transitions without understanding the physics of water molecules. We can then improve our understanding by inventing the theory that water consists of molecules in which two hydrogen atoms are linked to an oxygen atom and trying to work out the consequences of that idea. We can then understand more about different phases of water whose existence we didn't previously suspect:


You might want to read "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch, which has a lot more material relevant to your question.


Of course not.

If it was the only philosophy that may ever exist, then there would be no more question to ask; and there is no evidence for it to be like that as every second we are asking more and more questions.

For instance, enviromental ethics is a way new branch of ethics and philosophy. A hundred years ago, no-one would ever think or ask questions about enviromental problems. Now we do. This is only because the questions we ask are seeking the answers of the problems that we wonder. If we don'thave the problem, how can we ask questions about it? How can anyone ask a question like "Is planetizm a kind of racism or not?" if we don't know anyone out of this planet? How can anyone ask if using anti-matter energy is ethical or not, until we find the way to produce it? We can't now, but we will eventually.

As we ask questions and argue about topics that are even 10 years ago non-existent, years later, other people are going to ask questions that we can't even imagine. And, probably in some other cornerse of the universe, someone does, and did.


Essential to philosophy is the ability to reason. Therefore, if a being has the faculty of reasoning, it will be able to philosophize.

As for noumenonological parts of being, Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophers hold that human beings are capable of noumenonological perception. Religions also claim that Divine messengers are capable of realizing all truth, noumenonal or phenomenal, visible or invisible.

As for 'advanced' civilizations, we can fantasize, but humans are the most advanced organisms so far known, and according to Islamic Theist philosophy, they are organically advanced enough to even excel over the angels in their ability for transcendental realization. The underlying premise is that there is a correlation between the level of physiological evolution and mental abilities of living organisms.


A philosophy of some form of sentient being that somehow existed through interactions of Dark Matter that we can't yet detect might have many elements very different from our philosophies. They might ignore "regular" matter entirely and be unable to conceive of us and our philosophies.

  • 1
    the physics underlying an implementation of reasoning do not affect comprehensibility of that reasoning.
    – user8629
    Jul 30, 2014 at 14:26
  • @SE Sounds simple, but that's pretty hard to determine without an alternate physics within which experiments can be performed. And I'm not sure I see the relevance anyway for something like Dark Matter . If we existed in that "reality", we'd potentially experience a universe that was far more crowded than "ours" is. Maybe a galaxy would appear as an immense fog-cloud with intelligent beings being more coherent mini-clouds. Philosophies of form and substance would likely have far different meanings, if any meaning were possible. Death and/or existence...? Who knows? Jul 31, 2014 at 8:41
  • I think you are confusing a different set of experiences and a different way of thinking with comprehensibility which was my point. Any such philosophy provided it can be expressed in some form must necessarily be understandable to humans. Not that we would find out about it if such a thing did exist.
    – user8629
    Jul 31, 2014 at 11:01
  • @SE That seems not to be true. We currently have areas of philosophy that might be understood by a small fraction of humans. We can't be sure because we can't read minds and verify that "they" actually understand. It becomes easy to extrapolate to slightly more difficult concepts that would be beyond any human. Almost everybody understands a lot of things. Some things that we "know" are comprehensible to a smaller fraction, even though usually more precisely expressed. Some things are accessible to a very rare few. Going another couple steps removes it from humans. Jul 31, 2014 at 12:15
  • you can tell if someone understands the set of principles guiding any piece of knowledge by having them reconstruct the those principles. Even if that wasn't true it is besides the point which is what people are capable of understanding. see this document which explains the background on Turing machines and Godel's incompleteness theorem. phil.cmu.edu/projects/apros/overview/documents/…
    – user8629
    Jul 31, 2014 at 12:37

Is our Philosophy, the Human Philosophy, the only possible Philosophy which can exist?

I would say yes, but not in the sense of human philosophy, but of philosophy in the objective sense, not reliant on human philosophers to define what philosophy is, the concept of philosophy akin to Plato's forms.

For any philosopher, human or non-human, the practice would necessarilly be centred around the desire to understand reality, so naturally a first question would arise; "What is there"? and then as a necessary implication of trying to answer the first question, a second question would arise, for any given answer to "What is there"? would imply "How do i know"?. And thirdly, upon becoming self-conscious about how i know what there is, would imply a question of, what should i do with my knowledge of "how i know what there is"? or more simply, what should i do?

Thus, the study of Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics are born. Any conscious entity would be concerned with these 3 questions regardless of whatever language they speak or of their placement in any conceivable existance as these three questions which are the core of philosophy are inseperable from thinking and would be applicable to every conceivable existance of any conscious entity.


It is possible that other non-human philosophies exist, but since humans would not be capable of perceiving/verifying them, then humans have the option to believe whether they exist or not and live their lives accordingly. For example, if angels, archangels, demons, or other non-human beings exist, they would certainly be capable of developing a philosophy (or philosophies), but since we can't verify them, then we can't say that they exist or not.

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