This question is not meant to deal with the religious side of the Teapot (or FSM or the Invisible Pink Unicorn), but rather the inherent epistemological claims and their export to other areas of knowledge.

With respect solely to the epistemic;

  • By which methods is it possible to evaluate a claim about a teapot in a place that neither I, nor any other person, nor any possible current technology can access?
  • What kinds of claims to knowledge can be made about such a teapot?
  • How can these types of claims and the consequent claims be exported to a conversation about something else?
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    Well, of course we know that it is not a pipe. Jun 9, 2011 at 13:16
  • For asking such a question- A Zen Master would probably either a) hit you with the teapot or b) pour hot tea from the pot on you. Then he would ask "Now, what do YOU know of teapots?" Now you may argue that the teapot specified in the question is not the teapot that you were assaulted with- in which case I would say that you first called it a teapot so you brought this on yourself!
    – user151
    Jun 29, 2012 at 15:51
  • We can also safely deduce that the tea pot has to have tea in it. If not it is just a pot.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 19, 2013 at 11:45
  • @NeilMeyer -(I'm going for the necromancer badge here :)) 'We can also safely deduce that [it] has to have tea in it. If not it's just a pot'. I have recently deduced that there is a tempest in my teapot, what say you thereto? Sep 23, 2014 at 1:55
  • The demise of the teapot has been greatly exaggerated. The teapot is actually perfectly safe and living in Paris.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 23, 2014 at 6:10

2 Answers 2


The first sort of thing we know about the teapot is owing to the logical constraint of inaccessibility: we know we can't know it, that any instance of learning associated with it must be causally disconnected from us and anything we can conceivably learn. It's absolutely external to our configuration space; there isn't a straight pathway through the world to such a teapot. But what does this mean?

One way to think of this is the problem of entanglement. At some fundamental level, any component of anything that's ever been interconnected "remembers" the other components, can theoretically be affected by its behavior independent of time or distance. So, the kettle can't be entangled with anything that could then be entangled with us.

We could propose perhaps that the kettle is in another cosmos; at any rate, somewhere radically inaccessible. But once granting the possibility of gaining knowledge about some theoretical larger metaverse, a "truly" inaccessible teakettle then would have to be not only in an entirely different cosmos than ours, but outside of any cosmos that could be conceivably interconnected with ours at any point.

I sense that we may already be straying beyond the bounds of your question, but I would speculatively suggest that the kettle would ultimately have to be considered as a kind of virtual particle. The kettle then would have to be walking a vacuum diagram -- somehow travelling backwards in time to causally found itself -- in order to truly minimize access.

Is it possible any longer to evaluate any claim about such a kettle? On my reading, no claim to knowledge can reliably be made -- except for our knowledge that it is outside of our knowledge-context. There amounts to a kind of fundamental paradox in making a claim to such "external context knowledge" as any in-context justification is impossible. The only justifications would also be external, and they in turn could not utilize any in-context justification. Indeed, the only way to justify this knowledge would be to render it in-context -- to directly demonstrate the inaccessible kettle.

  • 1
    Good answer. Any chance I can coax you into tying a bow around it and incorporating the final analysis into a claim that relates to the epistemic standing of claims about teapots?
    – mfg
    Jun 10, 2011 at 1:18
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    Have tried to expand somewhat on the consequences as I see them. On a side note, this problem has started to remind me a bit of the joke Freud tells to introduce us to the logic of dreams, where someone enumerates mutually exclusive answers to a reproach: (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you; (2) I returned it to you unbroken; (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you :)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jun 10, 2011 at 1:26

There is a principal in quantum mechanics that states that if you can't measure it then you can't talk about it, unverifiable claims are nothing more than speculation. In linguistics the research about origin of language fell into the category of neither being provable nor refuted.

However just equally valid view point would be : Just because we can talk about pink unicorns it doesn't mean we can use them to pull a cart or having a stable of pink unicorns to be less or more meaningfull than one.

But yet pink unicorns do find a use in children stories after all.

  • Are they useful in propositional logic; that is, if the value of p were to be "pink unicorns exist", would the value nullify p=p? I suppose not, but what does that non-nullification entail about propositional logic?
    – mfg
    Jun 10, 2011 at 0:12
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    @mfg : Maybe they very well can be used in system of logic consistently ( not that one can prove it's consistency) , but not having them also does not effect the resy of the system either, for example the non Euclidean Geometry do not have the 3rd Axiom of sums of angles of a triangle is 180 ( The pink unicorn exists ), yet both systems have not been proven inconsistent (yet).
    – jimjim
    Jun 10, 2011 at 0:43
  • Good point, you might add some into the tag wiki
    – mfg
    Jun 10, 2011 at 1:19
  • @mfg, sorry I am confused, not sure what I am meant todo with tag wiki.
    – jimjim
    Jun 10, 2011 at 7:28
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    This answer seems to make one argument in the beginning, and then make an entirely contradictory argument in the second and third paragraphs. Nothing wrong with presenting two different sides of an issue, of course, but when you do so, please try to take care and distinguish the two parts as being separate. You can even use throwaway phrases like "However, others think..." It doesn't disrupt the flow of your answer too much, and makes clear that you're presenting two potentially contradictory viewpoints. Jun 10, 2011 at 10:23

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