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Take questions like the following...

  • What is it like growing up in the country? (when they have only known what's it like in the countryside).
  • What is it like to be blind?

Is there a way to ask them without asking an unanswerable question?

I have only ever lived in Scotland I would probably be able to explain to some extent what its like to live here to someone in London maybe the US. But what about Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Isis controlled territory, they have a completely different way of life. Not even basic stuff like freedom to love who one wants and like freedom of speech/thought. How does one get around this? Or less extreme like South Korea, Japan, New Zealand

  • If anyone is wondering where the second paragraph came from, the OP seems to have posted something in the answer box that I've moved into their question. – virmaior Nov 12 '15 at 2:00
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We're all human, all of us; this gives a basis to compare any experience of a human nature.

And much of this experience of otherness is rendered explicable to us through what is termed the human arts: experientially - poetry, novels, film; notably there are forms such as the first-person view, and stream of consciousness that try to bring us close to how one experiences the circumstances, events, thoughts and feelings outlined; and discursively - history and the thick textures of the micro-historical perspectives of some forms of anthropology.

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Informative communication assumes shared experience; we describe new things as permutations of those experiences. These shared experiences can be high level (like events) or very basic (like qualia), but shared relevant experiences are required.

For instance, someone who grew up in the country can describe the experience to an urban dweller because there are shared experiences; the city has trees and fields (think parks), so by extrapolation, life in the country can be described using the analogy of a very big park. Even absent that, the experience can be described in terms of shared experiences (quiet, lots of green, etc...).

On the other hand, a person who is blind from birth cannot describe the absence of vision because the basic shared experience required to do so (vision) is absent.

At a bare minimum, an experience requires a sharing of the sensory channel(s) in which the experience occurred.

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