I think this is a tough question, because every time the moment you know for sure that you know one thing, you realize that you don't know anything about it, not to say that whether you should know it or not. I guess modernists would say that "that's why we have to explore", but then we still don't know that whether it is the thing we should know or not. I think postmodernists would say that there is nothing that you should expect it to be, so the question is dismissed. I'm not sure whether Wittgenstein said about this or not. In Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, it seems that Buddhism is an answer for such a question.

But in short, how do I know what I should know?

Related: Do we know whether we know something?

  • 1
    "when you know for sure that you know one thing, you realize that you don't know anything about it" ? What does it mean "to know one thing" ? Do you know that 1+1=2 ? Do you know the name of your father ? Do you know the year of the French Revolution ? Do you know the password of your laptop ? The PIN of your online banb account ? You know for sure a lot of things ! May 9 '18 at 13:37
  • Yes, but is it my true father's name?. I was thinking about something more vague, and usually need to conduct research to know. I know that 1+1=2, but then I doesn't need to ask "what should I know?" at the first place
    – Ooker
    May 9 '18 at 13:49
  • The question is too subjective, how should we know when you feel you know or do not know things? Roughly, knowledge is belief supported by evidence, which evidence you judge sufficient and how it "feels" is personal. What you think modernists/postmodernists say is murky. Explore what? What does "there is nothing that you should expect it to be" mean?
    – Conifold
    May 9 '18 at 22:09
  • I struggle to see what you mean by 'should' here. You might want to know or need to know or find it useful to know but I'm not sure there's anything you 'should' know. According to whom? .
    – user20253
    May 10 '18 at 16:09

Is this a question of infinite?

Once you define ones knowledge, the boundary of what you know and what you do not know, you accept there is always more to know, because knowledge is finite yet the potential for knowledge is infinite.

In defining what one should know, that judgement can only be made once you have knowledge of everything that could be covered by the should know, which is impossible because it is infinite so never achievable.

So you can never know what you should know, only an approximation of the boundary based on ones current total knowledge. At least this is what this logic seems to tell me.

  • This is the answer I've expected, so if nothing else I will accept it. But I also want to know more whether there are other approaches to answer this question
    – Ooker
    May 9 '18 at 15:52
  • @PeterJens: The knowledge that is achievable is finite. It may be inconceivably voluminous, but still finite. Also, this answer assumes that you should know everything you do not know, which I consider nonsensical. I should know only that which is possibly of practical importance for my actions. This portion of knowledge is considerably smaller. I do not have to know e.g. the given name of some person in, say, Bolivia, with whom I will never have any contact whatsoever. Possible knowledge, but saying I should know that sounds a bit off, doesn't it?
    – Philip Klöcking
    May 9 '18 at 18:00

In a practical sense, you either know something or you don't. You can be aware of things you don't know or understand, like the neighbor's Wi-FI password or a complex formula that looks like Greek to you. You could subdivide this further into a thing you know you know, a thing you know you don't know, and a thing you don't know you don't know. (A thing you didn't know you did know being impossible after the fact of realizing it since now you know you know, HA!)

I argue that you introduce a subjective or relative value element here by using the term "should." I think awareness or understanding of a thing is a valueless statement, at least without more context. Saying "should" begs the question of Why.

One could improve on this by adding context, as follows: As a software engineer you should know some basics and facts principles. If you didn't know X, and Y, you could not be an effective software engineer. Working in this field you have a duty to be competent and know X, and Y. This recognizes that "should" adds some responsibility, duty, or minimum requirement.

So, from my view you can solve your conundrum here by asking Why, when the question of What Should I Know comes up again.

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