Is there a philosophy of what we can't know?

I'd guess that some things we can't know may exist, and have properties. But is that the same as things that we can't know exist?

  • This a tersely-phrased question. I'd like more exposition. Also 'is that the same as' - is what the same as what ? Are you asking whether the things we can't know may exist, x, may be the same things as those that we can't know exist, y ? Where x is identical with y. If so, in what sense of 'identity' ? Not meaning to be awkward, just puzzled ;)- G
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Jan 4 '19 at 18:12
  • @GeoffreyThomas will try editing later, thanks for the comment! i'm a bit slow at philosophy, but will try
    – user35983
    Jan 4 '19 at 18:17
  • It's not an exact duplicate, but this is very close to an earlier question from here: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/15302/… Jan 4 '19 at 21:01
  • One can prove in epistemic logic that if there are unknown truths then there are unknowable truths. Most take it as a problem with epistemic logic, see Knowability Paradox.
    – Conifold
    Jan 5 '19 at 7:47
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Philosophers who wrote about limits of knowledge?
    – Conifold
    Jan 5 '19 at 7:54

There are multiple philosophies of what we cannot know. Perhaps the most famous and influential is Immanuel Kant's concept of noumena, things as they actually are, as opposed to how they appear to us. According to Kant, the former can never be truly known, but only assumed. It's a rebuke both to Hume's insistent empiricism, which seems to deny the meaningful existence of anything beyond what we experience, and Descartes' idealism, which asserts the ability of the rational mind to know things as they are.

You can contrast this both with Karl Rove's category of "unknown unknowns" which, by definition we neither know nor know we don't know, but which have no requirement of being unknowable, and Plato's concept of ideals, which cannot be expressed, directly taught, or experienced in a sensory fashion, but which we can come to know or experience directly with our higher faculties (via what amounts to a mystical connection).

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