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What is wrong with the following argument? The more you study, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. The less you know, the less you learn. So, why study?

  • It is customary to mention the source when quoting, as in this case, or, at least, to put the quote into the quotation marks. One thing wrong is that this quip is meant as a joke and not as an argument. – Conifold Apr 18 at 20:48
  • the question is so trivial that it should appear in the puzzle stack, imho. @Conifold it's a well known saying, i've seen it on postcards – another_name Apr 18 at 20:48
  • "The more you forget" doesn't mean you forget everything you studied, thus you may still have a net gain in knowledge from studying. – christo183 Apr 19 at 12:51
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The more you study, the more you learn

Not completely true but a reasonable first order approximation.

The more you learn, the more you know

I'd agree with this on the basis that learning implies new or reinforced knowledge.

The more you know, the more you forget

Debatable. This assumes a fixed upper limit to knowledge and that it's possible to reach that limit.

Edit (thanks to Cubic). Or that knowledge has a relatively fixed probability of being forgotten. This is highly unlikely given what we know about memory reinforcement.

The more you forget, the less you know

True in the sense that you know less than you would if you didn't forget. It does not follow that you know absolutely less. That would depend on the rate of knowledge accumulation relative to knowledge loss.

The less you know, the less you learn

Not true at all. Young children learn at a prodigious rate for example. You could say the less you know, the less you had learnt or similar but that doesn't help your argument.

So, why study?

To learn more so that you can know more.

  • > This assumes a fixed upper limit to knowledge and that it's possible to reach that limit. No, that's reading something in there that isn't there. The statement could just as well be interpreted as assuming that there's a set probability of forgetting any given fact, leading you to forget more things in absolute terms the more facts you know. – Cubic Apr 18 at 14:22
  • @cubic Fair point. I've edited to reflect this. – Alex Apr 18 at 15:35
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Student A learns, acquiring 5 units of knowledge.

Student A learns, acquiring 7 more units of knowledge. He forgets 3 units of knowledge.

Student A learns, acquiring 4 more units of knowledge. He forgets 2 unit of knowledge.

Student B learns, acquiring 3 units of knowledge.

Student B learns, acquiring 2 more units of knowledge. He forgets 1 unit of knowledge.

Student A has learned 19 units of knowledge total. He has forgotten 5 units of knowledge. He retains 14 units.

Student B has learned 5 units of knowledge. He has forgotten 1 unit of knowledge. He retains 4 units.

Student A has forgotten more than Student B currently knows - but still knows more than Student B.

The problem with your reasoned progression is that you don't specify relative rates. Now, in actual practice, amount of knowledge is difficult to quantify. So is quality of knowledge! But in general, if you have a container into which things are flowing in and out, the difference between the two rates has to be specified if you want to determine whether your container is filling up or emptying.

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