I believe that we humans are forever trapped in our (conditional, limited, and flawed) perception which separates us from the reality. In simple words, I don't and will never know anything and never consider any statement to be 100% true. Maybe God exists or doesn't exist (agnosticism), maybe this life has a meaning (existentialism) or not (nihilism). Maybe some people have found the truth but there is no way to prove it. We can never know for sure. Does "absurdism" represent this not-knowism that I think of?

P.S. Asked by an average man who isn't majoring (or even interested) in philosophy!

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    A milder form is called fallibilism, "thesis that no belief (theory, view, thesis, and so on) can ever be rationally supported or justified in a conclusive way". A stronger form is called radical skepticism, "position that knowledge is most likely impossible".
    – Conifold
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 11:45
  • Some Buddhist schools cultivate a "don't know mind." And actually use a mantram for meditation - "What is this: don't know,"
    – user49216
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 13:38
  • @Conifold Skepticism is more like "not sure" than "not know". Although in the question I referred to not being sure but more precisely I meant not knowing anything, because some statements are not just correct or wrong, they can be nonreal and indeterminate abstracts of human perception (e.g. "Living as a free man is honorable"). Commented May 22, 2021 at 15:09
  • You are probably thinking of "skeptical" as used in common talk, that is not what radical skepticism means in philosophy. Note also that "not knowing anything" is incoherent, if you do not know anything you do not know that either. Radical skepticism comes as close to that as one can without being incoherent.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 23:40
  • @Conifold Probably you're right. As I said I'm not sophisticated in philosophy. Commented May 23, 2021 at 8:39

2 Answers 2


Both ancient Hellenistic Academic Skepticism and Pyrrhonism fit your search criterion. Pyrrhonism is the earliest Western form of philosophical skepticism, according to reference here:

Pyrrhonism is often contrasted with Academic Skepticism, a similar but distinct form of Hellenistic philosophical skepticism. Dogmatists claim to have knowledge, Academic Skeptics claim that knowledge is impossible, while Pyrrhonists assent to neither proposition, suspending judgment on both.

the Academics apprehend (in some sense) the very fact that nothing can be apprehended, and they determine (in some sense) that nothing can be determined, whereas the Pyrrhonists assert that not even that seems to be true, since nothing seems to be true

So a pyrrhonist is more radical since one doesn't even claim one knows that he or she knows nothing. Absurdism is more about philosophy of meaning of life, not about knowledge...

  • By that sense Pyrrhonism seems to be the most radical form of not-knowing where one can't even claim he doesn't know because that by itself would also make a determinate fact! Commented May 23, 2021 at 8:44
  • What is amusing to me is what a breadth of interpretations one can get from this same material. Pyrrho asserted a definite ethics on the basis of his not-knowing. Sextus Empiricus advocated a very 'scientific' approach to life, delaying resolutions until they are forced upon you, and then using what evidence you happen to have. Montaigne, the more modern purveyor of Pyrrho's arguments, reached the conclusion of a deep abiding Conservatism -- that you should preserve the institutions that produced you because any other decision is a real decision of a sort none of us are qualified to make. Commented May 24, 2021 at 0:07
  • @RezaYahyaei western and eastern philosophy schools of thought cover numerous ideas one can imagine. Btw the famous Greek laughing philosopher Democritus both holds the earliest atomism to counter Eleatic school's Zeno paradox like monism and holds a certain absurdism towards life as he used to laugh a lot at many absurd situations... Commented May 24, 2021 at 4:16

Your leading sentence,

I believe that we humans are forever trapped in our (conditional, limited, and flawed) perception which separates us from the reality,

Compels me to first expressly distinguish the conception of “knowledge” implied by your “not-knowism” references, from both the notion of “certainty,” and from your

“perceptual separation from reality,”

which in philosophy has come to be known as “the veil of perceptions/ideas,” which posits that:

All we actually perceive is the veil that covers the world, a veil that consists of our sense data. Since we can only directly perceive our sense data, all our beliefs about the external world beyond may be false.

These notions go to the heart of @Conifold’s comment –which pretty much nails the gist of your query.

However, your admitted utter lack of philosophical sophistication, and claimed lack of philosophical interest, partially belied by the fact you actually took the time to pose this particular question, suggests that it may interest you to disambiguate your perplexity by considering the notions underlying the arguably counterintuitive notion of a “veil of perception.”

To do this you will want to examine the [arguably “know-nothing”] philosophy of Immanuel Kant known as Trancendental Idealism, and its distinction between noumena and phenomena: where a noumenon is a posited object or event that exists independently of human sense and/or perception. The term refers to an unknowable thing-in-itself, to be contrasted with, or in relation to, the term phenomenon, which refers to any object of the senses.

The 18th Century philosopher developed the doctrine of Transcendental Idealism in his Critique of Pure Reason, where he argues that:

[t]the conscious subject cognizes the objects of experience not as they are in themselves, but only the way they appear to us under the conditions of our sensibility. Thus Kant's doctrine restricts the scope of our cognition to appearances given to our sensibility and denies that we can possess cognition of things as they are in themselves, i.e. things as they are independently of how we experience them through our cognitive faculties. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_idealism

In other words, for instance:

In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant argues that space and time are merely formal features of how we perceive objects, not things in themselves that exist independently of us, or properties or relations among them. Objects in space and time are said to be “appearances”, and he argues that we know nothing of substance about the things in themselves of which they are appearances. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-transcendental-idealism/

So here, clearly is a species of the "not-knowism" of which you speak.

It would be interesting know whether you, "an average man who isn't majoring (or even interested) in philosophy!" consider this to be dodging, or a satisfactory answer to, your question. If the answer fails to satisfy the itch, why so?

  • Ok, I specifically mentioned that I have no sophistication in philosophy in order to get more easily understandable answers without the field's jargons! The reason I'm not interested in philosophy exactly lies in this question: it is a waste of time to make theories that are unverifiable (unlike what we do in science)! I used to like philosophy but not anymore. And I hope you don't take my personal opinion as an offense to your major! Commented May 22, 2021 at 19:18
  • And I actually took a philosophy like course in my neuroscience field and I think what you refer to is related to the subject of philosophy of mind and consciousness. Again here we make many assumptions, like there is some objective reality that we sense it by our biological devices which are limited. Not-knowism can't make assumptions. The closest school of thought I've known to my problem is absurdism (if I got it right) and to some extent idealism that you mentioned. And also thank you so much for the time you put in to this detailed answer! Commented May 22, 2021 at 19:53
  • @Reza Yahyaei What exactly do you mean by "absurdism?" wiki defines it as "In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe." Is this what you are driving at? And your disgust with philosophy is that is buys into the "meaninglessness," hence inviting unbridled relativism, nihilism and chaos? If so, I'm with you (have a look at my posts over the past few years.)
    – gonzo
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 0:52
  • @Reza Yahyaei I presume that absurdism proper arises from the discrepancy between what humans expect and what the world can deliver, given our overly ambitious expectations (a sort of hangover from theistic "revealed truth," or based onnaive realism's 1:1 isomorphic relationship between our concepts and the world (see the "Correspondence Theory of Truth). Essentially existentialist Albert Camus's thesis in his Myth of Sisyphus (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus), which BTW was substantially influenced by Kierkegaard, who, BTW, also claimed the "truth is subjectivity."
    – gonzo
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 1:04
  • @Reza Yahyaei Careful. You stated " idealism that you mentioned." Kant's Transcendental Idealism substantially differs from garden variety "Berkleyan" idealism in that it does not deny the existence of the "unknowable" noumena, but actually POSITS (controversially presumes) a "real world," and permits the inference from the experience of phenomena to the existence of noumena (despite it being unknowable). Herein lies the controversy. See my answer here philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/73591/…
    – gonzo
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 1:21

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