What is the name for the belief that truth and reality cannot be modeled or represented logically, intellectually, nor linguistically and hence cannot actually be discussed?

Do any philosophers say this? It seems it would be hard for it to be a consequence of a philosophy as that would require statements and claims.

That’s the question, but to clarify the statement isn’t vacuously contradictory: The statement would be an idea but not a truth per se. And no statement even that one can be 100% correct because it cannot match reality which is too big. Under this view, statements can be wise, not correct though. They don’t tell us about reality. Similar for models in physics etc. Logic is merely effective. This is not a belief that there is no reality, and does not express whether or not it can be known other ways, just not mathematically, intellectually, or any way that can be put into words.

Does it have a name?

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    Perhaps more narrowly, Cognitive Closure is the view that certain aspects of reality cannot in principle be understood by the human mind.
    – nwr
    Aug 10, 2021 at 1:16
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    You might like this topic: 'Philosophers or philosophical traditions that reject symbolic reasoning' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/82360/…
    – CriglCragl
    Aug 10, 2021 at 9:45
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    "The Tao that can be told is not the true Tao". Stopping at "reality is inexplicable" puts you under a very broad umbrella of epistemological skepticism. For something more specific you need to add a positive to the negative. Much turns on motivation for it, role of seeming knowledge, and what "other ways" of knowing you envision. What you say about wisdom vs instrumentalism of science suggests to me Bergson's intuitivism, or indeed Taoism and Zen.
    – Conifold
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


There are many views that hold that nothing we can possibly say about reality actually represents reality. Kant, for instance: "the noumenon," "the thing-in-itself," is beyond the categories of our understanding (but he cheated, like most thinkers who suppose an unthinkable reality do, by sneaking in a very select few things that he attributed to noumenal reality). I also think of pragmatism, which rejects the "mirror of nature" metaphor of the correspondence theory of truth implicitly presupposed by most of the philosophical tradition (book recommendation on this: Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, which also harmonizes with your proposal that "statements can be wise, not correct though"). But you should also distinguish between a theory being all-encompassing and propositions within that theory being true descriptions of reality. (I think of this because you say reality is "too big;" so maybe nothing can be all-encompassing, but some propositions can still be perfectly accurate in describing very small and specific pieces of reality: e.g. "The cat is on the mat.") Your second paragraph touches on a classic objection to absolute relativism, absolute skepticism, and other views of that stripe. To illustrate by a very approximate example: "We can never know the truth about reality" cannot be a truth known about reality. I don't think it's a one-punch-knock-out objection, but it is something that has to be addressed by a position like that.

  • What seems strange is that in the one hand, in theory: getting to the idea systematically that we can’t make true claims seems undoable because there would have to be a series of claims. But regardless once there it seems like it should be path independent afterwards anyway, and standalone, at least after the final jump. On the other hand, in practice: even a hint of how we got there makes me want to say “oh I didnt mean that” (like absolute relativism). Like absolute relativism. But why, if we dont think statements have truth then done and should agree.
    – Al Brown
    Aug 10, 2021 at 6:28
  • Thanks for that info. Was great. I know so little. Any more thoughts very welcomed.
    – Al Brown
    Aug 10, 2021 at 6:36
  • I agree that you can get to absolute skepticism by some route like you describe: Like, if someone successfully performed a reductio ad absurdum on our most logically fundamental propositions (e.g. proved that "2+2=4" entailed a contradiction, or that the principle of non-contradiction ["P ^ ~P" is necessarily false] entailed a contradiction), that would undermine our justification for believing pretty much anything. But I also think you'd get a clearer picture of the position you're imagining if you distinguished between "no statements are true" and "no theory captures all of reality."
    – Dayv87
    Aug 10, 2021 at 6:52
  • The view im asking about is more than “no theory captures all of reality” but I am glad you point that out. I dont know where to go from here, maybe nowhere. Somehow it seems like someone could be legit in saying ‘words are words and logic and math and statements are in reality so cannot be “about” it’ - even though that sure appears to be a statement. Yeah what about that form, the previous sentence only. Does that bring to mind anyone or any school of philosophy? Maybe youve alreaud said and that form is not really different.
    – Al Brown
    Aug 10, 2021 at 7:47
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    @AlBrown It is not as impossible to get there systematically as it may seem. Language is far more than a device for making claims, it can guide, evoke and allude too. For example, it is a common view that sentences in ethics and aesthetics are either all false or not truth-apt at all, despite looking otherwise. Some even extend it to mathematics. You may want to check out fictionalism:"utterances of sentences of the discourse are best seen not as efforts to say what is literally true, but as useful fictions of some sort."
    – Conifold
    Aug 11, 2021 at 3:20

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