It would seem obvious we must acquire some knowledge before other knowledge. I want to emphasize specific prior knowledge though. I don’t want to just say to get to Paris you just travel through an intermediate point. That’s too trivial. I’m wondering if there are perhaps specific prerequisite knowledge (points) for certain other knowledge. Is this a general principle for all knowledge?

Here’s some examples to give context:

  1. Dean Buonomano a neuroscientist, “the first thing the brain knows is the body”

  2. Set theory being unknowable without some key prior mathematical knowledge

  3. A sci-fi novel about civilization collapse before agriculture

  4. How quantum mechanics works before certain experiments

Even for the armchair activities like say some math or dreaming up fantasy novels, its as if one must always acquire certain knowledge before other knowledge. And this keeps going endlessly.

  • 2
    It is a general principle for all knowledge, and it goes back to paradox of inquiry in Plato's Meno:"...he wouldn’t inquire into that which he knows (for he knows it, and there is no need for such a person to inquire); nor into that which he doesn’t know (for he doesn’t even know what he’ll inquire into)". Plato's answer, anamnesis, is, of course, hardly an acceptable solution. The classical answer was "foundational" knowledge. See Fine, The Possibility of Inquiry for a modern perspective.
    – Conifold
    Jul 5, 2022 at 23:33
  • 1
    Your examples all begin with already-complex knowledge. Have you thought about the knowledge that an infant gains, for example, when he learns the difference between light and dark? Or have you approached the question like Descartes, who imagined that he knew nothing and then tried to infer what he could infer? Jul 6, 2022 at 4:37
  • @DavidGudeman no I’m hoping to find examples and these are good thanks.
    – J Kusin
    Jul 6, 2022 at 7:44
  • Do you mean sense knowledge or other kinds of knowledge? You are not specific enough. All knowledge is not from our senses. A large portion of our human experience is through the senses. Pure deductive reasoning can lead to knowledge once concepts are understood. That understanding will liky involve relationships between propositions. Propositions are not sentences nor statements. We can look at Aristotle's square of opposition to see some of these important relationships. There are also inference rules we can further expand our knowledge gathering skills. The skills so far are universal.
    – Logikal
    Jul 6, 2022 at 17:06
  • @Logikal I think I mean all knowledge. Even deductive knowledge has a kind of process other than “pick it out of the air”. When you give me two numbers and one is a factor of the other, I probably still have to do something to actually know that if you haven’t told me or shown me a proof. We could perhaps also say that as even more broadly, to learn set theory and its deductions, we had to learn propositions, Frege had to do his work, Cantor had to do a diagonal argument, etc.
    – J Kusin
    Jul 6, 2022 at 17:15


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