1. To learn is to gain more knowledge.
  2. Having more knowledge means having more that one can forget.
  3. ∴, the more one learns, the more one forgets.
  • 1
    If you replace "can" by "will" premise 2. the argument will be valid (that one can forget more does not imply that they will). The problem is that even then 3. does not entail futility. For learning to be futile, it is not enough to forget more after learning more, one has to forget more than (or, at least as much as) one learned. So the futility inference has to equivocate between relative and absolute terms. It is a variant of secundum quid et simpliciter, ignoring qualifications.
    – Conifold
    May 27, 2023 at 0:44
  • 1
    That's why normally one needs reinforcement learning to gain more knowledge, not just learning... May 30, 2023 at 2:16
  • Leaving aside logic issues, all three claims are questionable — or at least, incomplete t the point of being uncompelling.
    – mattdm
    Jun 25, 2023 at 19:49
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    "With much wisdom comes much vexation. He who increases knowledge increases sorrow." - Ecclesiastes. Of course, being stupid is no picnic either.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jun 25, 2023 at 22:07
  • This is an informal type of fallacy: false equivalence. The logic here is that the proportion of what is forgotten is proportional to what we know (e.g. we forget 20% of what we learn). But it is expressed as if we would forget more than what we know (for example, the more we learn -5 things-, the more one forgets -10 things-), and the question is also ill formed: "learning is futile" falls over the same fallacy.
    – RodolfoAP
    Jun 27, 2023 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


First of all it's a non-sequitur (like all fallacies...), in the sense that "can forget" does not means "do forget". So just because you've got more to lose doesn't mean you actually lose it.

On top of that it's a purely qualitative argument, but what matters is the quantity. So is the increase bigger or smaller than the loss, at what timescales do loss and increase of knowledge happen. Are the rates fixed or relative. So is it plus X information (learning) and - Y information (forgetting) or is it +X information (learning and -Y% of the total information (forgetting). In the first case you could have a net increase in the second case there's likely some sort of dynamic equilibrium somewhere. Though you might never reach this dynamic equilibrium in your lifetime and so would still be increasing your knowledge rather than losing information.

Also what's your goal to begin with? Like say you want to stay above a baseline level between 0 and maximum knowledge, then not learning isn't going to get you there, so even if it's sisyphos work to learn and forget, you're still accomplishing something with it, so it's not pointless.

Though after all, unless we figure out a way how to avoid that, you'll ultimately die so all your memories will be lost like teardrops in rain and all you've ever known will be forgot. So the argument is kinda true, the more you learn the more you will forget. But that's not what matters to people, is it?

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