5 Questions You Won’t Be Able To Answer


Is it possible to know anything is Absolutely True?

In “hard fields” like science, we assume that we are dealing with hard truths because they are tested and learned through the scientific method.

We can verify that something is true by using the scientific method, but we cannot apply that same question to the scientific method itself. If we could verify the truth of the scientific method with something else, we would have to yet another set presuppositions to question. Our argument would regress infinitely, rely on circular reasoning, or rest on unproved assumptions. This is called the Münchhausen trilemma.

Do we all see the same colors?

We know the color of the sky is blue. But what if what you perceive as “blue” is actually what your best friend sees as “red.” All we can communicate to each to other is that there is a “blue” and that is the color of the sky, water, etc—not what that color actually looks like. We may never know if each person is actually experiencing the same thing through our senses, or whether we’ve just done a good job of labeling and translating them from person to person.

How many items make up a “pile”?

This is an interesting language question. We know what makes a pile, but we cannot define it. If you have a handful of sand and put it on a table, it makes a pile. Remove one grain of sand—still a pile. However, at some point you remove enough grains that you no longer have a pile. What is that?

Similarly, if a man has few hairs on his head, you may refer to him as bald, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he is totally hairless. At which number of hairs does he become bald? This is the Sorites Paradox.

What makes a person?

What is the difference between an intelligent human and an intelligent machine? Traditionally, we’ve answered this question with the Turing Test—which doesn’t test intelligence or actual personhood but just whether something acts like a human. This is just a specific pattern of thinking, which could be built into a machine, making the test pretty ineffective.

It seems like a person would just be a sentient being—but not all humans are sentient and not all sentient beings are humans—which raises a lot more questions since traditional arguments rest on personhood being synonymous with our species, not on any external quality. Qualities like sentience, or being self-aware fall short as they are neither universal to all humans and nor restricted to just humans.

How is learning possible?

When beginning to learn something of which we are currently entirely ignorant, how is it possible to learn anything? If we don’t know what we are looking for, how will recognize it when we find it? Since we are ignorant, we will not be wise enough to know when we find it. This is Meno’s Paradox: “[A] man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know[.] He cannot search for what he knows–since he knows it, there is no need to search–nor for what he does not know, for he does not know what to look for.”

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