Perhaps you’ve heard this philosophy-sounding, cliché nonsense statement before. It’s like Socrates said: That all he knows is that he knows nothing. But what the hell does it mean?
I mean.. didn’t he know that his name was Socrates? Or if he had underwear on or not? Obviously the statement must be an exaggeration, or a riddle or something.. right?
No, actually. The statement is absolutely true. But then, as you may agree, there’s some explanation to do.
But in order to explain, we have to go on a little round-trip to explore the fabric of reality Alley, as I like to call it. (I don’t, I just made it up and I know it’s not funny so go to hell).
Let’s start with something that you most definitely know! That might be the fact that you’re reading this right now. Would you agree that that’s pretty damn true? Good. Let’s now prove that you don’t know that you’re reading this right now.
This process has started with the search for certain knowledge, and we may begin by asking the question “am I reading this right now?”
You may like to just say “Yes. Duh!” And of course, in a way, you’re right. (But only in a way.)
But what happens when we tune in on the question a little bit, and dissect and inspect it properly?
I’ll suggest that we take each word in the question one by one, and make sure that we understand what we are really asking.
Word #1: “Am”: What does “am” mean. “To be, or not to be?” Cool, so far so good.
Word #2: “I”: What is “I”? This is where it gets hard. Do you know what “I” is? “Me”, you may answer. But how is that an answer, really? “Me” is just another word for it. But what is it? The thought in your head? Your brain? Your personality? A bundle of sense-perception? And which ones exactly? Your feelings? What exactly are you?
Word #3: “Reading”: A word which we know well. The -ing part in the end implies that it is currently happening. As opposed to in another time. Arh.. but what is time? Let’s get back to this!
Word #4: “This”: (I don’t know what to write here. Fine, you can own your “this”. For now.)
Word #5+#6: “Right now”: And we’re back to the current now. Which implies different moments, which implies time. And in order not to write too much right here, I’ll just point out that no one knows what time is. Seriously, what the hell is it?
So as you can see, several components of what you are asking, are not really known.
How can several unknown components come together to create any meaningful question? And how can an answer make any sense, when the question doesn’t?
In the same manner as above, any question will dissolve like this under serious scrutiny.
It does not mean that we should now regard all that we now consider knowledge. Like for instance, it’s just fine to conclude that you are indeed reading this right now. But deep down you should know that you don’t know exactly what you are. In fact, you don’t really exist as anything you can put your finger on. (I believe I have another post about that. Link here.)
When Socrates and I say that we know nothing, it’s because we can see that the fabric of which all knowledge emerges from, does not make any sense to us. We can’t make sense of how sense-perception can take place, who or what perceives it, and even less what to conclude about it. Only one thing is certain, and that is that it does all take place. What we see, is seen. What we hear, is heard. What we feel, is felt. And importantly too, what we believe is believed. Which is why we shouldn’t disregard all of our “knowledge” right away. We simply ought to know that our knowledge exists as knowledge, and perhaps not corresponding to anything other than that. We just don’t know that.
And on this final note: What is knowledge anyway?