i know nothing; i see nothing; i hear nothing

posted 2019年 6月18日

a brief explanation of a core philosophical belief of mine

i will be making a sincere effort to keep this as short as i possibly can. it will not be a thorough or comprehensive explanation worthy of the time i’ve spent just thinking about it, so don’t judge it as such. it’s a summary thrown together on the spot with little to no forethought.

i titled this post using three recurring iconic quotes said by sergeant schultz in the comedy television series hogan’s heroes which takes place in a wwii pow camp and that i highly recommend. but the first one on there is basically the only logical conclusion i can come up with when considering what the truth is and what it means to really know something. to say one knows something, the way it is generally understood, that person must be right. for example, a flat-earther might say s/he knows the earth is flat. but to those who do not think the earth is flat, the flat-earther doesn’t actually know that because they are wrong. in other words, the flat-earther thinks they know the earth is flat but is simply wrong about knowing it. another example to illustrate the implications of “knowing” something being the truth: you remember putting setting your mobile phone down in the kitchen and are so sure of it that you “know” it’s there. only it isn’t when you go to retrieve it. you revise your thought from knowing it was there to thinking that you knew it was there. it wasn’t knowledge, just an errant belief.

to be able to truly know something (and i’m skipping a few steps here), you must be able to logically prove its truth with absolutely no possibility of error. pure logic assumes nothing. the closest thing to pure logic that i am aware of is maths. mathematics is based on six assumptions, for example:

a + b = b + a

there is no mathematical proof for that statement. it’s the basis for other proofs. if something cannot be proven, it cannot truly be known, because assuming something isn’t the same as knowing something and every belief is based on varying degrees of assumptions. i do believe that it is likely that some things are more probable than others. the odds i’m hallucinating writing this or that i don’t exist except in the sense that the only truly conscious being in existence (who presumably is reading this article) can attach a fake persona to the words and that persona is therefore me—are both low/improbable.

so… you’re suggesting a paradox?

actually, there is nothing paradoxical about what i’ve said. i don’t know if any of this is true, but i do believe it is. and because i can’t prove any of it without relying on assumption, i am willing to easily accept that i may very well be wrong. if i thought it was possible to know that nothing at all can be known, then i’d be proposing a paradox. instead, what i’m proposing is a belief. i imagine that when one believes this as well as accepts it, it is likely they will have a more open mind and hopefully be able to admit to others and oneself when mistakes are made. also, it’s ok to change your mind about things. you do it all the time. don’t think just because you stated something must be one way at one point you have to stick to that belief forever.

i see nothing; i was not here; i did not even get up this morning!
~sgt schultz