Could there ever be an end to knowledge?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by wegs, Aug 14, 2016.

  1. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    When I was a younger man I spent 13 years at 5 universities collecting and storing knowledge/memories.
    I'm no longer young and, quite often, the memory either fades, or fails in ready access. It feels as if those precious(and hard won) memories are much as liquid stored in a sieve.
    And, some days, 50 year old memories are as crisp as though they were formed yesterday.

    One wonders:
    Maybe I ain't lost any of those memories? Maybe gaining access to them is the problem?
    What exactly is a memory in relation to our brains? It would seem that each tiny bit of each memory would have had to have changed a cell, as it seems highly unlikely that a electrical neural impulse could last so long.
    This would imply that we have a finite capacity for knowledge/memories determined by the quantity of available neural cells. If we are near capacity, then do we use the neural cells that were for access to "memories" to themselves be used for memory storage?
     
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  3. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    The data from the WMAP probe showed that the Universe was "flat" to within very tiny tolerances, and recent findings that the expansion is accelerating points to an infinite universe, though I don't believe exclusively so, as we are only able to ever see what is observable.
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I was thinking about the potential size of a universal learning task. Starting with learning fact a, then learning fact b... is there any final fact omega that one can learn, after which one would know everything and be done learning?

    If the universe is finite macroscopically, microscopically and temporally, then conceivably some knower with no spatial, temporal or cognitive limitations (certainly not human) might eventually gather it all in and know it all. (Ignoring quantum measurement problems and whatnot.) But if there are no boundaries, then the learning process could continue forever without any completion and there would always be more to know.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
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  7. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    So I'm wondering if there's a finite amount of factual information waiting to be learned? Could it be that we are not limited in our abilities to learn it but only in our time that we're allowed on earth, to learn it? (the information itself isn't infinite, but it may feel that way because we won't have enough time to learn it all) *thinking out loud*
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
  8. geordief Registered Senior Member

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    If and when we learn a piece of new information does not that become a new piece of information itself? That concatenation ensures that there is an infinite amount of information potentially retrievable,doesn't it?

    Is the size of the universe dwarfed by the amount of information about it ,no matter how large the universe is ?

    Is it even possible that the universe is "made up of " information and that its "physicality" is just a front?
     
  9. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    For the sake of this discussion, I'd say only if the information is factual and not subjective.

    Going with what I just posted then yes.

    No, not necessarily. We don't know what we don't know.

    That could be, that's a pretty cool thought. Also, might our perceptions of the universe be our guiding truths about it? How would we ever know?

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  10. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    To underscore what I said earlier:

    Infinities are the principle reason knowledge, mathematical knowledge in particular always falls short of being complete. EVERY SINGLE mathematical expression used in physics is a proportional relationship. Even the mathematical definition of unity is a simple proportional relationship. Every proportional relationship involves division, and because division is part of the logical structure of mathematics, reduction of numerical knowledge to absurdity through infinities involves nothing more exotic than a single division by zero. After that, what previously passed for a complete logical framework for reasoning becomes inconsistent and so falls apart.

    If mathematics fails to be an all-encompassing field of knowledge so easily, what real chance does anything else? The symbolism used to encode other kinds of knowledge is another big problem. The symbols can never express complete knowledge or all that can be known about anything. If it could, the uncertainty principle wouldn't be necessary either. There is simply no way to evade the fact that knowledge of any nature must remain incomplete, and this is true independent of any implementation of philosophy or reasoning itself.
     
  11. geordief Registered Senior Member

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    Just a side thought. Are there any things that are 100% unknowable in any aspects ?

    Black Holes spring to mind the Big Bang and potential multiverses.

    I wonder if there could be a way of mathematically modeling an interface between what can be known from what cannot.
     
  12. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    The BB is not a model re the creation/beginning of the Universe/spacetime, it is a model that tells us how spacetime evolved from a hot dense state to what we see now. The furthest back we can go is 10-43 seconds after the BB.
    That first 10-43 seconds is at this time unknowable and we will need a validated QGT to possibly reveal details.

    While we certainly can never obtain any information from inside a BH, our current well supported and evidenced theory of gravity, GR, gives us some reasonable details to consider, which enables us again to reasonably predict that once the Schwarzchild is reached, total collapse is compulsory, at least up to the quantum/Planck level and the singularity.
    This though like the BB singularity, may have more light thrown on it when we have a QGT.

    Parallel and/or multi universes are another story. As yet we do not have any observational evidence for wormholes, which could be connected to these other Universes.
    So we do have some limited knowledge re BH's and the BB, but nothing re multiverses and/or wormholes. And we may never do, but its a brave man in this day and age with the progress and knowledge of cosmology that would say "never"
     
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  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    If something is 100% unknowable, then it's going to be hard to say anything about it or even to refer to it. That's a problem right there.

    Events in the past that have left no physical traces in the present might be an example of something unknowable. The best we can do is to constrain the range of possibility of what might have happened to what is consistent with our beliefs about what was possible then. So even if we don't know what some unknown person X in ancient Assyria did during her life, what her hopes, dreams, loves and fears were, or why she set out from home with such determination on a particular day, we can be pretty sure that she wasn't looking at Facebook on a cellphone.

    The symmetrical situation is events in the future. That one probably depends on what we believe about physical determinism. But even if we are hard determinists who believe that the precise nature of all future events was determined by initial conditions in the big-bang, knowing all those details would seem to be impossible in practice. I'm personally inclined to think that there's randomness and unpredictability inherent in how the universe unfolds, so I'm inclined to think that the future is unknowable in principle too, no matter how well we understand initial conditions and physical law.

    I think that many of our ideas about things that we think of as unknowable, such as what supposedly happens inside black holes, is arrived at by extrapolation. We extrapolate the applicability of general relativity down to singularity, despite the (theoretical) existence of event-horizons that would prevent us from observing what's happening in there.

    We can imagine different multiverse universes in similar ways, by applying more familiar principles. We can use our geometrical imagination to imagine disjoint space-time manifolds that share no points in common with ours and aren't continuously connected. And people like Everett can spin multiverses out of quantum mechanical speculations or whatnot. (I believe that string theorists have hypothesized multiverses bases on their principles too.)

    The thing about black holes and multiverses is that even if our existing theories allow us to speculate about their existence, if there are any unexpected principles ('laws of nature') active inside black holes or in an alternative universe that our existing physics in this universe doesn't anticipate or predict,then it's hard to see how we would ever know about it.

    Learning about physical reality seems to me to imply interacting causally with the object of knowledge. Observation and experiment are built around that (and it becomes problematic on the quantum scale). So isn't physics effectively a giant theory of what can causally interact with what, and what kind of interactions those are? So physics in its entirety would seem to be a theory of knowability (if we restrict things to causal interactions).

    A question then is whether human cognition is up to the task of understanding all the physics necessary to understand the universe. If it isn't, then there may be aspects of reality that remain forever unknown to us. If every other animal species isn't up to the task of knowing what we believe needs to be known, it might just be hubris to assume that we are uniquely in a position to know everything.

    And I think that there's another much more fundamental logical constraint on knowability too, namely the ultimate metaphysical problem of explaining why existence exists in the first place. The problem there is that if our explanandum (that which is to be explained) is existence itself and hence everything that exists, then it's difficult to see how any explanans (what is cited to do the explaining) could exist without circularity. Physics would seem to be out of its depth with that one, since the content of physics and its applicability is part of what needs to be explained.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2016
  14. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Okay, makes sense. So, there are simply certain parts of the universe that will be indefinitely unknowable.
     
  15. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    With certainty, yes.

    We know of them and some information about them, but as to the depth of certainty about them, that's where things change.

    I'm thinking no. And then it leads me to another question - is some knowledge based on perceptions of truth and others based on hard evidence? By perceptions of truth, I'm thinking ''theories'' that are commonly accepted by us all, but aren't absolutes. They have become accepted because of a reasonable amount of evidence to support them, but still...they're only theories, just the same.

    I don't think I want to know everything there is to ever know. What might that mean for us all if we had the ability to know everything? We would know if/when the world will end, things like that would be so burdensome, and hard to handle from a psychological perspective, if you ask me.

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  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Except that subjective information is also part of the universe and thus also part of all knowledge. The molecules in your brain are arranged in a certain way - just as certain a way as the molecules in the crust of a planet orbiting a star a billion light years away.
     
  17. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I guess I don't see subjective knowledge as having the same weight as objective knowledge, only because so many things, including bias, may go into how someone arrives at their subjectivity over a particular topic, like believing in the paranormal, for example. You can take 100 people, send them into a rumored haunted house, and 50 come out of there screaming and flailing their arms, convinced they saw a ghost, while the other 50 walk out of the front door, yawning. The latter 50 saw no ghost, the former 50 were positive that what they saw was a ghost. If people believe in something that can't be scientifically proven, is what they believe in considered ''knowledge?''
     
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Their presence in the universe, with their atoms in their brain are part of "all knowledge".
    How is knowing the arrangement of molecules here on Earth any less important than knowing the arrangement of molecules a billion light years away?

    And we're not even talking about the emergent property of the consciousness and thoughts (let alone whether other humans can interpret those thoughts through speech, or decide whether those thoughts are factual or false).

    That's the problem with concept such as "all knowledge". It encompasses knowing everything, everywhere, everywhen.
     
  19. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I'm more interested in the thinking behind this thread. Why did you ask this question? Even if the answer was "yes, knowledge is finite but humans will never know it all" or "no, it's infinite" ... of what use or interest is this line of questioning?

    I'm not being sarcastic or rude by the way.

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    It's a serious question.
     
  20. kx000 Valued Senior Member

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    You can know everything. Your only positive, and you use order. Love and hope are the most important things. It comes as a parable about Lucifer being the archangel of knowledge, and that he's fallen because sorrow and hatred, and nihilist make a certain portion of all things, effecting his nature. The truth is you are passive to death and he dies, and all the "naughts" go to it. As well knowledge must always be passive, that means non-transgression, and non-violence straight from his archetype. And All is safe before, and ever after. If true you know about Heaven from a light bearer
     
  21. kx000 Valued Senior Member

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    If you believe in time, no.
     
  22. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I asked it because if the universe is infinite, then that must mean that there would be no end to knowing everything about it. And within it. It seems like an interesting concept to discuss with the wise minds here.

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    See my answer above. lol

    I'll add to it that while I'm a spiritual person, it can also point to the fact that if there is knowledge yet to be known, but we are too limited to know it, then Something had to cause the knowledge to be there. But, I didn't want to take this thread into all that. But, from a spiritual view, it can lead one to go down those paths.

    Okay

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  23. geordief Registered Senior Member

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    Well Seattle did have a point . It is more interesting to ask which people believe there could be an end to knowledge. I can only think of one instance -when we are supposedly "at one with God" who knows all.

    Another kind ,I suppose would be people who have given the question only cursory examination.

    Are there people who believe this for different reasons? It seems absurdly obvious to me that it is impossible.
     

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