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Logic and Argumentation > Does it Make Sense to Ask Questions You Can't Answer?

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message 1: by Stano28 (last edited Apr 24, 2014 11:09AM) (new)

Stano28 | 2 comments I recently heard this quote: "It doesn't make sense to ask questions which you can't answer." Maybe there were used slightly different words, but it has same meaning. Where does this quote come from? Is it even philosophical?


message 2: by Oceans (new)

Oceans | 4 comments I'm not sure where the quote comes from but I wouldn't agree with it. You should always ask questions, and be curious and in awe and in doubt even if you don't have the answers at the moment. That's the beauty of philosophy :)


message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael | 28 comments I suggest that the best philosophical answer to said assertion is to reflect on reflection, to take questioning a question seriously, to face the immanence of what seems integral in questioning consciousness, face what we do not doubt because it is our being, our consciousness, familiar and direct, and learn to question itself- know thyself, it is said, and is this not the beginning we assume in all subsequent questions. Wilful ignorance is never philosophical.


message 4: by Oceans (new)

Oceans | 4 comments I was referring to the "sense of asking questions". Remember Socrates technique, I think asking the right question could lead you to some answers which were hiding in the beginning. Our mind doesn’t always comprehend the incomprehensible but eventually with reflections, building and demolishing previous beliefs one can find the Truth beyond the first sight. Regarding to “know thyself” I couldn’t agree more, as we are all still learning and gaining knowledge.


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 140 comments Stanislavus wrote: "I recently heard this quote: "It doesn't make sense to ask questions which you can't answer." Maybe there were used slightly different words, but it has same meaning. Where does this quote come fro..."

Of course, you can answer any question. The trick is to come up with the right answer. There are a vast array of questions that we still have incomplete answers to, if any; should we then not be asking them? Is it not worth asking "are there any habitable planets in the universe?" or "can humans find an alternative to war?" or "what is the most just form of government?"?


message 6: by Petros (new)

Petros | 2 comments When a young man asked Socrates whether he should get married or not, Socrates replied, act as you wish, you will regret it anyway.

In this logic I would agree with the quote, it matters the kind of questions you want to ask.


message 7: by Mike (new)

Mike (mcg1) | 7 comments Questions are inseperably attached to the objections that we conceive, imo. Once the object is conceived, you can't close that box again.


message 8: by Dan (last edited Jan 24, 2014 08:11PM) (new)

Dan I believe the exact opposite to be more true. It doesn't make sense to ask questions which you can answer.


message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 25, 2014 03:46AM) (new)

One thing that might be meant by OP's original quote is that questions that don't have answers don't make sense as questions, i.e. aren't really questions at all. I think this is just one of those pseudo-problems that sometimes bug philosophers, usually because of ambiguity. Is the sentence 'does the sky smell purple?' a question? It has the form of a question, but has no answer. So yes, it's a question because that's its form, but no, it's not a question because nothing sensible is being asked. But surely all this shows is that the word 'question' has more than one meaning.

Another thing that might be meant is that something that is a question must have an answer, i.e. there are no unanswerable questions. I think that's more contentious. For example, suppose you did the Schrodinger's cat experiment, and then, before opening the box to find out whether the cat's alive or dead, you ask, 'is the cat in the box alive?' That looks like a meaningful question, but it's not clear that it has an answer.


message 10: by David (new)

David Budaghyan | 3 comments This quote makes more sense, when you look at it in a scientific context. Science should focus on questions and develop theories that are provable.
More thoroughly in the video..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7emS3y...


message 11: by Susan (new)

Susan Hanrahan rosen | 4 comments David wrote: "This quote makes more sense, when you look at it in a scientific context. Science should focus on questions and develop theories that are provable.
More thoroughly in the video..
http://www.youtube..."


Inorder to make these proveable one must go through a series of errorws to achieve results, true??


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan Hanrahan rosen | 4 comments forgive spelling on back road!


message 13: by David (new)

David Budaghyan | 3 comments Yes, but in order to achieve results one has to ask the right questions, which CAN be proven right or wrong.
A good scientific question should be falsifiable.


message 14: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla Asking a question that, it later develops, cannot be answered may lead to useful insights. First, understanding why it cannot be answered might be very interesting. Second, discovering a way to ask it so that it can be answered could be useful progress.

But limiting ourselves to asking only questions that fit the rigors of the scientific method (falsifiable questions only) is not philosophy. That's science. When we ask questions outside of science, it's not a problem as long as we understand what we are doing.


message 15: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments Let's say that A is a well formed first order logic proposition that fits the criteria of a Godel sentence in his famous incompleteness theorem.

By the law of the excluded middle we know that the statement "A or not A." is true. Thus either A or notA is true.

By the incompleteness theorem, we know that we cannot prove either A or not A with the first order logic system.

So now lets ask, "Is the statement A true in this first order logic system?" That can't be answered, but it escapes me how it lacks sense. I know what the question is asking, and I also know that it can't be answered. What's the big deal?


message 16: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla Right. Good illustration. The question makes sense. Discovering that it could not be answered was a break thru because it taught us something about the tools we use to answer such questions.

Tho- I had other sorts of sentences in mind.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Duffy wrote: So now lets ask, "Is the statement A true in this first order logic system?" That can't be answered, but it escapes me how it lacks sense. I know what the question is asking, and I also know that it can't be answered. What's the big deal?

If the unanswerability is simply down to the intrinsic limitations of logic or maths, then maybe it's not a big deal. But how about 'is there a God?' That doesn't seem to be answerable (by us), but it's surely a big deal, not just for philosophers, but for everyone.


message 18: by David (new)

David Budaghyan | 3 comments Brad wrote: "Asking a question that, it later develops, cannot be answered may lead to useful insights. First, understanding why it cannot be answered might be very interesting. Second, discovering a way to ask..."
Totally agree with this point, but the key part of your point is "as long as we understand what we're doing."
In many cases questions like that don't lead to any conclusions, to progress or to falsifiable questions, but create unsolvable arguments (e.i. "is there god" question). The irony is that this discussion itself is similar to such questions and will never lead to a single true conclusion. The true answers can only start with "it depends" kind of arguments.


message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael | 28 comments Personal assertion regarding answerable versus nonsense questions: I suggest an attitude towards questioning essential to life, for life is not a equation, question, valid or not in any sense, scientific or philosophical, to be solved, life is an ambiguity to be experienced, and how our questions evolve determines the limits of our lives, as questions and not answers...


message 20: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla And learning to live accepting the limits of knowledge is important to happiness. What a challenge to maintain happiness while living a life where many of the very most important questions have no verifiable answers.


message 21: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments I think with the question of the existence of God, you may be conflating three separate questions. Is the question answerable? Does it make sense? And is it important?

All I tried to show before is that it's at least possible for a question to make sense and be unanswerable. A more interesting question is whether it's possible for a question to be both important and senseless. It's answerability, however, I think has nothing to do with it.

Without hijacking the thread, does anyone else find it odd that there isn't a lot of hair pulling over the existence of, say, Loki?

And as a final possible thread hijacker, it seems to me that if God did exist, then the question of his existence would be answerable. All he would have to do is reveal himself.


message 22: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla Millions of people would testify that he does reveal himself. The difficulty is that revelation, according to Spinoza, Strauss and others, does not conform to the rules of science. It happens through some unexplained agency and is not verifiable/falsifiable. We don't understand it. Yet, those who have experienced it think it is real.

This insight (or argument) that revelation is unique and operates in a way that exists outside and beyond the ken of science is a way of reconciling the two. They can't be cited against one another because they have no rules in common. One can never cancel the other (or at least science can not refute revelation -- not as clear to me if the reverse is true).

I am not completely persuaded by this, but I do think it is a very interesting way of thinking about the apparent (imagined?) tension between science and religious revelation.


message 23: by Steven (new)

Steven Prow (steveprow) | 1 comments We begin to ask questions when our five senses first develop. We begin to develop answers by responding (instinct and trial-and-error) and then learning (experience and repetition). With self awareness, we continue to ask more esoteric questions whether we get much in the way of answers or not. Philosophy, science, technology and engineering refine our ability to ask more meaningful questions. Answers can come in the form of proof, disproof, new questions, or no answer at all. Actually no answer falls under the category of new questions (Why was there no answer?)
Like a little kid..."but WHY???" Life IS asking questions. Having all the answers would be to be God.


message 24: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments Brad, I basically agree with what you've said. But I still stick with my first point. If there is a God, he could settle the issue by revealing himself in a way that satisfied even the harsh standards of science. Thus, if there is a God, the question is, at least in some circumstance, answerable.


message 25: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla If you go to bed one night skeptical of the existence of God, and then wake up in the morning knowing he exists, has the question been answered?

That's how revelation works, apparently.


message 26: by Kallee (new)

Kallee (balletfreak423) We say this, but yet all great scientist had to come up with a hypothesis- or unanswerable question to revolutionize technology and knowledge. We speak as though we are better than them, and yet half of us are asking rhetorical questions with no answers! Maybe the problem is not that we can't answer them, but rather that we as human beings often are too proud and in denial to do anything to get those answers. Also, to add to the ever growing list of humanity's weaknesses, we have not only become lazy, but also we overcompensate. We mess up, we backtrack too far because we went to far in the first place. Just like the book I'm reading, (The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle) says, mistakes are beneficial. We must ask unanswerable questions, do stupid things, and make mistakes to grow and learn. So yes. It does make sense.


message 27: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments Is a scientific hypothesis an unanswerable question. At first blush, I'm tempted to say that it's not. But perhaps its not so simple.

Let's suppose someone makes a false hypothesis, and then conducts an experiment that shows that it is false. In that case, the question that equates to the hypothesis will have been answered, but they hypothesis is thus no longer a hypothesis, having been disproven. So, when we get an answer, we lose the hypothesis.

How about when the experiment does not disprove the hypothesis. Then, there is still the possibility that a future experiment will disprove the hypothesis, and so the question equating to the hypothesis will not have been answered. So perhaps, as counterintuitive as it may seem, any true scientific hypothesis has, at its root, an unanswerable question.


message 28: by Kallee (new)

Kallee (balletfreak423) Duffy wrote: "Is a scientific hypothesis an unanswerable question. At first blush, I'm tempted to say that it's not. But perhaps its not so simple.

Let's suppose someone makes a false hypothesis, and then c..."


That's exactly what I was thinking. If none of them had asked the unanswerable questions they did, then we may not have light bulbs, or computers, etc.


message 29: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla I don't think that's how hypotheses work. They are tentative conclusions. We test them to see if they work. We make predictions based on them to see if the predictions come true. When we make observations that conflict with the hypothesis, then we adjust and refine the hypothesis to fit the new information.

Hypotheses (and theories, like the general theory of relativity, for example) are always, in an important sense, a work in progress. That's the scientific method. We adopt them and use them until we need to refine them to deal with new data.

But it is not accurate to say that they are unanswerable.


message 30: by Mike (new)

Mike (mcg1) | 7 comments The pragmatic answer:

In the end, don't all questions relate to the property of something? If the object of our inquiry doesn't exist, the question can't exist either. Nothingness has no properties. If the object exists, then there has to be a real answer. For any complications between the existence of an object, apply Occam's razor or Mach's principle of economy.


message 31: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments I'm basing my ideas on Popper's notion of conjectures and refutations. A scientific hypothesis can be refuted, but never definitely confirmed. Another way to say the same thing, is that if framed in the form of a question, a hypothesis can either have the answers: no or perhaps, but never yes. A hypothesis which has been refuted is no longer a hypothesis. Thus, for every viable scientific hypothesis, there is a necessarily unanswered question, which means that if a hypothesis happens to be true, then the question is unanswerable.


message 32: by J. (last edited Mar 09, 2014 05:44AM) (new)

J. Gowin | 101 comments Stanislavus wrote: "I recently heard this quote: "It doesn't make sense to ask questions which you can't answer." Maybe there were used slightly different words, but it has same meaning. Where does this quote come fro..."

It is a basic rule among court room lawyers.

When questioning a witness, you aren't seeking truth. You are creating a scenario for the benefit of the jury members. If you are prosecuting, you want to avoid any answers that could raise doubts about your theory of the crime. If you are defending, you want to avoid answers that would corroborate the prosecution's theory of the crime. Either way, asking a question to which you do not already know the witness' response could be disasterous.


message 33: by Mark (new)

Mark Hebwood (mark_hebwood) | 130 comments Brad wrote: "It [revelation] happens through some unexplained agency and is not verifiable/falsifiable. We don't understand it. Yet, those who have experienced it think it is real.

This insight (or argument) that revelation is unique..."


Brad, I do not think this works... No non-falsifiable statement can be unique. There are infinitely many non-falsifiable statements. "The god revealed itself to me yesterday when nobody was around". Cant prove this is true. Cant prove this is not true. "The undetectable creation machine created everything and sits on my bookshelf". Same thing.


message 34: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 112 comments Questions are the whole point. Answers can be a dead-end.


message 35: by Brad (new)

Brad Lyerla Mark - I am not persuaded by it either. But some very smart people take it seriously. It is a way of thinking about the problem that offers a potential path for the peaceful co-existence of science and religious belief. Not sure we need that, but some think we do.


message 36: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments Mark, just a small quibble. There are only a finite number of possible statements. It's a very large number but not infinite.


message 37: by Luna (new)

  Luna  (lunaluss) | 5 comments Stano28 wrote: "I recently heard this quote: "It doesn't make sense to ask questions which you can't answer." Maybe there were used slightly different words, but it has same meaning. Where does this quote come fro..."

I do not know where that quote comes from but I disagree. Being able to ask a question about certain subject matters is already a great step toward finding answers. It's true that there are questions whose answers will always remain incomplete, but does this also mean that the answer provided, as fragmented as they are, cannot claim detaining a partial truth? I don't think they can't: Even if we only get partial answers, they are still valid and worthwhile if they communicate a truthful meaning.


message 38: by Cay (new)

Cay Hasselmann | 5 comments If people would only ask questions where they know the answers there are no really no questions, just statements.

You even get answers where you never can formulate the question, see wicked problems as a very real example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_...


message 39: by Stephen (last edited Jan 02, 2015 02:53AM) (new)

Stephen Enciso | 1 comments As a staunch empiricist, following in the tradition of AJ Ayer's 'Language, Truth and Logic', I would have to support the thesis that there are some questions which cannot be sensibly engaged with. The questions which would fall under this category are questions of a metaphysical nature.

Empiricism is the thesis that we know only what we experience or can potentially experience. Thus, if a hypothesis is verifiable by some actual or potential sense-experience, it is a meaningful question. For example, the question: 'is my car parked outside?' can be resolved by going outside and observing the car.

So what sort of questions would be considered unanswerable and therefore nonsense by the empiricist? The answer is this: questions which cannot be, even in principle, verifiable by some actual or potential sense-experience. A relevant example is that of the question of the existence of God, where 'God' is defined as a super-empirical, unobservable entity. Clearly, if God is defined to be unobservable, as is often the case, then no sense-experience could ever verify God's existence. Thus an Ayerean empiricist discounts such questions as the existence of God as literal nonsense. Indeed, any metaphysical questions are dismissed as unintelligible.

To answer the question directly: no, it does not make sense to ask questions which you can't, at least in principle, answer by some actual or potential sense-experience. 'Why is the colour purple?' is nonsensical. 'Will I go to heaven after I die?' is nonsensical. Dismissing the entirety of metaphysics should not be taken lightly, but in my view it is necessary to do so.


message 40: by J. (last edited Jan 11, 2015 01:41AM) (new)

J. Gowin | 101 comments Stephen wrote: "As a staunch empiricist, following in the tradition of AJ Ayer's 'Language, Truth and Logic', I would have to support the thesis that there are some questions which cannot be sensibly engaged with...."

The colour is purple because that is how your brain interprets the signals your eyes send it when they detect that wavelength of light.

Also, the "big" questions that science, philpsophy and religion all seek to answer began as "nonsensical" questions of metaphysics.

"Why am I here?"
"Why should I be moral?"
"Why do bad things happen to good people?"
"Who put the BOP in the Bop-sha- BOP-sha-Bop?"

Empiricism does not dissmiss silly questions. It rejects silly answers.


message 41: by Scott (new)

Scott Lanterman | 4 comments Some philosophical questions seem to lead to sterile and un-profitable debates that over their history leave a tedious literature of endless circular arguments. A question like is there a god for some may fall into this category, and for others they can spend a lifetime of study on the question. Losing myself on a question that will go nowhere is a real fear of mine.

I think that the questions about god and spirituality are rich and interesting but I am not aware of a decisive answer, yet there is often a great passion in some minds to discover a decisive argument and the next step is then to share it with great energy. Decisive arguments in philosophy are rare, but questions without answers that lead to profitable discussion and more sophisticated understanding are good ones nonetheless.


message 42: by John (new)

John Wilson (eumenades) | 2 comments Scott wrote: "Some philosophical questions seem to lead to sterile and un-profitable debates that over their history leave a tedious literature of endless circular arguments. A question like is there a god for ..."

My experience has been this syndrome is more prevalent in analytical philosophy than in continental thought. In existentialism, one has to choose, whether or not arguments have been satisfied. I think of Kierkergaard's 'leap into faith'. What do you reckon?


message 43: by Scott (new)

Scott Lanterman | 4 comments John wrote: "My experience has been this syndrome is more prevalent in analytical philosophy than in continental thought."

Currently I am reading Debates in the Metaphysics of Time. It seems that there should be a decisive argument that would relate external time and internal time by a common principle and demonstrate an important underlying concept that would shed light on McTaggart's paradox. The arguments by modern leaders in the field from Oaklander, Dainton, Ulrich Meyer and many others make me wonder if these question lead into a labyrinth with many minds lost scribbling on the walls at the dead end of their false assumptions.

The bracketing out of decisive argument leaving it and pursuing only the phenomenology like Husserl gives one the relief of proof, but opens up aimless autobiography. I suppose a leap of faith has the benefit of simply trusting ones experience and going with it and then articulating the meaning that we find.

Perhaps philosophy should actively push as many questions as possible into science where we find the satisfaction of intersubjective agreement, and what is left behind we can but wonder and justly aim our leaps of faith into these amorphous places that we know have no answer.


message 44: by John (new)

John Wilson (eumenades) | 2 comments "The bracketing out of decisive argument leaving it and pursuing only the phenomenology like Husserl gives one the relief of proof, but opens up aimless autobiography. I suppose a leap of faith has the benefit of simply trusting ones experience and going with it and then articulating the meaning that we find." - Scott

I am not sure the analytical people would go for 'the relief of proof' because in phenomenology little can be publicly proven when it is all entirely 'private'. The 'leap of faith', for Kierkegaard meant trusting one's own judgement - to be sure - but a bit more than that: it was risk of the highest order. There is a wonderful video on You Tube on this subject:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQlhR...


message 45: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments The question "Does all knowledge come from what we experience?" is one that cannot be answered through experience. It is precisely the sort of metaphysical hogwash that the positivists pretend to reject.


message 46: by Stephie (new)

Stephie Williams (stephiegurl) | 78 comments I have a number of points I would like to make after reading the posts on this thread:

In addition to my earlier post, I would say, we are always asking questions. It is hardly possible to get far without them. Just try not asking them. Hmm. I think every question does have an answer – I don't know, not yet. At the risk of being flippant, If you know a question has an answer, why bother asking it?

In regards, to the question, is there a god? I believe it is answerable in a sense. By using the criteria of reasonable doubt as a guide for assessing an answer. In the United States, we execute people on this basis. Granted that you need the unaminous consenses of 12 people. I find the argument from felt presence to be weak. Our senses are subject to error.

“... life is an ambiguity to be experienced, and how our questions evolve determines the limits of our lives, as questions and not answers..." - thegift. This is a great observation.

I would agree with Kallee on the value of error. Another book that looks at this is Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.

On 1/29/14, Duffy makes pertinent remark for the discussion: but if, in Popper's analysis, the fact that the question is in an ultimate sense unaswerable, does not mean that is unprofitable or useless. This still leaves the status of philosophical questions in limbo (brad 1/25/14).

Feliks has good point. A personal maxim of mine “is that the only good answer is one that leads to a new question.”

I have this to say on Stephen's post. While I am attracted to logical postivism, I find that if we only ask empirical question, life would be pretty boring--don't you think? Ayers term is meaningless, from what I've read by him. He never used nonsensical as far as I know; although, other empiricists might have. Nonsensical would be a question that you can't understand, not one that you can't pose an answer for. Some people would say that they don't understand metaphysical questions.

For J, you make an excellent observation: "Empiricism does not dissmiss [sic] silly questions. It rejects silly answers."

I think Hume would agree with Duffy. There's no way to prove the cause and effect we posit; although, it is still one of the best ways of investigating the world.


message 47: by Scott (new)

Scott Lanterman | 4 comments John wrote, "The 'leap of faith', for Kierkegaard meant trusting one's own judgment - to be sure - but a bit more than that: it was risk of the highest order." I very much enjoyed the two short films on Kierkegaard and I thank you for the recommendation.

How we live our lives and bring our beliefs to life as Kierkegaard urged present a daily set of questions without fixed answers from my perspective and I do not think that logic alone can help us. Wisdom philosophy like Kierkegaard or perhaps writings like Aristotle's Nicomachean ethics asks us to develop and live a virtue rather than follow a narrow set of absolute rules as I understand Kant to argue.

What I have been thinking about is the risk of the highest order that you mentioned. I perceive a unity of opposites here, for if we do not find and express or individual beliefs we risk losing the intrinsic power of our own minds to direct our lives. That is a terrible risk and a loss of important power that we justly keep. Sure we must act without perfect information and then we make adjustments on the course with practical wisdom.

I agree with this at about 60%. However, I suspect Kierkegaard falls into a hyper-individualistic trap. He dies essentially alone and penniless having run through his inheritance and his books do not provide the security that should be an element of a professional persons efforts.

For in Kierkegaard individualism leads to isolation and we the run risk of losing the human community, and we become miserable and without the influence. A thinker desires influence. I have not studied Kierkegaard but something about the tragic nature of his end makes me feel that he found only one or two sides of a complex truth.

The films seems to make a contrast of incomplete perspectives with Marx denying the individual and Kierkegaard saying only the individual exists. I may simply be seeing the sub text that the film makers are pushing here, but I think both individuals and communities exist simultaneously. Kierkegaard may say that in truth there is no ontological reality to the crowd, rather this is a corrupted set of individuals without integrity? I would say the virtual graph of connections in the human community create social meaning in this web of relations that are relative to the physical perceptions and memory found in the private subjectivities of ordinary people.

Shifting back to logic since we know ethics poses questions without answers. In terms of how wisdom philosophy may touch analytic philosophy we know from Godel’s proof that axiomatic systems cannot prove all true theorems in a logical system. This means there are truths without proof, and so there are legitimate questions at the horizon of a logical system without a firm answer. Godel was a bit of mystic.

I think there are many interesting questions that cannot be answered, like how long it will take a computer to finish its computation, and how do we balance our individual beliefs against the axiomatic morals handed down by the teachers of the past. Consider the state of physics. Physics is faced with a great question they cannot answer since the mass of the Higgs particle may point to the multi-verse and random constants in the universe and therefore no underlying law can be discovered to explain the origin of these constants, but super symmetry might also be true and then we may be able to discover a complete system that will give the answer as to why the universe is the way it is. Interesting question why the universe is the way it is... but no firm answer right now.


message 48: by Mark (new)

Mark Hebwood (mark_hebwood) | 130 comments Duffy wrote: "Mark, just a small quibble. There are only a finite number of possible statements. It's a very large number but not infinite."

oops - never saw this, Duffy. This gets us off the point of this discussion, but is this true? I never thought about this and right now cannot come up with a satisfactory argument. Is the set of possible statements finite? If so, I believe it must follow that the set of non-falsifiable statments is also finite, as I think it must be a subset. But if the set of possible statements is infinite, the subset of n-f statements can still be infinite.

Do you have an argument that would show (prove would be better) the finite nature of the set of all possible statements? Like I said, I never thought about this before, but right now i am struggling to define even what a statement is.


message 49: by Mark (new)

Mark Hebwood (mark_hebwood) | 130 comments Actually, can i not say this: "Entity X, which is undetectable by any means, created the universe." Now i can start thinking up entities, each of which differ a tiny bit from each other, but all share the quality that they are undetectable. I number these entities through, starting with 1. I'll report back when i am done.

Ok i am back. I have done this now for the last few days and got to "Entity 12535468, which is undetectable by any means, created the universe." But i dont think there is an end in sight. I think there are infinite n-f statements. And by extension, there are infinite statements. Sounds like the continuum hypothesis.... :-)


message 50: by Duffy (new)

Duffy Pratt | 147 comments Here's my argument: For something to be a statement, it has to end. A statement that goes on forever never gets to be a statement. Secondly, I'm going to assume that a statement can be written down. That is, any statement can be translated into an alphanumeric system. Lets say that the longest statement is 100,000,000 words. And that is preposterously long. But if you want a longer one, its fine with me. You can make your longest statement one that is longer than what any person could say in one lifetime. Also, lets put 1000 characters as the outer limit on the length of a word. It wouldn't change the argument. Lets also assume that it can be expressed in a system of characters that includes 100 distinct characters. With these parameters, the total combination of characters would be 100 to the 100,000,000,000 power. That would include every possible combination of characters. Within those combinations would be every combination of letters representing every statement that is shorter than the statement that is 100,000,000 words long. This is a really large number, but still finite. The set of statements is a subset of this set, and therefore also finite. And yes, the set of non-falsifiable statements is also finite.

For a better discussion of this issue than I could ever present, I suggest reading The Library of Babel by Borges. It's a wonderful short story which explores the implications of this idea.


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