Ignoramus et ignorabimus  

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-'''"I know that I know nothing"''' ([[Ancient Greek]]: ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα ''hen oída hoti oudén oída''; {{lang-la|scio me nihil scire}} or ''scio me nescire'') is a well-known saying which is attributed to the [[Ancient Greek|Greek]] [[philosopher]] [[Socrates]]. The preferred saying, as recorded in much literature, is "The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing".+The [[Latin]] maxim '''''ignoramus et ignorabimus''''', meaning "we do not know and will not know", stood for a position on the limits of [[scientific knowledge]], in the thought of the nineteenth century. It was given credibility by [[Emil du Bois-Reymond]], a German [[physiologist]], in his ''[[Über die Grenzen des Naturerkennens]]'' ("On the limits of our understanding of nature") of 1872.
-== Meaning ==+== Hilbert's reaction ==
-The impreciseness of the [[English language|English]] translation stems from the fact that the author is not saying that he does not know anything but means instead that one cannot know anything with absolute certainty but can feel confident about certain things.+
-== Origin ==+On the 8th of September 1930, the [[mathematician]] [[David Hilbert]] pronounced his disagreement in a celebrated address to the Society of German Scientists and Physicians, in [[Königsberg]]:
-The citation is probably borrowed from Socrates' [[Apology (Plato)|Apology]] which [[Plato]] handed down:+
-<blockquote>+:"We must not believe those, who today, with philosophical bearing and deliberative tone, prophesy the fall of culture and accept the ''ignorabimus''. For us there is no ''ignorabimus'', and in my opinion none whatever in natural science. In opposition to the foolish ''ignorabimus'' our slogan shall be: '''Wir müssen wissen — wir werden wissen!''' ('We must know — we will know!')"
-{{polytonic|[…] οὖτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴμαι}}+
-</br>+
-&mdash; ''This man, on one hand, believes that he knows something, while not knowing [anything]. On the other hand, I - equally ignorant - do not believe [that I know anything].''+
-</blockquote> +
-Socrates also deals with this phrase in Plato's dialogue [[Meno]] when he says:+Even before that he said: "In mathematics there is no ignorabimus." D. Hilbert, 'Mathematical Problems: Lecture Delivered before the International Congress of Mathematicians at Paris in 1900', bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 8 (1902) p437-79 (445)
-<blockquote>+Hilbert worked with other [[formalism#Mathematics|formalist]]s to establish concrete [[foundations of mathematics#foundation crisis|foundations for mathematics]] in the early 20th century. However, [[Gödel's incompleteness theorems]] showed in 1931 that no finite system of [[axiom]]s, if complex enough to express our usual [[arithmetic]], could ever fulfill the goals of [[Hilbert's program]], demonstrating many of Hilbert's aims impossible, and establishing limits on mathematical knowledge.
-{{polytonic|καὶ νῦν περὶ ἀρετῆς ὃ ἔστιν ἐγὼ μὲν οὐκ οἶδα, σὺ μέντοι ἴσως πρότερον μὲν ᾔδησθα πρὶν ἐμοῦ ἅψασθαι, νῦν μέντοι ὅμοιος εἶ οὐκ εἰδότι.}}+
-</br>+
-''So now I do not know what virtue is; perhaps you knew before you contacted me, but now you are certainly like one who does not know.'' (trans. G.M.A. Grube)+
-</blockquote>+
-Here, Socrates aims at the change of Meno's opinion, who was a firm believer in his own opinion and whose claim to knowledge Socrates had disproved.  
-It is essentially the question that began philosophy. Socrates begins all wisdom with wondering, thus one must begin with admitting one's ignorance.+== Seven World Riddles ==
 +[[Emil du Bois-Reymond]] used ''ignoramus et ignorabimus'' in discussing what he called [[Emil_du_Bois-Reymond#The_Seven_World_Riddles|seven "world riddles"]], in a famous 1880 speech before the [[Prussian Academy of Sciences|Berlin Academy of Sciences]].
-== See also ==+He outlined seven "world riddles", of which three, he declared, neither science nor philosophy could ever explain, because they are "[[Transcendence (philosophy)#Kant_.28and_modern_philosophy.29|transcendent]]". Of the riddles, he considered the following transcendental and declared of them ''ignoramus et ignorabimus:''
-* [[Ancient Greek]]+ 
-* [[Gnothi seauton]]+1. the ultimate nature of matter and force,
-* [[Ignoramus et ignorabimus]]+2. the origin of motion,
-* [[Maieutics]]+5. the origin of simple sensations, "a quite transcendent" question.
-* [[Münchhausen Trilemma]]+ 
-* [[Sapere aude]]+== Sociological responses ==
-* [[Unknown unknown]]+The [[sociologist]] [[Wolf Lepenies]] has discussed the ''ignorabimus'' with a view that du Bois-Reymond was not really retreating in his claims for science and its reach:
 + 
 +:''&mdash; it is in fact an incredibly self-confident support for scientific hubris masked as modesty &mdash;''
 + 
 +This is in a discussion of [[Friedrich Wolters]], one of the [[Stefan George]] circle. Lepenies comments that Wolters misunderstood the degree of pessimism being expressed about science, but well understood the implication that scientists themselves could be trusted with self-criticism.
 + 
 +==See also==
 +*[[Hubris]]
 +*[[Ignorance]]
 +*[[Strong agnosticism]]
 +*[[Unknown unknown]]
 +*[[I know that I know nothing]]
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The Latin maxim ignoramus et ignorabimus, meaning "we do not know and will not know", stood for a position on the limits of scientific knowledge, in the thought of the nineteenth century. It was given credibility by Emil du Bois-Reymond, a German physiologist, in his Über die Grenzen des Naturerkennens ("On the limits of our understanding of nature") of 1872.

Contents

Hilbert's reaction

On the 8th of September 1930, the mathematician David Hilbert pronounced his disagreement in a celebrated address to the Society of German Scientists and Physicians, in Königsberg:

"We must not believe those, who today, with philosophical bearing and deliberative tone, prophesy the fall of culture and accept the ignorabimus. For us there is no ignorabimus, and in my opinion none whatever in natural science. In opposition to the foolish ignorabimus our slogan shall be: Wir müssen wissen — wir werden wissen! ('We must know — we will know!')"

Even before that he said: "In mathematics there is no ignorabimus." D. Hilbert, 'Mathematical Problems: Lecture Delivered before the International Congress of Mathematicians at Paris in 1900', bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 8 (1902) p437-79 (445)

Hilbert worked with other formalists to establish concrete foundations for mathematics in the early 20th century. However, Gödel's incompleteness theorems showed in 1931 that no finite system of axioms, if complex enough to express our usual arithmetic, could ever fulfill the goals of Hilbert's program, demonstrating many of Hilbert's aims impossible, and establishing limits on mathematical knowledge.


Seven World Riddles

Emil du Bois-Reymond used ignoramus et ignorabimus in discussing what he called seven "world riddles", in a famous 1880 speech before the Berlin Academy of Sciences.

He outlined seven "world riddles", of which three, he declared, neither science nor philosophy could ever explain, because they are "transcendent". Of the riddles, he considered the following transcendental and declared of them ignoramus et ignorabimus:

1. the ultimate nature of matter and force, 2. the origin of motion, 5. the origin of simple sensations, "a quite transcendent" question.

Sociological responses

The sociologist Wolf Lepenies has discussed the ignorabimus with a view that du Bois-Reymond was not really retreating in his claims for science and its reach:

— it is in fact an incredibly self-confident support for scientific hubris masked as modesty —

This is in a discussion of Friedrich Wolters, one of the Stefan George circle. Lepenies comments that Wolters misunderstood the degree of pessimism being expressed about science, but well understood the implication that scientists themselves could be trusted with self-criticism.

See also




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