Unanswerable

Ethan Zuckerman raises some big questions at My Heart's in Accra, including a reference to - he beat me to it - the Harvard Business Review articles I linked to yesterday.

I really must get rid of some of the feeds I've collected.

I'll also have to check out that Wired piece on 42 of the biggest unanswered - and as Ethan suggests, possibly unanswerable - questions in science. I've been interested lately in that very issue, having finished the book, Walking the Tightrope of Reason, which describes rational life uninformed by the   arts and senses. Describing in this extended essay some of the perils of strict reasoning Robert Fogelin concludes that perhaps philosophy may be best suited to marking the limits of rationalism (though I hasten to add, not of discovery).

...Thought, when it proceeds in a certain way, is self-destructive in the related ways of falling into paradox, of turning dialectical or becoming skeptical. My view is that when problems arise in this way, they are completely intelligible and wholly unanswerable. The question here is factual: What in science and ordinary life blocks this drift into intellectual disaster? [My emphasis. And following a brief quote from Hume on the usefulness of "fancy" in avoiding these traps] ...If our faculties were stronger, we would be prepared to believe even less."

Here, I'll point out that the antonym to discursive reasoning is apophasis, which has its own long history, particularly in theology where the subject matter is rather more immaterial. The method describes something by eliminating whatever doesn't apply so that what's left, as this famous detective pointed out, is what's left.

Wayne