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Don't We Know What We Don't Know?

Presentation by Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen (Tallinn University of Technologies, Estonia; Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan) "Don't We Know What We Don't Know? Asserting Ignorance" in the framework of "Critique of the Social Sciences and Humanities" Seminar and "Human Rights" Seminar (58-60 Galernaya Street).

Kit Fine showed that neither Rumsfeld-ignorance (that there are unknown unknowns) nor second-order ignorance (that we are ignorant of our ignorance) can be known. This is not an insurmountable impossibility result, however, because these two forms of ignorance can be consistently and justifiably asserted. We can well study propositions that express various forms of ignorance that may be justifiably asserted even though they cannot be known.

As some examples of such propositions of ignorance, we can formulate scientific assertions that concern various levels of ignorance that need not become known but nevertheless may be consistently and justifiably asserted in order for science to advance. In order to provide a formal analysis of how asserting ignorance works we rely on Logic for Pragmatics (also known as Pragmatic Logic), which is a logical system developed for the purpose of a pragmatic analysis of acts of assertion and their extensions.