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OP DouglasReay writes:

I was listening to a [YouTube video by Slavoj Žižek] which talks about UnknownUnknowns.

He referred to [the quote from Donald Rumsfeld]:

  There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
  We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
  But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

and pointed out a fourth category that Rumsfeld didn't mention, "unknown knows", which Slavoj identifies with what he calls indoctrination ("the unconscious beliefs and prejudices that determine how we perceive reality and intervene in it", as [wikipedia puts it]).


But I wonder if it might not be clearer to put things in terms of awareness rather than knowledge.

The four categories would then become:

  AA "Aware Awares" - things we are aware of, that we are aware that we are aware of.
  UA "Unaware Awares" - things we are aware of, that we are unaware that we are aware of.
  AU "Aware Unawares" - things we are unaware of, that we are aware that we are unaware of.
  UU "Unaware Unawares" - things we are unaware of, that we are unaware that we are unaware of.

So, some examples:

Suppose Peter is a 16 year old boy at school studying geography, and the geography teacher gives him a long list of countries in Europe, together with the name of the capital city of each country, to learn for a test the following day.  He spends a hour that evening trying to memorise the list and testing himself and then, the following day before the test, he has the following conversation with another pupil, Paul, about how prepared he is for the test.

Paul: Hey Peter, how did your revision go?

Peter: Not bad, I'm pretty good on the Nordic countries.  I aware of what Norway's capital is, for example, and I known that I'm aware of that.

Paul: How about the eastern ones?

Peter: No, I tried, but I found them impossible.  I'm not aware of what Slovakia's capital is, and I know that I'm not aware of it.

Paul: What do you predict you'll get?

Peter: 28 out of 44

Paul: Good luck, see you after the test.

But what neither Peter or Paul realised what that the teacher had deliberately not included the 6 smallest countries on his list.  So, after the test, their conversation continued.

Peter: That was so unfair!

Paul: I'd never even heard of San Marino.  How about you?

Peter: No, me neither.  I was unaware of the answer and, until the test started, I was also unaware that I was unaware - the question wasn't even on my radar, inside my visible horizon.

Paul: What about Malta?

Peter: As it happens, we went on holiday to Valletta last year.  So, although before the test started I was unaware that the question was a possibility, I was actually aware of the answer.

Paul: Perhaps that's what the teacher wanted to find out?


But even that terminology is a little forced.  An "Unaware Aware" is perhaps more naturally a reference to something like a ticking clock in a room that, if you were asked to list the sounds you were aware of, you wouldn't mention but, if it stopped ticking you'd notice, so you must have been aware of it on some level, despite being unaware that you were aware.

And talking about "knowns" brings in the whole issue of whether something that you "know" must be true.

"beliefs" in the sense of "things we hold a position on" with no implication of holding that position despite lack of evidence, might be closer.

This actually ties in with the categorisations in Wisdom, between Data, Information, Knowledge, Experience and Wisdom.  The context of the division is: what portion of the things that I need to know in order to achieve some particular thing do I actually current known?  Say you are the USA military, and the thing you wanted to achieve was beating the communists in Vietnam.  The person planning that invasion could have come up with a provisional list of things he'd need to know (number of enemy, location of enemy, etc) and then determined which of those pieces of information he currently had, and which he had to ask scouts to go out and find.  But one of the pieces of information he didn't have was the full list of things he'd need to know, and the USA military discovered that the only way to find out what the right questions were was to go ahead with the invasion then learn, in retrospect, what questions they hadn't asked themselves that they should have.  And, into that mix, you can guess that there are questions the person planning the invasion wouldn't have listed but that, it turned out, the USA military did still know the answer to in their 'institutional memory'.  The equivalent to [Chesterton's Fence].  Pieces of soldiers lore for which the reason behind the practice had long since been forgotten (or even never consciously known, but merely evolved), and solidified as tradition ("The Right Way, The Wrong Way, and the Army Way.) 

This would make the categories:

  AA : Issues/Questions?/Problems? we are aware of being relevant/pending, that we have a position on or an answer to
  UA : Issues/Questions?/Problems? we are unaware of being relevant/pending, that we have a position on or an answer to
  AU : Issues/Questions?/Problems? we are aware of being relevant/pending, that we don't have a position on or an answer to
  UU : Issues/Questions?/Problems? we are unaware of being relevant/pending, that we don't have a position on or an answer to

Can anyone think of a way of labelling those categories that is accurate, but shorter/snappier/memorable ?
How about "considered/unconsidered position/non-position" --qqzm



CategoryPhilosophy

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