понеделник, април 24


Thoughts from the Deep

Lobster Blogster has become interested in the thoughts of American philosopher and warmonger, Mr Donald Rumsfeld. Mr Rumsfeld is widely quoted as saying the following:

"...as we know, 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."

Mr Rumsfeld gave this as an answer to a question in February 2002 about whether there was any evidence that Iraq had supplied or attempted to supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. In the full text of his news briefing Mr Rumsfeld immediately goes on to say:

"And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones."

Looking at Mr Rumsfeld's quotation in context, it is clear that he is talking about three different categories of things, defined only by knowing and/or unknowingness. The lobster believes Mr Rumsfeld is wrong, and there can only be two categories of knowing or unknowingness. He will now demonstrate his proof from the bottom of the sea.

First off, let's acknowledge that talking about known and unknown and combinations of the two can be very muddling. Instead we'll talk about it in terms of being seen or unseen.

Suppose there are two of us. You can see some things, and I can see some things too. According to our perspective, there are some things we can both see, some things which only one of us can see, and some which neither of us can see. I could label these as seen seen things, seen unseen things and unseen unseen things, but have I really ended up with three categories of "seeingness"? Well no, because there are still just things which are seen, and those which are unseen. Unseen unseens are just things which we both can't see.

Going back to "knowingness", there can only be two categories there too: known and unknown. Unknown unknowns are just plain vanilla unknowns in a different wrapper. Mr Rumsfeld is using something which should be called "muddly American thinking". It might seem astonishing that someone who applies muddly American thinking can do something as devastating as drive through his plans to take several countries to war, but if you look at his later comments in the news briefing you will see that he refuses to clarify what it is he is actually talking about. The muddle, I'm afraid, is very much part of Mr Rumsfeld's plan.

Many thanks to Kat who got the lobster onto this when she posted a link to a little muddle which refers to a poem by R D Laing call "Knots". My advice here is don't try to tackle this one until you have got over your anger with Mr Rumsfeld and his types. It's time for the lobster to crawl back under his rock, and to contemplate the swaying of the seaweed on the ocean floor.

No, I think that's one of the few sensible things Rumsfeld has said. It's all a matter of perspective. There are things about me that you don't know, & because you are completely unaware of them, for you (but not for me) those are unknown unknowns. You don't even know they exist to be known.
Whereas something like the colour of my keyboard is only a known unknown to you - you are aware that you don't know it.
For me, these are both known knowns.
Lobster, I agree with Bluefluff re unknown unknowns and have made a further post on my blog.
Ok, now I know you have a keyboard, but I don't know what colour it is.

I don't know if you have a car. If you do have a car, it must have a colour. But the colour of your car is just something which is unknown to me. I don't need to say it is unknown unknown.

However "the colour of your car" may not mean anything, if you actually haven't got one.

Can you give me an example from real life where you have to say "unknown unknown" because just "unknown" doesn't work?
So, who are you voting for in the upcoming election for the good lobsters of Watford?
Thanks Kat, your comment sneaked in while I was repling to BlueFluff.

I looked at you post, and you now seem to have four or five categories of knowingness. To agree with Mr Rumsfeld you'll have to narrow it down to three. I'm still sticking at two though.

Hi GW, good idea for a post :)
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