Ignoramus et ignorabimus
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.
- Hilbert's reaction 1
- Seven World Riddles 2
- Sociological responses 3
- See also 4
- Notes 5
|“||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!')||”|
Previously, at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1900 in Paris he said: "In mathematics there is no ignorabimus."
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 specifying limits on most axiomatic systems.
Seven World Riddles
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."
- — it is in fact an incredibly self-confident support for scientific hubris masked as modesty —
This is in a discussion of
- Strong agnosticism
- Unknown unknown
- Ignorance management
- Ignotum per ignotius
- I know that I know nothing
- Hilbert, David, audio address, transcription and English translation.
- William E. Leverette Jr., E. L. Youmans' Crusade for Scientific Autonomy and Respectability, American Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1. (Spring, 1965), pg. 21.