Talk:Ignoramus et ignorabimus
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origin of Hilberts position
"In mathematics there is no ignorabimus." D. Hilbert, 'Mathematical Problems: Lecture Delivered before the International Congress of Mathematicians at Paris in 1900', bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, 8 (1902) p437-79 (445) —Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 19:56, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Accuracy of Latin translation
My Latin is not very good, but is this "we do not know and will not know" really an accurate translation of "ignoramus et ignorabimus"? Wouldn't a more accurate translation be "unknown and unknowable"? (I mean, is ignoramus a second person verb, or a gerund?) --SJK (talk) 07:25, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. This assessment, which originated in a comment made by Ernst Haeckel, has been repeated mindlessly ever since. It has to be understood in its historical context (a debate between Haeckel and du Bois-Reymond over who was the greater authority), and it doesn't make any sense: if conceit is expressed by humility, how is humility expressed? By conceit?
Here is Haeckel's original comment: “This seemingly humble but actually presumptuous Ignorabimus is the Ignoratis of the infallible Vatican and of the ‘Black International’ which it heads.” (Haeckel is accusing du Bois-Reymond of siding with the Catholics during the Kulturkampf, which couldn't be less true.)
Source: Ernst Haeckel, Anthropogenie, oder, Entwickelungsgeschichte des Menschen. Gemeinverständliche wissenschaftlich Vorträge über die Grundzüge der menschlichen Keimes- und Stammes-Geschichte (Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1874), xiii.
Here are the scholars I've tracked who have parroted Haeckel:
Eduard von Hartmann, Philosophische Fragen der Gegenwart (Leipzig; Berlin: Wilhelm Friedrich, 1885), 42; Ernst Mach, “Über Orientierungsempfindungen. Vortrag, gehalten den 24. Februar 1897 im Wiener Verein zur Verbreitung naturwissenschaftlicher Kenntnisse,” Populär-wissenschaftliche Vorlesungen, 3rd edn. (Leipzig: Barth, 1903), 378-403, on 403; Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture (Oxford; New York: Oxford University, 1968), 171; Wolf Lepenies, Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology, tr. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University; Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1988), 272; Wolf Lepenies, “Between Social Science and Poetry in Germany,” Poetics Today 9.1 (1988): 117-143, on 120; Keith Mims Anderton, “The Limits of Science: A Social, Political, and Moral Agenda for Epistemology in Nineteenth Century Germany,” Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1993, 362.
If you plan to leave this section, at least give Haeckel credit.
Errors in the article
I'm not too good with Wikipedia, so please consider the following:
1. Emil du Bois-Reymond ended "The Limits of Science" (1872) with the single word "Ignorabimus" (not "Ignoramus et Ignorabimus").
2. He revised his position at the end of "The Seven World Riddles" (1880) with the single word "Dubitemus" (not "Ignoramus et Ignorabimus").
3. This statement in the article is questionable: "However, depending on the interpretation of "ultimate nature" and "origin," it is possible to consider some of these as partially or completely solved. For example, the sensory systems for the traditional senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) are now mostly understood, including some of the associated neural processing." Du Bois-Reymond was referring to what we would call qualia, and as far as I know, they have not been explained scientifically.
4. While I agree with the article that Gödel refuted Hilbert, mathematicians and philosophers continue to argue over what conclusions can be drawn from Gödel's proof. This should be mentioned if not discussed.
5. Relevant philosophical literature should be mentioned:
McCarty, David C. “Problems and Riddles: Hilbert and the Du Bois-Reymonds.” Synthese 147.1 (October 2005): 63-79.
Tennant, Neil. “Mind, Mathematics and the Ignorabimusstreit.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 15.4 (November 2007): 745-773.
My own biography of EdBR will be coming out from MIT Press in October 2013.