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Our panel of 90 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

Always great to hear from a young philosopher!

I take it that you are wondering if a person has only experienced some state (darkness, for example) and not experienced a contrary state (light), whether or not they would know the state itself / the state they are in. Great question. It may have a practical application: if persons have never experienced moral maturity or enlightenment of some kind, they may not know what it is (for them or for anyone) to be immature or unenlightened. Identifying states of ourselves and of the world often depend on our capacity to differentiate them (to grasp X, we often need to be able to distinguish X from not-X).

The only modest suggestion I am led to make is that someone who has never seen (someone "born blind") may not experience the world as dark. They may, instead, experience the world as a matter of sounds, sensory feelings, smells, but not in visual terms. Although English usage might not entirely back me up on this, but it seems to me that for someone to experience a room or planet as dark it seems that person would have to have some notion (and perhaps even experience) of what it is to experience a room or planet as lighted (by candles or a sun). If one has never experienced light, it may be impossible (or at least difficult) to understand darkness. The ancient greek philosopher Plato constructed an analogy of life comparing ourselves to persons in a cave with only dim lighting. In the parable, when someone escapes and sees the sun and returns to tell those still in the cave about the sun, they do not believe him. You might check out this parable to see what you think! In that case, the full realization of darkness was not apparent until there was a transforming experience of light.

Good wishes.