“I don’t know my way about”

For expertise the unknown means “I still haven’t figured out the answer to this problem.” Expertise lacks the answer, but what the question is and how it will produce an answer is not in question.

For philosophy the unknown means “I still haven’t figured out how to think about this problem.” Philosophy lacks not only an answer, but the way to ask and answer a possible question. How to ask and answer and what the answer is are found together.

Wittgenstein’s formulation is elegant: “A philosophical problem has the form: ‘I don’t know my way about’.”


Any explorer in a new land will not know his way about. His skill is not in already knowing the landscape. His skill is navigating unmapped territory and finding his way about. He will emerge with a map. He will not try to draw it before he has explored it.

We should be suspicious of any explorer who claims to already have a map and to know his way around unexplored territory. Either he’s taking you somewhere that has already been settled, or he doesn’t know his way about “I don’t know my way about” and is likely to get you lost in the wilderness.

Innovation needs philosophy.


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