In the face of the world, in the face of the other, after educational processes and family experiences, after countless relational experiences, sometimes human beings ask themselves: what can I know?
For Kant, this was the first question: “What can I know?” (followed by “What should I do?” and consequently “What can I expect?”). Few have this interest. When the question is asked, what takes place is curiosity, the interest generated by the desire to answer, to understand the meaning of the world, of the other, of the individual purposes and contributions to the human panorama.
The one who asks what can be known realizes his/her own curiosity, realizes that it is broad, untethered, and undirected, but also becomes aware that he/she must organize for the question to be answered. He/she knows that method and organization impose themselves and that the answers are articulated within the scope of science or transcendence - usually religious - he/she knows that the question unfolds into questions about the origin, about where we are going, where we came from, and what we are. What can be known - until answered - opens infinite possibilities, requires careful immersion in the multiple existing answer organizers. What can be known is contextualized by the enabling references of this same question. In this sense, the question broadens the contexts of curiosity, or turns them into instruments, contingency levers, utilities, such as: “What can I know to succeed in life?”, “What can I know to make money?”. This contingency is implicit, as it is subordinate to needs, and allows the development of cleverness, intelligence, ability committed to results. Curiosity itself, soon answered, is interrupted, disappearing, and what can be known is never addressed.
Curiosity or the will to know necessarily implies a praxis - which reminds the Kantian question of what should be done. Arising from and anchored in curiosity, in the searches, the following comes up: “What should I do?”. This unfolding is consistent with what is sought: the desire to accomplish what is known.
Society, along with its economic organization, channels knowledge, compromising diversifications. This homogenization establishes rules and solutions for how to live, so generic that individual specificities are compromised in favor of a defining and determining set. Hence, there is not always coherence, experiences are fragmented, what should be done is usually imposed by rules or advantages, and not a result of the question of what can be known. When this happens, utility and result guide the answer. Effort, sacrifice, self-denial are imposed by stumbling over selfishness, authoritarianism, limiting the freedom to achieve coherence. There are countless situations in which we observe this incongruity: from individual and everyday attitudes to collective or institutionalized positions, from omissions to stand against what is unfair, for example, to thoughtful and strategically decided options, such as when a group decides to give up principles due to an advantageous contract. Ethical questions arise. Right, wrong, and adjustments are questioned, since the act of doing always results in the creation of other settings that escape its own framers.
Ethics is fundamental, it is the initial step for the other to be considered. It becomes an emptied rule when there is disregard for individualities that differ from prerogatives placed in advance. The strives or struggles generated by convenience create controls, empty out, create expectations and anxiety. Asking and waiting (expectation) already denounce having turned curiosity and action into entrepreneurship, into a desire to solve differences and impossibilities.
For Kant, duty and its ethical fulfillment in the human sphere were fundamental. Psychologically, the key is not to live for results, goals, and alienating values - even though they bind together established orders.
To be true, that is, to be in the world perceiving oneself with the other, makes one knows limits and possibilities, thus realizing what can be done and consequently what can be expected. This is all a continuous and whole experience. When alienated - robotic, coopted by established orders, dehumanized - one never knows, except as taught by manuals, media, booklets, and institutions. These latter also determine what one does by instigating fights, establishing fighting arenas and scenarios in which winners and losers know what to expect.