Unthinkable may mean two different things:
- Something that we cannot think about, normally for moral reasons, e.g. killing someone.
- Something we cannot think about, because cognitively we are not capable of that.
I want a word to clearly refer to the second, without ambiguously referring to the former, which is the usual meaning (because the second is relatively unthinkable).
"Truly unthinkable" is contradictory, in the sense that you cannot answer what is "truly unthinkable" for you. If you could, it would not be "truly unthinkable", because you can think about it at least to answer.
However, we can think of many things that are truly unthinkable for a dog, corporate strategy may be one of them.
Colors are not completely unthinkable for someone born blind, and music is not truly unthinkable for someone born deaf, both could learn about those things just like Mary the super-scientist.
Scrivener and caveman levels of unthinkable:
- If we travel in time and we explain to a scrivener that we can store millions of books in our smartphone, the way the smartphone works may be unthinkable or inconceivable to him, but he can understand what we are explaining by showing the smartphone.
- However, if we try to explain the same to a caveman, then it will be truly unthinkable and truly inconceivable because he does not know what a book is. Even showing a book would not help to understand what a book is, without knowing what the written language is (which is what is stored in the smartphone, not the physical book with pages made of paper).
The difference is that the scrivener may be impressed. Storing books like that is unthinkable, but clearly valuable. The caveman would consider us crazy, you cannot eat the books in the smartphone, and the actual books do not even taste good. The caveman may understand that you put big things into small things (which is not entirely true), but all those things are meaningless for him.
I am searching for a word that would apply to the caveman but not to the scrivener.
Example sentence: The smartphone was incomprehensible for the scrivener; he watched it in awe, estimating what kind of human labor could create such a miraculous wonder, painstakingly taking years to write each book. For the caveman, the device was incomprehensible, and therefore as meaningless and irrelevant as it would be for a snail.
Another: For me, quantum physics is unthinkable, I would have never figured out the wave-particle duality, not in a thousand years. However, the universe before time existed is unthinkable, I cannot think of precedence without time.