the perils of certainty…

I have an abiding distrust – dislike, even – of certainty. If there is one thing I have learned about life it is that we can not really be certain of anything much at all. Thus, it seems to me that when a human pronounces that he/she is absolutely certain of something, what they are expressing is a belief that feels to them to be necessary to their psychological wellbeing… It is, of course, uncomfortable (painful, even) not to have certainties to hold on to. However, I believe (though I’m open to being persuaded otherwise *grin*) that, in keeping our beliefs open to change, there lies the greatest hope we have of negotiating the paths of our lives, of our societies and our species, well…

Posted by Ricardo

writer and blogger

6 Replies to “the perils of certainty…”

  1. Ahhh… But one could argue when beliefs are facts and facts are beliefs!?

    There’s people out there for who Creation of Earth in 6 days, 6000 years ago is fact.

    But – as I guessed…. Semantics! 😉

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    1. My feeling is that it is wiser to err on the side of doubt than certainty. People who believe the world was created in 6 days 6000 years ago are way off to the other side of that spectrum. As you say, it’s semantics: the label “fact” is a moveable feast…

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  2. Hmmm… Not sure whether I’d agree, but that may be a matter of semantics.

    I am CERTAIN that I don’t have 20/20 vision, for example.
    I am convinced of a lot of things, but then again:
    ‘I am certain of …’ isn’t the same as ‘I will always be certain of …’.

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    1. your lack of 20/20 vision is a fact (though there are alternative therapists who would tell you that’s not invariably true) – it’s not a belief… and it was certainty in beliefs I was talking about…

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  3. Agreed. Certainty just seems to be the deep moat and impenetrable wall that protects something fragile – or perhaps nothing – inside.

    Whereas the winds and the waves flow through so much, and take every stab and every experience without being broken.

    Sometimes, though, I find those who are certain are passionate. When they defend their beliefs, perhaps out of fear that should those beliefs shatter, they would shatter as well, they can put forth a mesmerizing force of emotion. Emotion that is just beautiful for its strength. It is like the cornered man who pulls off a miracle. Those who can accept uncertainty, however, I feel become more detached. At least, I speak from my own experience. As they do not cling to anything, are not stationary, they are not as easily [emotionally] moved, since they are already moving…

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    1. you put it all more poetically than I did… However, I would suggest that this emotion you ascribe to ‘believers’ is a reactive one. At it’s best it IS mesmerizing and, even, beautiful – however, if it is pushed, it turns to anger. The world has suffered, and is suffering, the consequences of such anger…

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