Certainty

Some in both the religious and scientific communities see certainty as both a good thing and attainable to various degrees.

Reacting to the use of especially absolutist language of certainty to pressure or impose different ideologies, others have raised critical questions about both the possibility and benefit of claims to certainty. Some of these have claimed that that certainty is never possible - enjoining others to embrace and glorify uncertainty as a fundamental aspect of reality.  

Still others argue that certainty and uncertainty can exist in a healthy balance and polarity - with space for both conviction, on one hand, and openness to learning more (or being wrong) on the other.  Thus uncertainty and certainty can both be welcomed as part of the process of learning.  

Without a precise psychological metric for more or less certainty, William James promoted pragmatic certainty - an adequate conviction to act without questioning. By watching what we do ordinarily we demonstrate that we are certain “enough” for our purposes.  

 QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:

-Imagine you woke up tomorrow, and something you’ve been especially certain about in your life (something you are deeply committed to) you found out is no longer true. For instance, an atheist wakes up and knows with conviction there is a God.  A theist wakes up a knows with conviction there is not.  What would that mean for your life?

-Is there anything you can say you are certain about?  

-Do you believe it harmful to be certain about anything?  Or is it harmful to not think you can be certain about anything?

Contributors: 

Randall Paul

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