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What is Certainty?

  1. Jan 20, 2005 #1
    Indeed, if the Universe was founded soley upon chance, how can we be certain of anything? What's the point in debating it then? Yet when we bring up the notion of God, we "attest," due to the fact that the Universe is so "well ordered," that this can only be a "yes or no" proposition. How can we be any more certain than that? Yet even if we say we don't know, and establish "this" of a certainty, even if that's all we establish, we've established the fact that certainty does exist. Isn't this what Socrates said? So obviously the Universe must have been founded upon "a certainty" ... no ifs, ands or buts about it. :wink:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2005 #2
    ...and, just to beat pheonixthoth to the punch (not actually sure he's still around...God, I'm old!), if there is one certainty, then there are infinite certainties. To be certain about their being that one certainty will get you started, and then just go ad infinitum from there.
  4. Jan 20, 2005 #3
    Do you realize that we would not be conscious without a certainty? So what is that certainty that makes us conscious? Wouldn't that in effect be the original something (not nothing) which makes all things certain?
  5. Jan 21, 2005 #4
    No. Well, if I'm working from a Cartesian sort of "incorrigibility-as-consciousness" framework, then yes. But I don't personally recognize the need for any absolute certainty (nor, really, the reason (a priori) for postulating the existence of such a thing) in order for us to be conscious.
  6. Jan 21, 2005 #5
    If we are certain of uncertainty, then that itself is certain.
  7. Jan 21, 2005 #6
    Uncertianty makes no sense. I with Einstein on that one.
  8. Jan 22, 2005 #7
    All parts are relative to the greater reality of the whole. So I think in that sense the only uncertainty that truly exists is in our ability to ascertain the scope of "reality" as a whole ... which, isn't to say it doesn't exist. In fact it must.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2005
  9. Jan 22, 2005 #8
    Including that statement, and the truth thereof?
  10. Jan 22, 2005 #9
    That would imply the need for someone (or some thing) to stand outside of the whole of creation in order to observe it wouldn't it? Hmm ... But then again, is it possible to understand how such a thing works through the use of models and/or how it works on a smaller scale, for example, in how the parts of the human body come together and establish a relationship with the body as a whole? This is what makes the most sense to me anyway. :smile:
  11. Jan 22, 2005 #10
    I don't think so...merely someone who think he can :smile:.

    That's the reductionist philosophy.
  12. Jan 23, 2005 #11
    Does that refer to a specific philosophy or, just a methodology? If it is a philosophy, who are some of its better known proponents and what have they accomplished by it?
  13. Jan 23, 2005 #12
    I'm referring to the general inclination to reduce things to their most fundamental components, and explain them thus. This has been practiced by some since ancient Greece (such philosophers as Democritus and Lucretius). The concept is quite fundamental to what are typically considered "scientific" explanations of phenomena. For example, Dennett's proposal of a theory of consciousness has been referred to as "reductionist" simply because it doesn't accept the existence of any aspect of consciousness that transcends that which can be explained by the physical (I would question this labelling, since Dennett actually accepts three stages -- with reference to complexity, among other things -- and "physical" is only the most basic...so, while all phenomena can be reduced to the "physical", in his framework, some phenomena are much more comprehensibly "reduced" to the "design" or the "intentional")..
  14. Jan 24, 2005 #13
    Yeah, I think this is basically my approach too. In that I try to stick with those things that I do understand, and from there, extrapolate (through the process of reduction) anything which is universal or fundamental. :smile:
  15. Jan 25, 2005 #14
    So, to return to the question of Certainty, how can you be "certain" that one's reductions of processes will yeild any greater "certainty" about the phenomenon in question?
  16. Jan 25, 2005 #15
    What phenomenon is that? Any phenomenon? What if it was a phenomenon you understood intimately, and yet others didn't, and your reason for developing your theories was as a means to try and explain it to others? Would reductionism be helpful here? After all, I'm just trying to make sense out of something. Certainty can only exist with intimate knowledge of something by the way. For example when I say, "I know that I don't know." That is intimate knowledge. So in that sense you know it's at least possible to know something of a certainty which, is the beginning of knowing. This is also the Socratic method I'm referring to here I believe.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2005
  17. Mar 21, 2005 #16
    certainty, it is a tricky one. i think it is necessary to be certain about things to live with things, but theoretically nothing is certain. maybe this is the key, maybe nothingness as a concept is the only certainty. when i say nothingness here i refer to all that is outside material(energetic) phenomena. this would suggest consciousness, or subjective understanding etc. this duality is reductionist, but heirarchy is redundent.

    i guess i agree with the idea that the closest to certainty one can get is subjective understanding and the knowledge of being.
  18. Mar 21, 2005 #17
    Certainty is an illusion of decidability.
    Truth is relative to the system that decides it.

    Truth is that which can or has been shown to be the case.

    Absolute truth, certainty, is not attainable, because..
    there is no system that can determine all truths.

    All I know is that I know nothing, is a contradiction in terms.

    By what system of decision do we decide 'certainty'?
  19. Mar 21, 2005 #18
    not so sure about that. knowledge does not have to be object based does it?

    otherwise i agree, truth and knowledge are dependent on the context, or system. but this system does not necessarily have to be provable and objective.

    a written system of language (including maths), being an energy (material) phenomena limits us to representing in space/time. this makes it hard for someone who knows a reality that is beyond space/time to represent to somebody else, especially if they do not believe such a reality exists....

    but simply study any religion thoroughly, and then subjectively experience aspects of the spiritual reality, and one will not have a problem defending claims of absoluteness, and certainty. :wink:
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2005
  20. Mar 23, 2005 #19
  21. Mar 24, 2005 #20
    It is not possible to know the true ground of our being then? If not, what is it that allows us to know anything?
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