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The Saint Paul Socrates Cafe Message Board The Saint Paul Socrates Cafe Discussion Forum › 3/16/11 questions/discussion

3/16/11 questions/discussion

Jon A.
Group Organizer
Saint Paul, MN
1. when we grieve, what are we losing?
2. What are the elements of why something is romantic?
3. Can one control their brain using various frequencies?
4. What holds us back?
5. Is the naturalistic fallacy actually a fallacy?
6. If humans are unique in their awareness are they obligated to increase their awareness?
7. What should we do about bullying?


tonight's question:

"Does certainty remove all doubt and hope?" -- asked by Tor

Tor: there is a famous Norwegian businessman contrarian. He ascribes his great success to doubt. If he had been certain he believes he would have failed. If we accept this principle of the necessity of certainty the universe loses its interest. Mystery is needed. Action is generally not taken if outcomes are known in advance. No doubt = no scientific discovery. Hope drives revolutions. It requires uncertainty.

Jon: (joke:) are you saying this man was certain about the importance of doubt?

Tor: I love this stuff!

Walt: two words: surfing and sex. What's left is the world of the senses. Things that are sense experiences guarantee we won't be certain.

Jon: could a person who is certain fool themselves in spite of sensory uncertainty?

Walt: perhaps.

Mike: I'm glad Tor brought up god. God's the only thing that could know everything/be certain. We mortals haven't the capacity for that.

Jon: could a deluded person fool themselves that they are certain?

Mike: that gets to my point. Our experience of life and time is indeterminate (Jon wonders: delusion gets past this limitation?). It's just a true thing about our experience.

Jim: every person being different generates different ways of understanding. As to certainty, I fix things and have found nature will always side with a hidden flaw. So certainty is not actually available in my experience. Certainty is just a matter of time; time dissolves certainty (things change).

Tor: let's stay hypothetical. I want us to imagine a world where certainty is not only possible but universal. Does hope and doubt exist there?

Bob: our namesake, Socrates said a person who thinks they know something is hard to teach and that the unexamined life is not worth living. Awareness of the unknown increases as we come to know more. As we become more open we become less certain.

Thad: I find Tor's question in hypothesis unsatisfying. To have certainty is to be delusional. While certainty is necessary for everyday life it must be a kind of certainty that permits doubt. Then we're making assumptions that bad stuff won't happen but when we're honest we ought to at least occasionally remind ourselves that what we're certain of will be wrong eventually. For example, I tinker with the world in my mind to create a feeling of safety for myself. It's a useful delusion, a way to cope with chaos' reality.

Jon: are you suggesting we ought to combine certainty + humility?

Thad: not sure. I agree it's bad to see the world as certain but we must qualify what we mean by certainty.

Jon: go ahead, disagree with Tor.

Thad: I agree and disagree.

Art: my answer to Tor's question: yes.

Mary: if I don't make a certain amount of being certain I cease to function. Certainty is a stairway to what is uncertain. Inside certainty I can invent other things: I can use certainties as elements for building new things. We're so far being cerebral but certainty can also be emotional -- parent and child certainties, for example.

Jon: all questions include at least one assumption.

Mary: the important thing to ask oneself is "when did I move from certainty as a building block as certainty as a closed system?" An excellent book entitled "The Ghost Map" describes these dynamics well (about the discovery in London as to how cholera was spread through the city).

Tor: we're not noticing here how important doubt is. hope too.

Eric: what about belief?

Mike: Tor's hypothetical total certainty universe has no room for that!

Eric: consider the "self-fulfilling prophecy". I'm certain I will fail/succeed. Believing makes it so.

Tor: the best attack on the premise in my question is via emotion.

Eric: feeling are inextricable from thought. If we are certain, feeling is included. The greater the certainty the more likely we can make it so. We want certainty, we have a need to fulfill prophecy. I don't know if it's hardwired or learned. Even with obvious evidence to oppose certainty, it remains hard to let go of it. Hope can work here in the face of opposing facts. Hope/doubt are one side of the coin -- certainty's on the other side.

Jamie: eventually we'll know everything. The way to tweak this is to invent new human ability, or to be able to change the past... in a totally certain world I would hope for uncertainty. Certainty requires some way of communicating and patterns to go by.

Mike: Plato's idea of the forms. We need the idea of the forms in order to understand what we have. Could this work in what you've just imagined?

Jamie: not sure. my answer to Tor's question: yes/maybe

Walt: emotions are completely unrelated to certainty. The certain world Tor is asking us to imagine isn' t a valuable approach. Looking at our actual world this way is much more fruitful. My example: Ghandi had certainty about non-violence and it worked. Certainty does not imply results, but it surely helped his cause then and there. I may, though, be instead thinking of conviction, not certainty. Still, the two are perhaps more alike than not.

Mike: certainty can increase action, incentive. Imagine a man kissing a woman, thinking "I know exactly what she's going to do", his problem is not that he's certain, it's that he's separated from the kiss.

Bob: There's something to be said for reaching out for certainty when life is getting wild. It's demanded then.

Jon: the American philosopher Peirce called belief "the mind at rest". I wonder if a mind at rest is a certain mind?

Bob: actually we live in uncertainty. So when we talk about certainty it's really about degrees of uncertainty or how far we've distracted ourselves from awareness of uncertainty.

Art: there is no such thing as certainty. The idea is that it works in everyday life. We may say we're certain, but actually we make our "best bet". We play the odds.
Word Warrior M.
user 3415253
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 1
Just skimmed this, know it's old, but caught other day a piece on cognitive science and functional MRI's done that supposedly demonstrated thought and emotion are inseparable. (For whatever that's worth.)
Word Warrior M.
user 3415253
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 2
Just skimmed this, know it's old, but caught other day a piece on cognitive science and functional MRI's done that supposedly demonstrated thought and emotion are inseparable. (For whatever that's worth.)
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