Certainty, generally, is an illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Last time after rejecting absolute certainty as both counterproductive as an aim and perilous when assumed, I suggested we consider a quasi-foundational approach to knowledge tailored to the five levels of reality. Briefly we end up with a matrix:

Level of Reality                        Informed by:

Internal Reality                         Subjectivity

Proximate Reality                   Subjectivity and science

Societal Reality                        Multiple authoritative sources

Cosmic Reality                          Science

Ultimate Reality                        Subjectivity and science

However principles justifying our greatest confidence seem to be more practically separated into four types: (1) metaphysical, (2) ethical, (3) empirical, and (4) ultimate. Metaphysical principles derive mostly from internal reality and subjectivity; ethical principles from a mix of internal and proximate reality and thus subjectivity and some science; empirical principles from understandings of cosmic reality and science; and ultimate reality and principles from subjectivity mixed with an element of science. The hope for any degree of certainty in societal reality is quite limited, a fact which reverberates as the peril of all forms of political dogmatism.

We also reviewed some useful tools for this scope of work including:

Author                          Tool

Santayana                   Reason (meaning and unity) and human ideals

Adler                            Common sense and intelligibility

Scruton                        Truth value and trust in language

Baggini                         Sincerity, accuracy, and objectivity

So now I hope to take these tools to task in creating a list of important principles within each group stratified on the degree of certainty of each. We begin with metaphysical principles next time.

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