“That which expresses necessary self-grounded fact, and which we must believe, is distinct both from the hypothesis of a science and from illegitimate postulate – I say ‘must believe’, because all syllogism…is addressed not to the spoken word, but to the discourse within the soul, and though we can always raise objections to the spoken word, to the inward discourse we cannot always object.” – Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Book 1, Chapter 10.

The last 36 blogs on this site have investigated the concept of certainty and thereby indirectly truth and knowledge. It is time to summarize what we have uncovered. First, all analysis arrives at the fundamental conclusion that very little is in fact certain at least for our species. A tiny number of metaphysical concepts such as the existence of something, indispensable logic, and simple mathematical relationships appear to be the limit of absolute truth. Virtually all of our ‘knowledge” is no more than reasonably justified belief, while many or most of our strongest convictions are mere opinion or individual prejudice. From this arises the compelling corollary that it is perilous to trust in uncertain beliefs.

On the other hand doubting or negating all beliefs, particularly those justified by reasonable evidence, is incapacitating. Only a nihilist defaults to assuming nothing is true and no individual action can be justified. Strict skepticism obstructs human progress and eliminates the hope for a meaningful existence. The solution to this quandary is to rely on principles of the highest degree of certainty while mitigating for those of lesser certainty.

(continued next post)

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