Or: how I learned to relax and embrace uncertainty
I think Descartes actually said “I think therefore I am”, not the other way round which would imply some sort of panpsychism, I think. 😃
Anyway, more substantially, this quote from Feynman is relevant to this post:
I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here. I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.
Thank you Massimo. I am indeed on a journey here.
A very interesting post. I found myself drawn to skepticism during the pandemic, often feeling that much of what was being portrayed as "science" did not make sense to me (e.g., the rules on wearing and then taking off masks in restaurants; vaccines stopping transmission, and so on) What is challenging today, I find, is finding individuals with whom you can indeed have a conversation on searching for the truth, or at least nailing down the questions one should ask, without being dismissed as either being completely mad or belonging to the fringe territory (e.g., being a COVID denier - which I am not, by the way) I find it this aspect very challenging, Dimitrios
It occurs to me that the skeptical challenge is simply a manifestation of the Socratic Method. I can imagine Socrates engaging in an elenctic dialectic every time I encounter dogma.
The Oracle of Delphi left us with 3 Maxims to investigate and test -- their validity.
Nothing to Excess
Certainty Brings Ruin
The third one leads me to be wary and skeptical of certainty since it can be a form of insanity as was demonstrated recently in the midterms of the American election cycle....as the news pundits warned of a “red tsunami” because they were biased and wedded to previous occurrences of history, when the power of The White House is usually defanged during the middle of it’s term in office.
Being skeptical offers a refuge against the three lies politicians use to justify themselves i.e.; lies, damn lies and statistics. Socrates is the one that breathes the most life into the healthiness of being skeptical just by the way he asks questions to those who make claims based on their perceptions and use history as a defense against skepticism.
It seems that skepticism is a pillar of reasoning that adds to the credibility of “reason” being divine, since, it protects us from going over a cliff. And anything that contributes to our wellbeing and progresses us on the road to Ataraxia and Eudaimonia is divine -- because it will be another notch of lightness, happiness and joy....in our lives -- which (to me) is divine.
It's taken me a long time for me to get comfortable with skepticism, but I'm in a place now where I'm content with not having certitude about many fundamental things. I suspect a big part of why many other people struggle with skepticism is that they feel they need certitude in order to act in the world. I think of the example of a political activist, or an entrepreneur, who aspires to something daunting or seemingly unlikely, and believes in themselves in an almost delusional way. Shifting to a more probabilistic mindset (e.g. "I am unlikely to triumph, but there's still a chance and that might be worth doing") is probably very difficult for some people.
"investigation is the beginning of wisdom" .... Great quote for this topic.
(P.S... I bought a subscription at Medium because I was enjoying your practical advice ...eg. .. whether to fight Putin" ... and others relating real life to Stoic tenants. I went back and it was gone ... said "page not found" ... Are you bringing that section over to Figs.... ? )
It seems to me that a useful implication of the fallibilism perspective is that the problem of Truth is irreducible; it’s an artifact of the human mind conflating language universals with some presumed veridical reality.
This is demonstrated by the practical upshot of fallibilism, empirical methods. No scientist grapples day-to-day with the question of whether they are finding absolute Truth. Scientific truths are based not so much on infinite regress as infinite revision.
But, as you say, humans are intuitively uncomfortable with this uncertainty. They gravitate toward Beliefs about the world. I personally think this is best explored from the perspective of human coalitional psychology. But that’s probably off topic.
Looking forward to more posts on scepticism. Is there any chance you would do a sceptic meditations pod cast?