# Absolute certainty

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Fri 17 Oct, 2008 04:20 pm
Here's an interesting thought... What can we actually logically know with absolute certainty? With no doubt whatsoever, that those things are correct... One thing at least is that you, if you are reading this and thinking about it and experiencing it, you exist. Your Self. You exist, there can be no doubt about that. I would also argue that you can be a hundred percent certain about mathematics. 1 + 1 can't be anything other than 2, when you picture it in your mind. I know some people will disagree on the math part, I've never understood how though... Anyone care to explain?

nameless

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 12:55 am
@Stormalv,
100% certainty is both anti-scientific and fanatical/delusional; the world of fundamentalism (beliefs) and it's exclusionary totalitarian horrors! 100% certainty means any critical thought is eliminated. After all, now you know Truth! Ego rather than intellect.

*****************
1+1=1
1 drop of water added to 1 drop of water equals one drop of water.

Khethil

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 04:54 am
@nameless,
... at the risk of showing my ignorance

nameless wrote:
1+1=1
1 drop of water added to 1 drop of water equals one drop of water.

Can't use math for such a broad-reaching question (one in which my sense is that, as structured, there is no answer) since mathematics is a human-created system of representations whose syntax ensures certain conclusions. It's "stacking the deck" or a "self-constructed truth". Mathematics states itself, makes up its worn rules, then states itself to be true while we step back, clapping in tearful awe at "nature".

<goes back to his "Math for Dummies" book>

Stormalv

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 05:10 am
@nameless,
nameless;28150 wrote:
100% certainty is both anti-scientific and fanatical/delusional; the world of fundamentalism (beliefs) and it's exclusionary totalitarian horrors! 100% certainty means any critical thought is eliminated. After all, now you know Truth! Ego rather than intellect.

*****************
1+1=1
1 drop of water added to 1 drop of water equals one drop of water.

Yes, but now you're talking about a specific physical situation. Like I said, I'm talking about mathematics on a pure mind-level. If you imagine 1 thing in your mind, and another thing next to it, you there have 2 objects next to each other, in your mental picture, right? Absolute certainty doesn't mean that you don't think critically, but how can I possibly not exist? I simply do, there's no way of doubting that.

Theaetetus

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 09:39 am
@Stormalv,
Stormalv wrote:
Absolute certainty doesn't mean that you don't think critically, but how can I possibly not exist? I simply do, there's no way of doubting that.

Sure there is. You could be deceived to you own existence. Call it the evil genius, the brain in a vat, or the Matrix. It is actually quite easy to doubt that you exist.

Stormalv

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 09:56 am
@Theaetetus,
I'm obviously not talking about my physical body, or the world around me, but the Self, who I really am, the one experiencing everything.

Theaetetus

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 10:55 am
@Stormalv,
Stormalv wrote:
I'm obviously not talking about my physical body, or the world around me, but the Self, who I really am, the one experiencing everything.

Here is where deception really comes into play because the self and others can deceive oneself as to who they really are. I don't think you can absolutely know who you are unless you understand the metaphysical purpose of humans in the grand scheme of things.

ariciunervos

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 11:59 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
Sure there is. You could be deceived to you own existence. Call it the evil genius, the brain in a vat, or the Matrix. It is actually quite easy to doubt that you exist.

Then you are certain about doubting. Will you then doubt that you're doubting ? Solipsism is strange...

MJA

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 12:35 pm
@Stormalv,
Absolute Certainty: Life without measure is truly equal, united, undivided, univerally One, or free.

=
MJA

nameless

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 02:16 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;28170 wrote:

Can't use math for such a broad-reaching question (one in which my sense is that, as structured, there is no answer) since mathematics is a human-created system of representations whose syntax ensures certain conclusions. It's "stacking the deck" or a "self-constructed truth". Mathematics states itself, makes up its worn rules, then states itself to be true while we step back, clapping in tearful awe at "nature".

Hahahaha! Thats quite concise and true! Well stated!

TickTockMan

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 02:30 pm
@Stormalv,
Stormalv;28210 wrote:
I'm obviously not talking about my physical body, or the world around me, but the Self, who I really am, the one experiencing everything.

nameless

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 02:32 pm
@Stormalv,
Stormalv;28174 wrote:
Absolute certainty doesn't mean that you don't think critically..

Of course it does, at least in the area of 'belief'. Absolute certainty means that you 'know it all' and need know no more as there can be no more to know. 'Belief' and 'critical thought' are diametrical opposites, the more of one, the less of the other.

Stormalv

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 05:58 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;28220 wrote:
Here is where deception really comes into play because the self and others can deceive oneself as to who they really are. I don't think you can absolutely know who you are unless you understand the metaphysical purpose of humans in the grand scheme of things.

That's not what I said either, was it? I'm saying that I can be certain that I exist. If you don't get it, I can't explain it any better, because it's really simple.

paulhanke

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 07:17 pm
@Stormalv,
... Cogito Ergo Sum ... a phrase borne from the abyss of doubt ... is it a statement of certainty? - not in the least ... it is a statement of experiential evidence that overwhelmingly outweighs the doubt ...

TickTockMan

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 09:57 pm
@Stormalv,
Stormalv;28265 wrote:
That's not what I said either, was it? I'm saying that I can be certain that I exist. If you don't get it, I can't explain it any better, because it's really simple.

Again I will ask, how can you be certain? It's a simple question, honestly asked. I am not confident in the certainty of my own existence, and would like to know the method by which you are confident of your own. I'm serious.

I do have to make it a bit more challenging by asking you to please not respond by saying, "I just know it" or any variation of "Cogito Ergo Sum," which has always struck me as a bit of a cop-out . . . much like Einstein's quote of "God doesn't play dice with the universe," when he was finding himself unable to come to terms with unifying the theories of Quantum Mechanics with his own Theory of Relativity.

Thank you.

paulhanke

Sat 18 Oct, 2008 10:42 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
I am not confident in the certainty of my own existence, and would like to know the method by which you are confident of your own. I'm serious.

... I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here ... at question here is "absolute certainty" ... which seems to render the phrase "confident in the certainty of" somewhat incoherent ... am I confident that I exist? - yes ... Cogito Ergo Sum ... am I absolutely certain that I exist? - no ... that I don't exist will always remain a possibility - a doubt that even Cogito Ergo Sum cannot erase ...

TickTockMan wrote:
I do have to make it a bit more challenging by asking you to please not respond by saying, "I just know it" or any variation of "Cogito Ergo Sum," ...

... DOH! - and here I've used it three times already!!! ... anyhoo, if what you're talking about is mere confidence, is it fair to ask Stormalv to refrain from invoking experiential evidence? ... after all, isn't experience all we have access to of anything? ... on the other hand, if what you're talking about is absolute certainty, then sure - experiential evidence is off the table simply because (according to contemporary philosophy of science) no amount of affirming evidence can prove the certainty of anything ...

TickTockMan

Sun 19 Oct, 2008 01:57 am
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;28307 wrote:
... I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here ... at question here is "absolute certainty" ... which seems to render the phrase "confident in the certainty of" somewhat incoherent ...

Okay, perhaps I worded that poorly. Let's say that while I like to believe that I exist, I cannot say with any degree of certainty, in the sense that I can prove it, that I do.

My question was, when Stormalv said "I'm certain I exist," how can he be so certain? Surely I can't be the only one out there who questions his own existence, and if there's someone out there who doesn't, I'd like to know how they acquired this certainty, because I think it would be handy knowledge to have.

paulhanke;28307 wrote:
is it fair to ask Stormalv to refrain from invoking experiential evidence? ... after all, isn't experience all we have access to of anything? ...

Fair doesn't have anything to do with it.

I asked that this type of explanation be avoided sheerly out of my own desire for something deeper. Saying "I think, therefore I am" doesn't work for me, so offering this to me as an explanation is useless in my own journey of self-discovery. I see it as an argument ender on par with someone saying, "It's true because it says so in the Bible," when you're having a theological disagreement with them.

Now, at this point one could say, "Well, TickTockMan, in your post here I can't help but notice that you keep using words like 'I' and 'me' and other self-referential terms. Doesn't that seem to indicate that there is a 'you' that exists to ask these questions?"

This would be a reasonable question, but largely irrelevant in that it doesn't really help, and it doesn't really address the fundamental issue of what, exactly, constitutes "I." The phrase "Cogito Ergo Sum" sounds wise on the surface, but it never really addresses the underlying question of what the "self" actually is, or how one can know that what one experiences, or thinks about, is anything more than illusion, or for that matter if "The Self" is any more than an illusion.

From the mind's perspective (and this is an important distinction), are experiences had in dreams, or under the influence of psychedelics any less real than "regular" experiences? There are several cultures that would say "no." Are they simply wrong? I don't have the special knowledge to say this with authority and experience a good feeling about it.

The moment one begins to express doubt about the existence of The Self, does not the value of experiential evidence as any sort of proof of one's existence also fall under a similar cloud of doubt? There seems to be very little room for wiggling around here. Either one is confident in the existence of their Self as defined by their experiences and goes about their day without giving anything beyond that concept a second thought . . . or one does not, and keeps digging further into what seems to be an infinitely deep hole.

Then again, I could be wrong. How should I know anyway? This just happens to be the experience my mind is having at 2 in the morning. When I wake up tomorrow I may spend the day refuting myself.

Thanks for wading through my rambling.

Respectful regards to all,
Tock.

Khethil

Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:27 am
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
. . . or one does not, and keeps digging further into what seems to be an infinitely deep hole.

... and there you've hit the cruxt of it. Self doubt is a good thing, but only to a certain point. Its best use (imho) is to mitigate and smooth the ego towards new possibilities and understandings, not thrust us into absurdity. Which is where we end up when we take too literally the notion "We can't *know* anything".

A long time ago I took that trip with Rene'. I too ended up in the same place: I am this thing, this thinking thing. How did I know this? Did I know this beyond ALL doubt? No... no one can. But those thoughts did exist. Whence they came, how they work, how might they be quantified; all doubts change *not* that basic intuitive fact that I was having them - something was there.

If I, or anyone, was to doubt even that, I deny the existence of the thought I'm trying to work through. The snake eats itself tail first and nothing remains.

... and we're not nothing, are we? Far too much evidence on our effects, actions, perceptions and senses tell us otherwise. I guess what I'm saying is this: At a certain, most-basic level we necessarily need to accept that what strikes us as counter-intuitive - what puts us in a needless circle of absurdity (read: that doubt) is probably unwarranted. I suppose on the strictest level of empiricism that's not enough, but it seems reasonable, logical and productive to me.

Hope this helps the discussion in some way.

Thanks

Stormalv

Sun 19 Oct, 2008 04:36 am
@Khethil,
How I can be so sure? Actually the answer is as simple as "I just know", or "I think, therefore I exist", even if that isn't enough to satisfy you. I see no way how I can not exist, so it's better to reverse the question to you. How can I possibly not exist? Or should I say, how can you possibly not exist. (For I of course could be a mere hallucination from your perspective)

paulhanke

Sun 19 Oct, 2008 07:30 am
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan wrote:
The moment one begins to express doubt about the existence of The Self, does not the value of experiential evidence as any sort of proof of one's existence also fall under a similar cloud of doubt?

... exactly my point - once doubt outweighs the inner experience of "I am", you're done ... that's the "Big Bang" of experience - if doubt outweighs that, doubt outweighs all experience ... that includes the experience of an outer world, the experience of the scientific method - everything - simply because all of these secondary experiences are easier to doubt than the primal experience of "I am" ...

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