Saturday, 30 December 2017

Certainty, like happiness, is meant to be a temporary state

Certainty is a chimera - in the sense that we cannot long be consciously certain. The consciousness dissipates the certainty: on reflection, certainty turns to smoke...

As children we are certain only because we are un-conscious - as soon as self-awareness begins to emerge, then so does uncertainty.

It is one of those things that simply formulating the question 'are you certain' leads to only one answer - that we are not certain: not absolutely 100 percent certain... We are not certain for every moment of every day, in all possible conditions...

In this mortal life, certainty is indeed attainable but only for our best 'moments' - because we are here to learn (the main purpose of sustained mortal life is learning) - and certainty is a motivation and a temporary reward for learning.

But it would be bad for any of us to get stuck passively 'basking in certainty', because there is always more for us to learn. Thus the conviction of certainty always subsides, and we return to striving...

In this sense, certainty is like happiness - it is intended to motivate us, and reward us - but not to be a steady state of being.

Indeed, it might be said that certainty is a form of happiness...


  1. Your penultimate sentence took the words of the reply I was formulating right out of my mouth and with added perspicacity. The moments of certainty usually--or always?--teach us that there is more to learn, a long way yet to go. No time for basking.

  2. I think that this can only be sustained on appealing to disparate interpretations of the term "certainty". We can and must strive to live in a state of constant moral certainty. We must never attempt to entertain even for a moment the deadly conceit of intellectual certainty.

    To understand that moral certainty is possible and required while intellectual certainty is baseless pride or at least vanity is the essence of the virtue of faith.

    I have never really understood in what sense the difference between these two kinds of "certainty" constituted any particular difficulty or paradox. I am aware that there are some terms that are used to refer to both kinds of certainty (obviously including "certainty"), but it's no more a basis for confusion than "inch" being both a noun and a verb. More relevantly, it is like the confusion over the idea that courage, the willingness to confront danger rather than cower at it, should turn out to be the safest course of action in the long run. The fact that courage gives you a good hope of surviving when cowardice would obviously doom you doesn't make courage cowardly. It just demonstrates why courage is a virtue.