This is about achieving certainty, but it is also about more than that. It’s a summary of a thinking process that leads to certainty, that leads to the confidence that what you claim to know is indeed true.
So what is certainty?
It’s a measure of how much evidence there is for a particular proposition, claim or assertion. If a proposition is supported by all of the evidence, and if no evidence contradicts it, our level of certainty will be high. But we must remember that if another competing proposition is similarly supported by evidence, then our certainty is reduced to probable.
Certainty is a concept that lies on a spectrum:
Possible – probable – very likely – beyond a reasonable doubt – 100% certain
And we are looking for a method that gets us to the level of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. Don’t worry about 100% certainty. It is widely agreed that the standard of certainty used by the legal system in most western nations in prosecuting crimes, is sufficient for all practical purposes. People are sent to jail on this level of certainty. Although some philosophers would like to tie you up in knots with theories that claim there is no certainty, this is a massive red herring, a distraction.
It’s very important to remember that the feeling of being certain is not the same as epistemological certainty. People crave the feeling of certainty because epistemological certainty is a survival requirement. A Lack of certainty causes anxiety. Don’t be tempted to reach for short cuts, such as jumping to conclusions, making up facts, or relying on feelings.
The Process leading to Certainty
So what is this thinking process that can result in us achieving a high degree of certainty and leave us convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that our conclusions correspond to the reality of what is going on? In the podcast, I use the example of the alleged coronavirus pandemic as I share with you my thinking process.
Thinking is a self-initiated and purposeful mental activity with the aim of finding something out or gaining knowledge.
Knowledge is the correct identification of some aspect (or aspects) of reality.
Our purpose is to identify the aspects of reality (for a given issue) to a ‘certainty standard’ of “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Initial steps (as discussed in the podcast)
- Establish purpose.
- Check objectivity.
- Gather all the information.
- Check definitions.
Main process (as discussed in the podcast)
- Ask Questions.
- Observe full context.
- Have I checked for contradictions and eliminated the impossible?
- Separate inter-related issues.
- What is this idea assuming? Pre-suppositional analysis.
- Have I identified the fundamentals?
- Where will this lead? What will happen as a result? – implications.
- Evaluate all the arguments.
- Evaluate certainty.
Finally, you must integrate any conclusions you reach into your existing knowledge. And, as you do so, you must remain vigilant to see if there are any contradictions. Assuming the most recent conclusion is true, this can flag up older thoughts and ideas that may also need to be updated.
Treehouse Farm, July 14th 2020