Today, I was having a discussion with a professor about the nature of certainty. We were discussing how having too much certainty limits our capacity to respect and learn from the views of others. However, having too much doubt leads to insanity because the world then holds no meaning. It is then arguable that the perfect amount of certainty lies in between, and so we conceived that it would always be wise to question certainty. Not question as in doubt certainty, but as in to "know why you know what you know." After all, isn't that the fundamental idea behind science? Science is the testing and retesting of established beliefs in an attempt to disprove them for the sake of increasing our confidence of certainty. And of course, science is the means by which humans have made progress.
It then occurred to me that much of what we place certainty in, limits our perception of the world. Some people place certainty in the idea that there is a God. Some people place certainty in the idea that humans can truly understand the world around them through reason. Some people place certainty in the idea that humans are limited in their understanding of anything. Yet all of these are assumptions based entirely on the evidence of their inception. Religion, Rationalism, and Skepticism.
A religious person will see those who don't agree with their certainty of a God as sinners, people too proud to accept the word of God, or ignorant. A rational person will see those who don't agree with their certainty of being able to understand the entirety of the universe as being incapable of reasoning, dogmatic, or ignorant. And of course, a skeptic will see those who accept certainty too easily as closed minded, set in their ways, and...you guessed it...ignorant. All of these views have merit, and yet because they are certain about their belief in their particular view, all other views become inherently inferior. Their ability to percieve the world through the eyes of their fellow humans is sharply diminished.
So what things do people inevitably accept as certain? I believe that our values, the ideas which we have accepted from experience, are our fundamental limitations. People's values are the beliefs they are emotionally invested in, and with which they obtain the greatest security in understanding the world. So in order to understand a person, the limitations of their perceptions, and the strengths of their particular beliefs, one must understand a person's values.