In discussions I have had with christian presuppositionalists the question of certainty often comes up. The presupper will ask if I am sure about a given conclusion and the implication is that if I am not sure then my world view is somehow lacking or invalid as a consequence of my uncertainty. However there is some confusion as to what the word means to each of us. For the presupper it means absolute perfect knowledge about something, that is knowledge without the possibility of being in error. For me it is a reasoned strong conclusion from the premises and or evidence. A conclusion attained without reasonable doubt.
For example I am certain that two plus two is four. This is a very strong conclusion from the premise of number theory, but is number theory correct? Any deductive conclusion is only as good as its premises and if the premises are invalid so is the conclusion. Induction on the other hand is by its very definition tentative in nature and can not furnish you with absolute epistemological certainty.
This is why I ascribe to the justification model of knowledge and not the correspondence model. In the correspondence model knowledge is only knowledge if it actually corresponds to reality. The claim that the electron has a negative charge is knowledge only if the electron really and truly does have a negative charge. In the justification model the claim that the electron has a negative charge is valid knowledge if that is the reasonable conclusion from what evidence there is that bears on the question. If we are rational and honest with ourselves we will realize that we are all using the justification method for no other reason then as the pre suppers are so often heard to say “are you sure”. There is no way to ever be certain by the presuppers standard. If you appeal to evidence then your conclusion is only as good as your evidence and you are using the justification method, if you claim divine revelation well the same question still applies, are you sure, are you sure that was god? You say you felt it was, but are you sure you’re feelings were correct? and so on….
Some people simply can not accept or deal with the inherent level of uncertainty in our conclusions about reality. They pine away for simple answers to complex questions hand delivered to them on a silver platter. No mental effort required, no uncertainly, just the comforting certainty of a child that believes his parents know best. Well for those people I have a simple argument to address their worry, their concern… are you ready… here it is…
Grow the fuck up! so you can’t deal with it. I can, so please don’t project your emotional limitations onto me. Within the confines of my worldview absolute epistemological certainly is not something that has any value, it is not even a standard of knowledge. This is not a problem, it is just the name of the game and I roll with it.
Something else related to this topic that has occurred to me.
Authoritarians seem to have a real issue with analytical thought, that is they don’t wish to put forth the effort. They always go with the simple answer that results from least mental effort. When I am confronted with a question, issue, or problem I analyse it. I try to find out what evidence bears on it. What are the premises. I try to learn as much about it as I can and validate this by comparing it to my sensory inputs of reality. When all this is done I can sometimes come to a conclusion whose strength varies in degree proportional to the about of evidence I have and how much I was able to learn about it. In short in I analyze the crap out of it and come to tentative justifiable conclusions about it. Now compare this to authoritarians, they act like little children afraid to think for themselves. Afraid to make mistakes, afraid to be seen in error. I think this stems from the fact that they strongly identify with their beliefs. They defined themselves by what they believe. Thus an attack on their beliefs is an attack upon themselves. What a low sense of self esteem they must have. I don’t define myself by my conclusions. I define myself by my methods to my conclusions. I am a being capable of being rational and a being that places a moral virtue upon being rational. My conclusions will change from time to time as I learn of new things. Thus for me an attack on one of my conclusions is an attack on the reasoning I used, not myself. I have confidence in myself that I can reason and that I can obtain a measure of knowledge despite sometimes making mistakes. I think for myself and do not usually automatically defer to an authority. In short I grew up, only children and immature adults can’t deal with the uncertainties of life and crave for the unearned, namely omnisense…