I just came across, by one of those strange link-chains, this book called “From Certainty to Uncertainty”, by F. David Peat (curiously, today is his birthday — i actually wrote it yesterday but the coincidence was not disregardable). It’s hypothesis it that, at first, science was sought after for it would give us certainty, but now, on our brave new modern times, we are actually more bent towards uncertainty.
I do agree with him that certainty has gone passé, but i do not think it is big news. For crying out loud, good old Socrates already went on record to say that “all I know is that I know nothing” — though, yes, i know, this is probably an overly colourful translation. What i mean is: there has been no revolution on knowledge, there is no paradigm shift, the shift from certainty to uncertainty is not an event, it is just common sense.
The craving for certainty is just a temporary phase in education, this phase where you believe that your dad knows everything. And this phase passes away.
What’s more, transforming [TRUE|FALSE] into [TRUE…FALSE] — that is, swapping a world-view where ideas can be EITHER true or false for another world-view where between those two extrema we can have any number of possibilities — this is not so big a leap at all. This is just very basic epistemology.
But we need to note that Socrates’ uncertainty is very different than a child’s uncertainty. In other words, we must say that, if indeed the contemporary world was turning to uncertainty, it would not mean that it was coming back to it’s previous state of not knowing. Instead, it would be arriving at a new state where the absence of certainty is acknowledged. It is a growing in knowledge, not diminishing.
Thus this so-called new found taste for uncertainty and chaos is no more than our previous taste for certainty with a new weapon. We regale ourselves for our “acceptance of the irrational” when in fact we have only burdened it with a label. When we derail into the Situationist ideology of Dérive we are bragging about our capacity to understand what we don’t, actually (but inversely, by not claiming it, as Calvin would put).
And it smells of moral judgement. As in, you that denies the uncertainty is unworthy. Instead of negotiating issues that we see as being relegated, simply stating that the other camp is “denying uncertainty” will make any dialogue impossible: not only he is wrong, he is also despicable for being wrong.
When we say that this or that is “beyond formulas” we are actually hampering complexity, not enhancing it.
Thus i am very sceptic of embracing uncertainty. Or saying we are entering the era of uncertainty.