I was banned from Uncommon Descent this morning for reasons unknown (though here is a plausible hypothesis). At the time of my banning, I was in the midst of a long discussion of absolute certainty and whether it can rationally be claimed. Since I can’t continue the discussion at UD, I’ll start a thread here instead and solicit the opinions of the very smart locals here at TSZ.
The question is whether there we can be absolutely certain of anything. I am not speaking of absolute certainty in the colloquial sense (“I’m absolutely certain I left the keys on the counter!”), but in the precise sense of 100.0% (unrounded) certainty, with literally no possibility at all of error — not even a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent chance of error.
It seems obvious to me that we cannot rationally claim that kind of certainty because we know that our minds are fallible. We know that we can be mistaken without realizing it, even in cases where we feel absolutely certain. The example I used at UD was the certainty many 19th-century scientists felt, before Einstein, about the “self-evident” absolute and distinct nature of space and time.
Given the ever-present possibility of error, I think it’s pure hubris to claim absolute certainty of anything – even something as seemingly inescapable as Descartes’ famous cogito.
Not surprisingly, the regulars at UD disagreed. Kairosfocus in particular was in hysterics over the supposed dire consequences of my view. What surprised me, though, was that Lizzie also disagreed with me. I am interested in hearing more about why she disagrees, and also in what the rest of you think.
Is absolute certainty possible? If so, what can we be absolutely certain about? What (if anything) justifies absolute certainty? I look forward to your answers.