Can We Be Certain?

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Paidion
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Can We Be Certain?

Post by Paidion » Tue Aug 27, 2013 9:19 pm

This is a spinoff from a comment Matt Rose made in another thread.
Mattrose wrote:We may be using the term 'certainty' differently. I'm not sure.

I can't be absolutely certain, for instance, that there is a God. I believe I know God, but there is always the possibility that I am delusional. I can't even know for certain that everything I call existence is not part of some computer program like The Sims. I can't be absolutely certain that my wife is faithful b/c I'm not with her every moment of the day (and even if I was... I wouldn't know what's going on in her mind each moment).

I live based on things that I consider highly likely to be true based on Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. The more important an area (faith, family, friends), the more factors there are involved. This makes absolute certainty impossible. I may be able to be certain that 1+1 equals 2. But, then again, who cares? It is only pretty much insignificant things that even come close to absolute certainty.
So Matt, if I understand you correctly, we can be certain only of logical or mathematical propositions which can be proved logically, and which in some sense are trivial.

We have neither a priori certainty, nor a posteriori certainty. That is, there is no certainty based on direct perception apart from observation, nor is there any certainty based on experiential data, that is, there is no empirical certainty.

Do I understand you correctly?
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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mattrose
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Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by mattrose » Tue Aug 27, 2013 9:47 pm

I think so.

I am highly influenced, here, by an author named Daniel Taylor and his 2 books "The Myth of Certainty" and "The Skeptical Believer."

Of course, I do not mean, by this, that we can't live AS IF we are certain. Indeed, that is what we are called to do, I believe. But I do mean that we must walk by faith. We can't be certain about ANY worldview. But it is more reasonable to select one and live it out than to try not to b/c of uncertainty. And it makes sense to select the one that has the best evidence on its side.

This is the 2nd spinoff thread from my comments. Perhaps I am misguided here?
http://theos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=69&t=4568

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steve
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Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by steve » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:41 pm

If we claim absolute certainty about any given thing, it means we are not open to learning more about that matter. I don't want to be beyond correction on anything.

I am "certain" about many important things, in the sense that I have no doubt about them. However, intellectual humility requires that I admit that there may be room for correction even on those matters for which I currently see no reason for doubt. The evidence that would be required to change my mind on certain things (like whether my parents exist) would have to be incredibly persuasive.

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mattrose
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Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by mattrose » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:28 am

steve wrote: I am "certain" about many important things, in the sense that I have no doubt about them. However, intellectual humility requires that I admit that there may be room for correction even on those matters for which I currently see no reason for doubt. The evidence that would be required to change my mind on certain things (like whether my parents exist) would have to be incredibly persuasive.
I agree with this. My list of areas in which I have 'no doubt' may be shorter than Steve's, though.... but that, I think, may more often have to do with personality types and/or a longer list of experiences.

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Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by steve7150 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:55 am

I can't be absolutely certain, for instance, that there is a God.









I accept the fact that my belief in God is certain within my sphere of understanding but my understanding can be limited so my certainty may be wrong. To me i think about the fact that trillions times trillions of transactions must occur every second for life to exist and for the universe to function. Therefore are these transactions self directed or directed by a "Source" greater then the transactions added together. So my logic tells me there simply must be a Source and hence "God." Paul uses a similar logic i think in Romans 1 so this logical deduction is called "faith."

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mattrose
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Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by mattrose » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:32 am

I think of 'faith' as believing/living the Christian story in its completion even though we are currently not yet in the final chapter.

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Paidion
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Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by Paidion » Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:16 pm

My concept of faith is that it is that mentality by which we are able to live our lives at all. We live by hope (fond expectation). When you sit down in a chair, you are acting on your faith that it will support you. You don't KNOW (in an absolute sense) that it will. Indeed, I once saw a man sit in a chair which immediately collapsed below him.

When you enter your car, you expect it to start. You have faith that it will start (perhaps based on its past performance). Notwithstanding, it may NOT start.

There seems to be 3 main types of faith:

1. Experiential faith. This is faith which one exerts in someone or some object or device based on our past experience with this person, object, or device. We expect this person to behave in a way similar to which he/it behaved in the past.

2. Experimental Faith This is faith which one exerts in some untested person or object or device based on the reputation of the person or object or device, or of our study of the same. After having acted on experimental faith, our future acting with regard to the same entity will be experiential.

3. Blind Faith This is the "faith" which some mothers exert toward their children, "My boy would NEVER do a thing like that!" even when such a mother is confronted by indisputable evidence of her son's misbehaviour. Many non-Christians think that Christian faith is of the blind variety.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 82.

SteveF

Re: Can We Be Certain?

Post by SteveF » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:23 pm

This is the best message I've ever heard on the subject of faith, doubt and certainty. If you're a naturally skeptical and questioning person like me, do yourself a favour and give it a listen.


Audio
http://media.themeetinghouse.ca/podcast ... sermon.mp3

Video
http://media.themeetinghouse.tv/vpodcas ... -video.m4v

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