How can we know what we know? Can we be certain of anything? Paradoxically, one thing that we can be certain of is the need for doubt. Among the few obvious truths of life (to all but the megalomaniac) is the incompleteness of our understanding. The more we learn, the more we realize our ignorance, and the more we see still remains to be learned. Even the subjects which seem to promise us the most rock-solid and incontrovertible knowledge --- mathematics and physics --- present gaping chasms of uncertainty and incompleteness. We stand by the abyss of the unknown. The best we can do is recognize the limits of our knowledge, the bounds on what we can prove, the unavoidable errors in our measurements and predictions. We maintain a precarious balance on the edge of oblivion only through profound doubt. We do not know all. We cannot know all. But we can know that.

Tuesday, April 27, 1999 at 16:56:39 (EDT) = 1999-04-27


(correlates: Illusion of Perfectibility, MessyAndNeatCategories, SilenceNotIgnorance, ...)