The search for certainty | Simon Blackburn, Hilary Lawson, Ruth Chang


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Should we give up the dream of certainty?

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We look for certainty to know where we are, to feel safe. Descartes founded modern Western philosophy on the search for certainty. And in our daily lives we have institutions to create the illusion of certainty, marriage in the precarious world of relationships, schools and universities in the world of knowledge. For psychologists tell us that uncertainty is one of the strongest predictors of distress. Yet certainty is also the enemy of progress and change, and as Eric Fromm argued 'The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning'. To be certain is to have ended enquiry, to have called a halt to the new and the original, to have in a sense already died.

Should we recognise the pursuit of certainty in our personal lives, in our pursuit of knowledge, and in religion and philosophy is destined to fail? Should we instead welcome, even encourage, the uncertain and the unknown as a vehicle for growth and potential? Or without the safety of the known are we all lost?

Distinguished philosophy professor Simon Blackburn, maverick post post-modern philosopher Hilary Lawson and ground-breaking philosopher of value Ruth Chang question whether we can be certain about anything. Maria Balaska hosts.

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