The Quest for Certainty

Reference: Mindfulness Research

Buddha declared.

“The Absolute Truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, and that there is no unchanging, everlasting, absolute substance like Self, Soul, or Ātman within or without.”

DEFINITION: Absolute means, “Viewed independently; not comparative or relative; ultimate; intrinsic.”

This postulate may appear self-contradictory to some, but it essentially says, “There are no absolute certainties; all certainties are relative.” This statement does not degrade any certainty we have. It simply means that one can always come up with a better certainty.

That is how science makes progress. Einstein declared the speed of light to be a universal constant. This is a certainty for now, but there possibly may be a wider context in which the speed of light is a special case.

Similarly, in the field of spirituality, we cannot be absolutely certain that self or soul is permanent. The phenomenon that is described as self or soul must be open to further investigation.

There is little progress possible for a person who believes his certainties are absolute. One can always improve upon a certainty one has by making sure it is based on truth.

Truth, as perceived, is never absolute. However, it shall proceed from one logical state to the next in a continuous manner. The truth in an area shall be harmonious, and it shall be reflected in the consistency of observations.

Thus, truth shall depend on the continuity, harmony and consistency of observations in an area. Determining the absolute truth may be an impossible task; but we shall definitely be able to restore truth in an area by resolving all discontinuities, disharmonies and inconsistencies.

The whole logical structure of the universe may be looked upon as a single truth. The universal truth may or may not be absolute, but it definitely acts as the context against which all other observation in the universe may be examined for truth.

Maybe if we start seeking continuity, harmony and consistency in everything, we may someday arrive much closer to the absolute truth, even if we never reach it. 


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  • Chris Thompson  On March 16, 2017 at 9:59 PM

    Certainty is an abstraction. Everyone has some of this, Sometimes with fervor (fever) as in religion.

    Maybe “accuracy” is a less understood concept? It gets mixed up with certainty a lot as in, “I’m certain which tells me it is true.”


  • Chris Thompson  On March 16, 2017 at 10:16 PM

    Accuracy and certainty are not correlates. A person may be quite certain while being quite wrong.


  • vinaire  On March 17, 2017 at 5:29 AM

    Concrete and abstract form a dichotomy. So they can act as two ends of a continuous scale.

    We may say that anything physical is concrete; anything mental is abstraction of physical; and anything spiritual is really abstract. But all of them are real.

    Certainty is “spiritual” type of abstraction.


  • vinaire  On March 17, 2017 at 5:30 AM

    Accuracy is a concept similar to truth. This has been taken up in the above essay.


  • vinaire  On March 17, 2017 at 5:33 AM

    This essay is a revision of the following two essays:


  • vinaire  On March 19, 2017 at 6:07 AM

    This essay defines the agnostic approach. There are gradients to knowing. Such gradients are always there. The ultimate knowledge is always out there like a carrot on a stick.

    This agnostic approach goes against absolutism. Absolutism is any theory, which holds that values, principles, etc., are absolute and not relative, dependent, or changeable.

    In this sense, Kant’s philosophy is absolutist when it describes a thing in itself, as distinguished from a phenomenon or thing as it appears. He is using black and white logic that allows no gradients in between.


  • vinaire  On March 19, 2017 at 7:07 AM

    What is in stark contrast to agnoticism is Kantian philosophy that believes in the absolutism that pure reason is beyond being sensed. It doesn’t admit of any gradient.

    In truth, there is a gradient scale between objectivity and subjectivity.


  • vinaire  On March 19, 2017 at 9:17 AM

    Reese Archer’s idea of “relative absolute” is a self-contradiction as expressed by ideas, such as, “dark light” or “evil good” or “stupid intelligence”. It is like defining one end of a scale by the other end. It collapses the whole scale as if it does not exist. It provides a beautiful study of inconsistency in thinking.

    This kind of thinking provides a window into Kantian philosophy. Kant’s idea of a “thing in itself” cannot be sensed and discriminated that way. It collapses the idea of space and matter into one. Space and Matter form the two ends of the electromagnetic spectrum. They are separated by a gradient of energy. Kant’s “thing in itself” is affirming of a “space material” where all energy has been collapsed into nothingness. Again it provides a beautiful study of inconsistency in thinking that is being justified.


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