Just Above Sunset
Volume 5, Number 10
March 11, 2007


 The world as seen from Just Above Sunset -

"Notes on how things seem from out here in Hollywood..."

Quotes for the week of January 21, 2007 - Certainty

"Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on 'I am not too sure.'" - H. L. Mencken

"The defining characteristic of the conservative is that he knows what he doesn't know... The first thing to say is that this philosophy is not warmed-over relativism or nihilism. While the fundamentalist knows the truth, the nihilist believes it is an illusion, that nothing is true, and everything is valid. The conservative differs from both. While not denying that the truth exists, the conservative is content to say merely that his grasp on it is always provisional. He may be wrong. He begins with the assumption that the human mind is fallible, that it can delude itself, make mistakes, or see only so far ahead. And this, the conservative avers, is what it means to be human." - Andrew Sullivan

"The look of success, when it is worn a certain way, would infuriate a jackass." - Albert Camus

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." - Albert Einstein

"Certainty - When one is mistaken at the top of one's voice." - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof." - Ashley Montague

"A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree or certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world suffers." - Bertrand Russell

"A bird in the hand is a certainty, but a bird in the bush may sing." - Bret Harte

"A man must have a certain amount of intelligent ignorance to get anywhere." - Charles Kettering

"Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. Thus a feeling of utter unworthiness can be a source of courage." - Eric Hoffer

"I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren't certain we knew better." - George Bird Evans

"All moral laws are merely statements that certain kinds of actions will have good effects." - George Edward Moore

"In terms of the game theory, we might say the universe is so constituted as to maximize play. The best games are not those in which all goes smoothly and steadily toward a certain conclusion, but those in which the outcome is always in doubt. Similarly, the geometry of life is designed to keep us at the point of maximum tension between certainty and uncertainty, order and chaos. Every important call is a close one. We survive and evolve by the skin of our teeth. We really wouldn't want it any other way." - George Leonard

"If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." - Henry David Thoreau

"Religion consists of a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain." - Mark Twain

"Devout believers are safeguarded in a high degree against the risk of certain neurotic illnesses; their acceptance of the universal neurosis spares them the task of constructing a personal one." - Sigmund Freud

"It is certain because it is impossible." [Certum est quia impossibile] - Tertullian, De Carne Christi, V

"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." - Vaclav Havel

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts: but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties." - Francis Bacon

"When we are not sure, we are alive." - Graham Greene


Last updated Saturday, March 10, 2007, 10:30 pm Pacific Time

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Alan M. Pavlik