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Quotes on uncertainty in philosophy

Mark Corner:

"It is the beliefs of which we can be most certain, [John Henry] Newman [author of University Sermons] argues, that play the least significant part in our lives. We can possess a mathematical certainty that two and two make four, but this rarely matters to us. On the other hand, we can never possess such a certainty that someone loves us. There is always a possibility of deceit or self-deception. But it is precisely the possibility of being wrong in believing that someone loves us that makes it appropriate to talk in this context of trust."

R. I. Page:

"According to Snorri (not in Voluspa but in Vagprudnismal), two humans will survive the holocaust [in Norse mythology at the end of the world], nourished by the morning dews. From them the new race of men will be born. So the whole sad business starts again. Gangleri would doubtless have wanted to know more, but High shuts him up firmly. ‘If you want to know anything after this, I’ve no idea where you are going to learn it from. I’ve heard nobody tell of the future of the world beyond this point. So make the most of what you have learnt.’ Which is probably as far as any philosopher has got."

Rene Descartes

"I will say nothing of philosophy except that it has been studied for many centuries by the most outstanding minds without having produced anything which is not in dispute and consequently doubtful and uncertain."

Alexander McCall Smith:

"She stopped. It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin."


Mark Corner, Does God Exist? New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991. p 28-29.

R. I. Page. Norse Myths. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990. p 66.

Rene Descartes. "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in the Field of Science." Discourse on Method and Meditations. Translated by Laurence J. Lafleur. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, 1960. p 8.

Alexander McCall Smith. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. (1998) New York: Random House, Anchor Books, 2002. p 85.


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