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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1947

(2) Cult of Uncertainty

(2) Cult of Uncertainty.

A little while back we asked whether or not it was possible to meet this need for certainty and yet reconcile the individual to the fact of uncertainty about the ultimate nature of life, human destiny and so on. The answer to be given here is in the affirmative. It depends on the belief that philosophers over the last 2,000 years have formulated a wrong conception of the nature of our knowledge. They have believed that man's knowledge came primarily through his inquiring intellect, whereas since Darwin the biological, anthropological and psychological sciences have made clear that man's knowledge of his world is basically emotional, social, aesthetic, erotic, religious, practical, etc. The way then to overcome man's uncertainty is not to proceed as Descartes, but rather to adjust man more satisfactorily in the emotional and other mentioned ways of knowing. In other words, it is necessary to meet man's non-intellectual needs in non-intellectual terms. Man may well achieve sentient security in the Universe which he will never achieve in rational terms page 11 alone. Philosophy does a disservice to man as it continues in the failure to realize this. Given this basic emotional security and sensitive adjustment, the limited place of intellectual knowledge (science and generalizations consistent with it) may be calmly accepted.

This may be seen more clearly if we realize that no other sphere of experience would alone be expected to tell all about life. For example. Could we achieve security and certainty purely on the basis of aesthetic feelings? Surely not? Then why should we expect it from the intellect alone? In actual fact the limitations of intellectual knowledge are in accord with the limitations of every other modality of experience taken by itself. Certainty and knowledge increase in strength as man develops harmoniously and fully in all aspects of his many-sided nature. Distortions arise as we have seen due to the improper adjustment between types of experience—a key problem which can only be barely indicated here. For example, we have valid religious experiences and valid intellectual (in this case psychological) knowledge. In this instance our intellectual interpretation of the religious experience is required to be in line with the degree of scientific knowledge we have on the matter. On the other hand the reality and vividness (naturalistic) of these religious experiences which add feelings of depth and worthwhileness to life, must not be neglected, by any intellectual interpretation we give these experiences.

It should be emphasized that a view such as this does not belittle the function of intelligence. The main emphasis of this article is on the necessity of development in all areas of experience to answer this quest for certainty—and the intellectual is after all one such area of experience. Any restrictions put upon it are believed to be in accord with its own nature.

It is the religious, as well as aesthetic and erotic areas of experience which offer the less apparent challenge to development. Apart from the traditional over estimation of the place of intellectual development the more obvious challenge is clearly that of providing an economic and social order which ensures individual security and social well being, and thereby greater opportunity for these other types of development. Given this—and that is the immediate task—the aesthetic and other areas may reveal untold possibilities of meaningfulness. The bases of such meaning however begin in the present attempt to adapt oneself for further development—socially by increasing sensitivity to the needs of others, aesthetically by acquiring the necessary skills and appreciations for such development, etc.

But these are only suggestions, for a few modes of experience. They provide a clue to the individual who feels that radical sincerity prevents him going beyond scientific fact. The clue is to a metaphysic of development which is not however something mystical and other-worldly as metaphysics tend to be. Its basis is the ordinary common garden knowledge of psychology. The enrichment and meaning that may result in ordinary life via the adequate development of all potentialities.