What are the differences between "I am certain" and "it is certain", and is passionate conviction ever sufficient for justifying knowledge?

Topics: Epistemology, Cognition, Evidence Pages: 5 (1877 words) Published: February 14, 2015
What are the differences between "I am certain" and "it is certain", and is passionate conviction ever sufficient for justifying knowledge?

In order to find the difference between the two, we first need to define what we mean by "certain". The first 'certain' refers to an individual being sure of or convinced. The second 'certain' means it is something that more than one person is sure of. The word Certainty means the acceptance without any doubt. . In both cases a knowledge claim is being made with confidence, but one person’s certainty is based on the individual’s perception, intuition, reason or emotion, whereas a whole group of mankind making a knowledge claim depends on many different people’s perceptions, reasons, and emotions.

The word certainty itself is kind of vague. It does not tell us certain to what “extent”. Thus it can vary from person to person. A question coming to my mind concerning the traditional definition is how one can establish something beyond doubt, and how one can know something definite.

I am certain that I am NAME daughter of MOTHER and FATHER. However, is it certain that I am who I think I am? Can I rely on what my parents and others have brought me up into thinking? Can I trust my birth certificate? My passport? How do I know that none of my documents have ever been changed? Is there a possibility that when I was still lying peacefully in my cradle at the hospital, somebody just came and exchanged me for somebody else? If I try to prove it with a DNA-test, how will I know for certain that the DNA-test is correct? Even though I am passionately convinced and certain, frustratingly I can probably never claim that it is absolutely certain that I am who I believe I am.

In every statement, no matter how many times it has been proven and justified, there will always be this tiny percentage of uncertainty. This essay will however be exploring some of the different areas of certainty, attempting to explain why absolute certainty is so impossible for an average human to ever attain. Using myself as an example: When I first came to study in Wales, I was absolutely certain that it was the Norwegian Viking Leiv Eiriksson who first discovered America. When we discussed the topic in class, I was quite surprised that the people from more continental Europe claimed they were certain that Christopher Columbus was the one. Following a Chinese girl came up with a Chinese name and an Arab with an Arabic name, all of us equally convinced that we were right. An indigenous American girl then raised her hand and said: "Well, I am certain that none of them discovered anything, because my people had already been living there for thousands of years when any of those first came!"1 These opinions are all expressions of subjective certainty, but at the same time a result of something perceived to be objective certainties in the countries we have originated from. By saying that, I mean that I am certain it was Leiv Eiriksson because I am relying on and believing in our ancient scripts and an authority both in the form of the Norwegian education and from what the older generations have passed on to me about it being certain. This means that in Norway, there is a "collective subjective certainty" (appearing to be an objective certainty), a wider social consensus where it has been assumed to be true and thereafter named "knowledge" that it was Leiv Eiriksson who discovered America. Knowledge will then be referring to those propositions that we are convinced are true, however that does not necessarily mean that they are universally and definitely true. The Norwegians have here justified their knowledge by combining the limited evidence we have with our passionate conviction, on the larger scale, outside of our borders the theory will most likely not be justified, as people will be reading the Norwegian evidence differently and claim that it cannot be proven. From the contemporary world's point of view, most...

Bibliography: Michael Woolman, Ways of Knowing - An introduction to Theory of Knowledge, 2000, IBID Press, Australia.
Internet sites:
Available from the World Wide Web: Accessed the 10th January 2005.
Available from the World Wide Web: Accessed the 10th January 2005.
Available from the World Wide Web: Accessed the 10th January 2005.
Available from the World Wide Web: Accessed the 10th January 2005.
Available from the World Wide Web: Accessed the 10th January 2005.
In order to answer the first part of the question, the term “certain” needs to be defined. It is important to note that there could be a number of different ways of defining certainty. For example, the definitions “perfect knowledge that has total security from error” and “a mental state of being without doubt” are very different from one another. One implies more room for error than the other. Two very specific different messages are conveyed when one says “I am certain” versus “it is certain.” When one says “I am certain,” it is understood by the recipient to mean that the individual is in the highest mental state of being without a doubt.
Since a great number of people consists of many individuals and their unique perceptions, reasons, and emotions, when a knowledge claim is made by all, the claim is transferred from simply a belief to a justified belief. However, even though the number of people may vary from one to many, we must take into consideration the fact that there are various degrees of certainty. How would one quantify amount of certainty one holds, or be able to create a universal scale for measuring degrees of certainty?
Certainty within a people or an individual can have been rooted from many different factors, of which one is passionate conviction.
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