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Friday, June 12, 2009

But, of course!

Today is Friday --so sure, are you?

There is a story about two philosophers taking a walk. One says that the external world is just our imagination; the other gets angry and to show that the external world is not just his imagination, kicks a large rock and breaks his toe. He then feels justified in saying that the external world exists independent of our minds.

The above book, On Being Certain, may call the above into question, although I am not sure, as I haven't read it. I do know it's an analysis of this notion of "being certain," and claims that being certain is really a feeling as opposed to a rational mental state.

An example from the book goes as follows: on the day after the Challenger exploded after takeoff, the writer asked his undergraduate students to write down where they were and what they were doing when they found out about the explosion. He kept their responses. Then, 2 years later, he again asked them to write down where they were and what they were doing when they found out about the Challenger disaster. Most people responded differently than they had the day after, although most were absolutely certain they were correct about their locations and activities.

The notion that certainty is so unreliable is a disturbing prospect that clearly has implications for the world of pants. In the past I have certainly asked questions such as, What makes a pair of pants good? and Do we experience pants the way they really are in 'reality?' I, of course, am immune to pant fallacy, but you, dear reader, not being in the same league as myself, are certainly susceptible to pant misconception.

Take a look at this specimen of pants. You might think they are fairly nice trousers.



Now, take a look at these "pants," circa 1982. You may be certain that they are awful and certainly much worse than the previous pair.

Why are you so certain the first pair is better? What if you're certain the first pair is better? Why? You may give "logical" reasons, yet the fact remains you cannot be certain, even though you feel you are.

As I will explain later, pant certainty does not arise from systematic rationality, but from a pant mysticism which only few can learn and master. But beware the dark side, for once you start down that road, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Ah, yes, much to learn you still have...