Chapter 1: Demarcating Certainty, Uncertainty, and Doubt


Investigating the nature of ontology requires the use of epistemic criteria. These can include the criteria of truth and of knowledge—with the latter itself most often incorporating notions of truth. The criterion of truth, however, takes for granted the presence of some form of reality as an ontological given. In this manner, the criterion of truth will make unsubstantiated affirmations of what is ontological prior to any enquiry into the nature of ontology is begun. Hence, whenever one makes use of truth in one’s investigations of reality, one will aprioristically presume some of the very same ontological conclusions one intends to arrive at—resulting in an unavoidable circularity of argumentation.

In attempts to best circumvent this complication, this treatise will rely upon the epistemic criterion of certainty rather than those of truth and knowledge.

To present a comprehensive overview of certainty as criterion, a range of certainty types, uncertainty types, and forms of doubt will be here demarcated through the absence or presence of two types of formally defined alternatives. So doing will allow psychological and epistemic certainties to be defined using the same approach and to be placed on the same spectrum. Additionally, the current philosophical problems of defining epistemic certainty via indubitability, via the property of truth, and via justifiability to the highest degree[1] will here likewise be circumvented.

That expressed, this chapter's principle import is its distinction between two forms of epistemic certainty: one being that of infallible certainty, which is evidenced to lack justifiable alternatives in principle, and the other being that of unfalsified certainty, which cannot be as of yet evidenced to hold justifiable alternatives in practice.

Because this chapter intends a comprehensive account of its subject matter as a foundation to all that follows, it will be significantly larger than average. However, only three sections are requisite to the remaining portions of this work: §1.1, which gives preliminary definitions and concepts, §1.2.1, which addresses the distinction between ontic certainties and subjective certainties, and §1.2.5, which details the two epistemic certainties just mentioned. If brevity is desired, the three sections just specified may be read while overlooking the other contents of this chapter.

1.1. Definitions and Concepts

  1. psychological certainty: a consciously held certainty that holds the potential to be validly contested by anyone other or, else, by the bearer at some future point in time.
  2. epistemic certainty: a consciously held certainty that can neither be validly contested by anyone other nor by the bearer at any future point in time, this for as long as it so validly remains an epistemic certainty
  3. verdict: an either implicitly held or else expressed judgment
  4. ontic: addressing what held, holds, or will hold the property of being in the broadest sense possible; hence, contingent on ontological perspectives, that which is ontic can be inclusive of everything that factually was, is, or will be, and of what is factually time-invariant. The term ontic thus understood will minimally encapsulate what is subjective, what is objective, what is real, what is possible, what is fictional, what is false, what is good, or any other qualifier for the concept of being as expressed through the phrases what was […], what is […], and what will be […]. It is noted that the sole discernable exception—this contingent upon utilized ontology—will be the metaphysically oriented phrase of what was, is, or will be nothingness (such as when affirming that nothingness once was—hence, in this example, that nothingness once held the property of being); whether or not the metaphysical notion of nothingness can be validly upheld to have been, to be, or to shall be ontic will, for the purposes of this chapter, be left open-ended.
  5. subjective: addressing anything whose being is contingent upon sentience—i.e., as here intended, upon any one or more entities endowed with any type or degree of awareness. Examples of subjective givens include thoughts, beliefs, intentions, emotions, and percepts.
  6. inferential: addressing subjective givens obtained or held through conscious reasoning regardless of the reasoning’s degree and quality—by which is included reasoning's properties of validity or fallacy. Therefore, that which is inferential shall here encapsulate all arguments made, and conclusions obtained, through error-free reasoning as well as all arguments made, and conclusions obtained, through erroneous reasoning. This is so because the latter will nevertheless constitute subjective givens obtained or held through some variant of conscious reasoning rather than, for example, through immediate experience.
  7. noninferential: addressing subjective givens obtained or held through means other than that of conscious reasoning. Examples can include subjective givens obtained or held within conscious awareness a) through unconscious reasoning, e.g. tacit knowledge of how to remember context-specific memories at proper times; b) through emotions, e.g. a cognized affinity held for some newly encountered person one is not yet significantly familiar with; c) through perception, e.g. the cognized smell of a particular fruit; and d) through intuition, e.g. information obtained via an eureka moment.
  8. alternative: one of two or more mutually exclusive possibilities regarding the same ontic given that, as an alternative, holds the potential to compete with its other alternatives for what was, is, or will be—if not so actively competing.
  9. ontic alternative: an alternative whose being is indifferent to subjective appraisals. Ontic alternatives not contingent upon subjectivity can, for example, be applicable to indeterministic systems, were such systems to be real. As one example of this, a system of causal indeterminism might hold two or more awareness-indifferent alternatives pertaining to the not yet materialized effect resulting from some cause.
  10. subjective alternative: an alternative that holds being within, and is resultant of, a sentient entity—and which, thereby, is contingent upon the presence of awareness. This definition shall hold irrespective of whether the awareness addressed pertains to consciousness or, else, is theorized to pertain to the unconscious mind.
  11. justifiable alternative: a subjective alternative which is justifiable via experience, via error-free reasoning, or a combination of both. The following scenario serves as an example of justifiable alternatives: A person initially appraises that an object is yellow upon seeing it at night under manmade lighting; the person’s experience and reasoning justifies that, contingent on the manmade lighting used, what is perceived to be a shade of yellow under manmade lighting could be perceived to be a shade of orange when it is lit by sunlight during the day; consequently, the person finds the following justifiable alternative to the appraisal of the object being yellow: the object could be orange instead. The person, in so doing, here inferentially transforms the otherwise upheld noninferential verdict of the object being yellow into one of two mutually exclusive possibilities which, furthermore, now either compete within the person’s mind for what is or, else, hold the potential to so compete.
  12. unjustifiable alternative: a subjective alternative which is not justifiable via experience, via error-free reasoning, or a combination of both. The following scenario serves as an example of an unjustifiable alternative: To the proposition, an object personally seen to be yellow can only be personally seen to be yellow at the same time and in the same respect, is offered the alternative that, it is possible that an object personally seen to be yellow can be personally seen to be purple at the same time and in the same respect. Because this offered alternative cannot be validly justified either through experience or through error-free reasoning, this offered alternative is deemed unjustifiable. In consequence, the initial verdict provided in this example is not transformed into one of two mutually exclusive possibilities that either compete or hold the potential to compete for what in fact is.
  13. credible alternative: a justifiable alternative that is furthermore to some degree credible to those in question; e.g., the alternative that the weather will be sunny at some point within the upcoming year (in relation to the alternative that it will not be) shall likely be deemed credible by most individuals.
  14. noncredible alternative: a justifiable alternative that is nevertheless not credible to those in question; e.g., the alternative that the weather will not be sunny at any point within the upcoming year (in relation to the alternative that it will be) shall likely not be deemed credible by most individuals. This will be so even though one could justify as a logical possibility—however unlikely the possibility might be—that it will not be sunny at any point within the upcoming year; for example, this due to the possibility of some cataclysmic occurrence on Earth resulting in the blockage of all sunlight.

1.2. A Taxonomy of Certainty

In the broadest sense applicable to all proposed categories, certainty will be defined as the state, or an instance, of givens that do not compete with alternative givens and thereby hold determinate presence.

Each proposed category of certainty will address this definition in different manners. Figure 1-1 provides a summation of the categories which will be specified.

Figure 1-1. A taxonomy of certainty.

1.2.1. First Distinction: Ontic & Subjective Certainties

Certainty is first categorized as being either ontic or subjective—thereby addressing a distinction between a) that which factually was, is, or will be and b) that which is appraised by awareness to have factually been, to currently be, or to be in the future.

If a given holds presence in manners devoid of ontic alternatives to its so being, its presence will then be ontically certain and, hence, an ontic certainty. This entails that ontic certainties shall consist of determinate states of affairs for the period of time they so remain ontic certainties—for their ontic presence could take no other ontic form during this span of time. More simply expressed, the property of ontic certainty shall be fully equivalent to the property of factual being. Hence, whatever factually is, was, or will be—i.e., whatever is in fact ontic—shall within this taxonomy be more formally addressed as that which is ontically certain.

As an example, in the expression, “It is certain that the Earth revolves around the sun,” what the term certain here intends to specify is an ontic certainty—and not the subjective certainty of those who hold this conviction. In its being an ontic certainty, there shall be no ontic alternatives to this given state of affairs—for example, it will not be the case that this state of affairs could ontically take the alternative form of the sun revolving around Earth. This addressed state of affairs shall thereby be determinate.

Ontic certainties shall hold presence in manners indifferent to any awareness regarding their being. For instance, even if it were the case that all humans once held subjective certainties of planet Earth being flat, it would have nevertheless remained an ontic certainty that planet Earth was approximately spherical in shape—the nature of this ontic certainty being indifferent to the subjective certainties then held.

Notwithstanding, ontic certainties can only be appraised via subjective means. Otherwise expressed, an awareness can only uphold an ontic certainty via some form of subjective certainty specifying the regarded given to be ontically certain.

All subjective certainties will in all instances be synonymous to awareness-dependent certitudes—regardless of whether these certainties are psychological or, else, epistemic.

Subjective certainties will be broadly defined as consisting of a verdict which remains the sole credible possibility for the timespan of the respective certainty—this irrespective of whether or not justifiable alternatives for a given verdict are discerned. Due to these same properties, a subjective certainty shall remain cognitively determinate to its bearers for as long as it remains their subjective certainty.

As an example, to the verdict that “my flight will place me at destination X on day N” can be found a number of justifiable alternatives—including that of possible delays due to unexpected weather conditions. However, if none of these justifiable alternatives are deemed credible, the given verdict will in no way compete within the respective mind with any alternative for what will in fact be. A lack of credible alternatives then results in the subjective certainty that “my flight will place me at destination X on day N”—despite it holding noncredible, justifiable alternatives. The subjective certainty thereby remains cognitively determinate for its bearer until the time credible alternatives for it occur—if credible alternatives for it ever become actualized.

All subjective certainties will be found to hold as referent some ontic certainty that is presumed to be by the respective parties. When one is certain, one is certain of something, and this something will be appraised to factually be. The deemed facticity of that addressed will, in turn, entail that it is deemed to be ontically certain.

As an extreme example, were an individual to hold the certitude that no ontic certainties exist, the certitude here held would be addressing an ontically determinate state of affairs and would thereby be referencing a believed to be ontic certainty—namely, the ontic certainty that ontic certainties do not exist (this, furthermore, would result in a contradiction).

As concerns certainty of what should be or of what one should do, this will be deemed the same as certainty regarding what factually is the best future state of affairs or of what factually is the best course of future action. Subjective certainties regarding what should be or what should be done will then likewise be deemed to reference ontic certainties.

It is reasonable to conclude that the factual presence of subjective certainties will of itself be ontic—and, hence, that it will constitute instances of ontic certainty. However, in part because the ontological relation between ontic certainties and subjective certainties might vary based on presupposed ontologies, this ontological relation will currently be left open-ended. Furthermore, the delimitations of subjective certainties that follow shall not depend upon such an ontological relation being here established.

Appendix 1-1 shall use definitions of subjective certainty to explain the term certain when it is used to address indefinite and, hence, indeterminate givens—such as in the expression, “Certain readers might find this specious discrepancy in denotations to be of interest.”

1.2.2. Second Distinction: Unconscious & Conscious Subjective Certainties

Subjective certainty will next be categorized into either unconscious or conscious certainties.

For this dichotomy, let the term unconscious be presently understood to encapsulate both a) that which is peripheral to conscious awareness such that it is neither directly entertained consciously nor is it completely beyond the scope of consciousness and b) aspects of mind that reside completely beyond the scope of consciousness at any given time.

Unconscious certainties will consist of all subjective certainties that, though not consciously apprehended at the time held, nevertheless serve as a required cognitive foundation to all consciously held certainties. This property thereby makes unconscious certainties a requisite attribute of conscious certainties.

Conversely, conscious certainties will consist of all subjective certainties one is consciously aware of at the time held.

Once any unconscious certainty is brought into the focus of conscious attention, if it persists in remaining a certainty, it will then be a conscious certainty. When a conscious certainty is no longer consciously entertained while becoming stored within tacit memory, it shall then be reclassified an unconscious certainty.

As a basic example, in walking toward a familiar location, one will most likely typically hold the following certainties in manners that are not consciously contemplated: that one is capable of walking for the given duration required, that the intended location will be where one expects it to be, and that no aberrant event will occur which will prevent one from arriving at the location in the anticipated duration of time (such as a haphazard fall or receiving a call that requires immediate attention). These uncontemplated certitudes will, again, be held in manners not consciously entertained and, therefore, will be classified as unconscious certainties. It is reasonable to conclude that no consciously entertained conviction regarding, for example, what will be soon obtained at this familiar location could be maintained in the absence of these just specified unconscious certainties.

Following is an example concerning the interplay between unconscious and conscious certainties in relation to thoughts. When questioning why something that looks like, acts like, and sounds like a duck must be a duck—instead of, for example, possibly being a robotic decoy—one will likely hold the following as an unconscious certainty: ducks are a type of bird native to planet Earth and not, for example, an extraterrestrial species of feathered plants. Were the same person to later on consciously contemplate that ducks are in truth a type of bird native to planet Earth—here, for example, so as to better describe to an imaginative young child what ducks are—the formerly held unconscious certainty that ducks are birds native to planet Earth shall now likely be a consciously held certainty. This conscious certainty will, in turn, likely now hold as foundation the unconscious certainty that all ducks are to be recognized as in fact being ducks precisely because they look like, act like, and sound like ducks.

Following is an example of this interplay that addresses visual perception rather than cognition. One typically holds conscious certainty that what one is visually focusing on is as one interprets it to be. What lies at the extremes of one’s visual periphery shall typically not be consciously entertained; the assumed factual being of these items that dwell at the extremes of one’s visual periphery shall then instead typically consist of unconscious certainties. The instant one turns one’s gaze from what was previously focused on toward what dwelled at the edge of one’s visual periphery, what was previously a conscious certainty now becomes an unconscious certainty while, at the same time, what was then an unconscious certainty now becomes a conscious certainty.

It is reasonable to conclude that the vast majority of certainties held at any given moment by a total being shall consist of unconscious certainties. Because unconscious certainties will not be consciously discerned when maintained, they will not be consciously comparable. Because no unconscious certainty will be maintained via conscious reasoning, all unconscious certainties will be deemed noninferential.

Conversely, because conscious certainties will be consciously discerned, they will then be comparable to other conscious certainties. Contingent on certainty types, conscious certainties can be held to be less or more certain by comparison to some other conscious certainty, as well as least and most certain within a given set of conscious certainties. These conscious certainties are thereby endowed with degrees of comparative strength; alternative-endowed conscious certainties (i.e., psychological certainties; see below) can then be qualified by terms such as slightly, moderately, and very.

Please see Appendix 1-2 for discussion regarding gradations of certainty and uncertainty.

1.2.3. Third Distinction: Alternative-Endowed & Alternative-Devoid Conscious Certainties

Conscious certainty will next be subcategorized into alternative-endowed and alternative-devoid certainties.

Alternative-endowed certainties will be those conscious certainties a) for which justifiable alternatives are discernable and b) for which all such alternatives are deemed noncredible.

A noncredible but justifiable alternative can, for example, include that of finding out within the upcoming week that the lottery ticket a complete stranger will hand you on the streets as a gift will make you an instant multimillionaire (this in relation to the alternative that no such event will occur). This alternative is justifiable in that, given most systems of reasoning, it is a logically possible occurrence; however, because the likelihood of this possibility becoming manifest is extremely small, this addressed possibility will likely be deemed noncredible by most individuals.

Because there will occur no credible alternative to any certainty of this category, no alternative-endowed certainty will in any way compete with any justifiable alternative it may be consciously acknowledged to hold—thereby remaining a singular, cognitively determined, credible verdict concerning what is ontically certain.

Because alternative-endowed certainties hold justifiable alternatives, they shall be contestable—and are thereby synonymous to psychological certainties as these have been defined in §1.1.1.

Alternative-endowed certainties can be further categorized into at least the following four subsets: intuitive psychological certainty, attributive psychological certainty, implicational psychological certainty, and axiomatic psychological certainty. Description of these four types of alternative-endowed certainty will be provided in §1.2.4.

In contrast, alternative-devoid certainties shall consist of those conscious certainties for which no justifiable alternative can be discerned. This category will be further dichotomized into either infallible certainty, whose form will be absolute, or unfalsified certainty, whose form will be tentative. Further description of both these types will be provided in §1.2.5.

Because alternative-devoid certainties do not hold any discerned justifiable alternatives, they shall be incontestable for as long as they remain validly classified as alternative-devoid certainties—and are thereby synonymous to epistemic certainties as these have been defined in §1.1.2.

As with psychological certainties, epistemic certainties may be discerned via intuition, attribution, implicational arguments, and may be upheld to be axiomatic. Notwithstanding, unlike psychological certainties, all infallible certainties and unfalsified certainties shall be incomparable in strength of certainty when contrasted to certainties of a like type. Otherwise expressed, infallible certainty A and infallible certainty B shall be of equal strength of certainty regardless of means by which each was obtained or of what they each specify; the same likewise applies to different instances of valid unfalsified certainty.

1.2.4. Four Examples of Psychological Certainty: Intuitive, Attributive, Implicational, and Axiomatic

Intuitive psychological certainty shall consist of alternative-endowed certainties for which one does not hold conscious justifications at the time they manifest. The gut-feeling of sureness regarding a consciously apprehended, ontic certainty shall serve as one example of intuitive psychological certainty. One here intuitively apprehends that which is—this without holding conscious justifications for so appraising—while one likewise acknowledges that there can occur justifiable, though noncredible, alternatives to the certitude one consciously maintains. As a further example, that what one perceives to be is as one perceives it to be, when not consciously justified but instead immediately experienced, will be an intuitive psychological certainty—with noncredible alternatives for this certainty including that of the perception being an illusion. Arguably, the majority of all conscious certainties typically held at any particular time will be intuitive psychological certainties. Because intuitive psychological certainties shall occur without conscious reasoning, they shall be classified as noninferential.

Attributive psychological certainties shall consist of alternative-endowed certainties held subsequent to some degree of conscious deliberation between justifiable alternatives regarding a given topic. This deliberation will involve the comparison of two or more alternatives momentarily deemed to some extent credible during the deliberation’s timespan. The deliberation will consequently grant, or attribute, one former alternative at the expense of all others with the property of sole credibility in depicting that which is ontically certain. In so doing, the deliberation will transform this one previously maintained alternative into a now upheld certainty regarding what is. An example of this is as follows: Upon having seen a movement at a distance in a dark corner, one deliberates whether the motion was produced by wind-blown leaves, some animal, or something other. If one were to subsequently arrive at the certainty that the movement resulted from wind-blown leaves due to a given set of reasons A; such that set of reasons A nevertheless does not demonstrate all other possibilities to be unjustifiable but, instead, only to be noncredible; one would then come to hold an attributive psychological certainty. Because attributive psychological certainties are a product of conscious reasoning, they shall be classified as inferential.

Implicational psychological certainties shall consist of those alternative-endowed certainties in which a conclusion is logically necessitated by a given set of upheld premises. Otherwise expressed, for all implicational certainties, if set of premises p were to in fact depict ontic certainties—as is deemed to be the only credible verdict by the parties concerned—then the resulting conclusion q would necessarily also be ontically certain—this despite there being justifiable, though here deemed noncredible, alternatives to the given set of premises p. As one example where the concluding proposition will likely be understood erroneous due to the likely understood fallacy of upheld premises: If the premise that no sailor has ever been deceived by his eyes is upheld as certain together with that of some sailors saw mermaids waving at them from afar, then the following implicational psychological certainty results: some sailors interacted to some extent with nonimaginary mermaids. Implicational psychological certainties shall be classified as inferential due to being a product of conscious reasoning.

For the purposes of this taxonomy, let an axiom first be understood to be a proposition or principle that is deemed essential to some system of thought. Then, let axiomatic psychological certainties be here understood to consist of consciously discerned axioms for which justifiable alternatives, though deemed noncredible, can nevertheless be discerned. An example of axiomatic psychological certainty is as follows:

Firstly, as background to this example, systems of geometry may be presumed purely speculative; they may also be believed to accurately represent the ontic certainties of physical space. In the latter case, they will then be conscious certainties regarding physical space. Any system of geometry that a) is upheld as a conscious certainty regarding physical space and that b) invariably relies upon geometric points as one of its axioms will, in turn, uphold the certainty that the axiom of geometric points accurately represents an aspect of physical space.

With this background having been given, the certainty that geometric points represent an aspect of physical space can be evidenced to hold justifiable alternatives by, among other means, systems of geometry which do not make use of geometric points—such as that of point-free topology. Therefore, the conscious certainty that the axiom of geometric points accurately depicts an essential aspect of physical space will be here categorized as an axiomatic psychological certainty—for justifiable alternatives to it can be discerned, this despite the alternatives being deemed noncredible by those who uphold the axiomatic psychological certainty of geometric points being ontically certain aspects of physical space.

Axiomatic psychological certainties shall be classified as inferential due to being established by means of conscious reasoning.

1.2.5. Fourth Distinction: Infallible & Unfalsified Alternative-Devoid Certainties

Alternative-devoid, aka epistemic, certainties shall consist of those conscious certainties for which no justifiable alternative can be discerned—irrespective of whether the justifiable alternative is deemed to be credible or noncredible.

All epistemic certainties will be inferential on account of being so evidenced via conscious reasoning.

These certainties can take two theoretically obtainable forms, both of which shall be defined via the assistance of a third, purely conceptual type of certainty.

First will be described the purely conceptual category, here termed unassailable certainty.

Let it be initially understood that the presence of a justifiable alternative to that verdict maintained introduces some likelihood of error for the maintained verdict—regardless of how minuscule and noncredible this likelihood might be. This is due to the justifiable alternative, irrespective of its deemed credibility, holding some potential to correctly depict that which is ontically certain rather than the maintained verdict.

Unassailable certainties, then, consist of verdicts whose lack of justifiable alternatives will be ontically certain. If no justifiable alternative exists in practice or in principle for that which is affirmed, then that which is affirmed will be the sole justifiable position possible. This factual and absolute lack of justifiable alternatives will furthermore entail that a) these verdicts are perfectly secure from all possible error and, therefore, that b), unlike all other subjective certainties which might or might not accurately depict ontic certainties, these purely conceptual verdicts will always be guaranteed to accurately depict ontic certainties.

The easiest theoretically obtainable epistemic certainty to define, here termed infallible (epistemic) certainty, will be defined as follows: a verdict which has been proven in practice to be an unassailable certainty.

Re-expressed, an infallible certainty will consist of a verdict whose status of being perfectly secure from all possible error has been demonstrated in manners that are themselves perfectly secure from all possible error—this, namely, via demonstration that the verdict lacks justifiable alternatives not only in practice but also in principle. Their property of being proven to be perfectly secure from all possible error—i.e., of being proven in practice to be unassailable certainty—then entails that infallible certainties are always guaranteed to accurately depict ontic certainties.

The second category of theoretically obtainable epistemic certainty, here termed unfalsified (epistemic) certainty, will be defined as follows: a verdict which can neither be proven to be unassailable certainty nor evidenced to not be unassailable certainty—thereby making its status of epistemic certainty falsifiable in principle, but not yet falsified in practice.

Expressed in greater detail, at the time unfalsified certainties are validly upheld, they will not have been evidenced to be endowed with justifiable alternatives, and will thereby lack justifiable alternatives in practice; however, they will not have been proven to lack justifiable alternatives in principle, thereby making it unknown whether or not they are in fact unassailable certainties. Furthermore, their evidence-substantiated status of being alternative-devoid in practice can be at any time falsified via the discovery of a justifiable alternative to that which they affirm—this irrespective of whether the justifiable alternative is credible or not. Were this to happen, they would then be demonstrated to at best be psychological certainties and not epistemic certainties.

Differently expressed, due to the lack of discerned justifiable alternatives in practice, a hypothesis shall be held for all unfalsified certainties specifying that they are in fact unassailable certainties that are nevertheless not yet possible to demonstrate. This hypothesis can be falsified at any time via the discovery of just one justifiable alternative for what the particular unfalsified certainty upholds. The greater the unsuccessful effort to falsify the hypothesis, the greater the evidence in support of the particular unfalsified certainty in fact being an unassailable certainty. Nevertheless, no proof that the unfalsified certainty is an unassailable certainty can ever be had for as long as it validly remains so classified unfalsified—for, if such proof were to be obtained, the certainty would then be a demonstrated unassailable certainty and, hence, an infallible certainty.

Again, the provision of just one justifiable alternative will falsify the stated hypothesis which, in turn, will nullify the status of the verdict being that of an unfalsified epistemic certainty.

False negatives can obtain in respect to unfalsified certainties. Were a discovered alternative to be erroneously deemed justifiable when it, in fact, is unjustifiable, an unfalsified certainty would then be excluded from so being, thereby resulting in a false negative. False negatives can also obtain in cases where means of demonstrating a proposition to be an unfalsified certainty are possible though not yet discovered. As regards false negatives, until a certainty found to be alternative-endowed becomes demonstrated to be alternative-devoid, it shall remain classified a psychological certainty—for, to the awareness of all those concerned, this shall be the only valid verdict.

The converse of false positives cannot obtain for unfalsified certainties. By the very definition of unfalsified certainties, the possibility of there being justifiable alternatives in principle will forever remain an intrinsic characteristic of all unfalsified certainties—this for as long as they so remain validly classified. Therefore, the possibility of there being a justifiable alternative in principle cannot, of itself, result in a verdict that is falsely appraised to be an unfalsified certainty.

As an example, were an individual to never encounter anyone else who can inform the individual of justifiable alternatives to belief X and, furthermore, were the given individual to never personally discover such alternatives to belief X, belief X would then remain a personal unfalsified certainty to the given individual for the remainder of the individual’s life. This will be so even if justifiable alternatives are evidenced for belief X by some second person whom the first individual never encounters. Hence, belief X will be validly classified by the initial individual an epistemic certainty—this even though the belief will have been evidenced to instead be a psychological certainty by someone other. In the same manner, a belief X that remains devoid of discerned alternatives within a given cohort will remain an interpersonal unfalsified certainty to the given cohort, this until the time the cohort discovers justifiable alternatives for belief X—if such time were to ever occur. Until evidence of justifiable alternatives is obtained by the given individual or cohort, the given individual or cohort will have no justification by which to conclude belief X to be an alternative-endowed certainty—for, to their knowledge, belief X could just as readily be an unassailable certainty (that is perfectly devoid of justifiable alternatives in principle as well as in practice) which is not yet possible to so demonstrate. Hence, because neither can belief X be evidenced an infallible certainty (via a successful demonstration of it being an unassailable certainty) nor can it be demonstrated endowed with alternatives by the respective parties (thereby making it feasible that it could be an unassailable certainty), to the respective parties belief X shall validly remain a certainty whose status of being alternative-devoid and, thereby, epistemic is tentatively maintained.

In review, the presence of just one justifiable alternative to that maintained introduces some likelihood of error for that maintained. Unfalsified certainties will be devoid of discovered justifiable alternatives in practice though these certainties might, just as readily as they might not, hold justifiable alternatives yet to be discovered in principle. This entails that whether or not they are in fact unassailable certainty will be perpetually unsolvable while these verdicts remain validly classified as unfalsified certainties.

An unfalsified certainty could then be wrong on two counts. Firstly, its hypothesized status of being an unassailable certainty in ways not possible to yet prove could in fact be erroneous, this owing to as of yet undiscovered justifiable alternatives that might exist for it in principle. Secondly, were such as of yet undiscovered justifiable alternatives to factually be, their very being then introduces some likelihood that what the verdict affirms could itself be erroneous. Hence, because whether or not an unfalsified certainty is in fact an unassailable certainty is unsolvable, to the awareness of all those concerned the unfalsified certainty can then only remain fallible in what it affirms for as long as it remains unfalsified.

Then, because unfalsified certainties might in principle hold potential errors—though none can be found in practice—unfalsified certainties shall hold a lesser likelihood of accurately depicting ontic certainty than infallible certainties (the latter being guaranteed to so depict). Nevertheless, in the absence of established infallible certainties, unfalsified certainties shall in practice retain a superlative likelihood of depicting that which is ontically certain.

Unfalsified certainties can use other unfalsified certainties as premises. Were foundational unfalsified certainties to become falsified in being alternative-devoid, all unfalsified certainties they serve as an essential foundation to would then likewise be falsified in being alternative-devoid.

Contradiction between valid unfalsified certainties cannot logically obtain. Were contradiction between so deemed unfalsified certainties to occur, the addressed certainties would then hold the competing, mutually exclusive certainties as justifiable alternatives. This, then, will falsify the once upheld status of alternative-devoid certainty for either all certainties concerned or, at best, for all but one such certainty that, via further justification, will remain unfalsified at the expense of falsifying all others that contradict it.

The extent to which doubts are required for substantiating the status of unfalsified certainties shall be addressed at the end of this chapter in §1.6, this after a distinction is made between affective and inferential doubts in §1.5.

1.2.6. Fifth Distinction: Infallible & Fallible Certainties

The only category of subjective certainty that is guaranteed to accurately depict ontic certainty will be that of infallible certainty—and this certainty can only be demonstrated when, or if, unassailable certainties are proven to be.

The verdicts of all other subjective certainties—due to not being proven to be perfectly secure from all possible error—will in some way and to some measure hold the potential of being wrong. Due to this, while in no way being necessarily wrong in what they affirm, these certainties will all be fallible.

Because of this, all subjective certainties which have not been demonstrated to be unassailable will furthermore be collectively classified as fallible certainties—here fully including all unfalsified certainties, despite these being epistemic certainties.

1.3. A Taxonomy of Uncertainty

In the broadest sense applicable to all proposed categories, uncertainty will be defined as the state, or an instance, of givens that compete with alternative givens and thereby hold some measure of indeterminacy in respect to what was, is, or will be.

Each proposed category of uncertainty shall address this definition in different manners. Figure 1-2 provides a summation of the categories that shall be specified.

Figure 1-2. A taxonomy of uncertainty.

1.3.1. First Distinction: Ontic & Subjective Uncertainties

At its most general, uncertainty will first be differentiated into ontic and subjective uncertainty.

Ontic uncertainty will be here defined as consisting of two or more, actively competing, possibly unknowable ontic alternatives to what manifested, manifests, or will manifest. Ontic uncertainty shall thereby be considered synonymous to ontic indeterminacy. As an example, given a causally indeterministic system—were such system to be real—the indeterminacy to what will be the effect of some cause shall itself be due to likely unknown ontic alternatives actively competing for what will manifest as effect.

Were an ontic uncertainty to factually be, the presence of the ontic uncertainty specified would then itself be an ontic certainty. Expressed differently, were any indeterminate state of affairs to factually be, the factual presence of this indeterminate state of affairs would then itself be a determinate state of affairs. For example, where the statement “the future is uncertain” is interpreted to stipulate that the future is to some extent ontically indeterminate, that the future is ontically uncertain would here be implicitly maintained to itself be an ontic certainty—i.e., to be the factual, determinate state of affairs regarding the future. Otherwise, one could not maintain the facticity implied by the given proposition.

All subsets of subjective uncertainty shall be classified as consisting of cognitive indeterminacy regarding what was, is, or will be. This cognitive indeterminacy shall itself consist of subjective alternatives that a) are each held to be credible for the duration of the respective uncertainty and which b) to some extent compete within the respective mind(s) for the status of what is ontically certain.

A subjective uncertainty will thereby consist of competing subjective alternatives in relation to some referenced ontic certainty—be the latter an actuality or a potential. For instance, to be uncertain about the contents of a book is to hold competing subjective alternatives in relation to the book's contents, such that the book's actual existence is of itself taken to be ontically certain. In contrast, to be uncertain about whether or not some event will occur is to hold competing subjective alternatives in relation to event's future occurrence, such that the potential for the event's future occurrence is taken to of itself be ontically certain. Because of this, one must first hold some subjective certainty (be it conscious or unconscious) that that whose specifics one is uncertain about in fact is, or else factually can be, so as to engage in any subjective uncertainty in relation to it. As example, to be uncertain about what will happen in the future is to nevertheless be certain that something will happen in the future—such that the given uncertainty would not be practicable in the absence of the given certainty. All subjective uncertainties about X will thereby need to be subordinate to one or more subjective certainties regarding either a) X's being or occurrence or b) X's potential to be or to occur. Again, devoid of such subordination to subjective certainties no subjective uncertainty could obtain. This attribute of subjective uncertainty shall hold equal validity for instances of uncertainty regarding what should be or what should be done.

In review, both ontic uncertainties and subjective uncertainties will at all times be subordinate to the presence of some ontic certainty and subjective certainty which they stand in relation to.

It is reasonable to conclude that the factual presence of subjective uncertainties will of itself be ontically certain. However, in part because the ontological relation between ontic certainties, ontic uncertainties, and subjective uncertainties might vary based on presupposed ontologies, this ontological relation will currently be left open-ended. Furthermore, the delimitations of subjective uncertainties which follow will not depend upon such an ontological relation being here established.

1.3.2. Second Distinction: Unconscious & Conscious Uncertainties

Subjective uncertainty can next be categorized into unconscious and conscious uncertainties.

Unconscious uncertainty will be the counterpart to unconscious certainty. As with unconscious certainty remaining beyond the field of conscious awareness, unconscious uncertainty will not take the form of consciously apprehended alternatives—but will by definition instead consist of competing subjective alternatives that are in practice indiscernible by the respective consciousness. If one’s unconscious mind can at times hold conflicting interpretations or intentions, it then likewise becomes feasible that one’s unconscious mind can at times hold competing alternatives as concerns that which is or should be.

Though an in-depth enquiry into the justifications and possibilities of unconscious uncertainty shall be beyond the scope of this chapter, the consciously discernible results are here hypothesized to include a) psychosomatic effects, such as clumsiness, nausea, or tongue-tied speech, b) generalized anxiety whose reasons for being are not consciously discerned, and c) emotions of wonder or of curiosity regarding some particular. Because unconscious uncertainty shall occur in the absence of consciously discernable reasons for its being, it shall be classified as noninferential.

Conscious uncertainty shall consist of competing alternatives that are discernible by the respective consciousness.

Because conscious uncertainties will by definition be consciously discerned, they will then be comparable to other conscious uncertainties. Contingent on uncertainty types, conscious uncertainties can then be held to be less or more uncertain by comparison to some other conscious uncertainty, as well as least and most uncertain within a given set of conscious uncertainties. Hence, because they are comparable, conscious uncertainties can be appraised to be endowed with degrees of strength. This thereby facilitates the capacity for conscious uncertainties to be qualified by terms such as slightly, moderately, and very.

Please see Appendix 1-2 for discussion regarding gradations of certainty and uncertainty.

1.3.3. Third Distinction: Intuitive & Attributive Conscious Uncertainties

Two forms of conscious uncertainty shall be distinguished: intuitive and attributive.

Intuitive uncertainty shall consist of conscious uncertainty in which alternatives are momentarily deemed credible in manners devoid of consciously discerned justifications for why this is so. As an example, were one to gain an apprehension that one might have forgotten some item at home without any justifications for so feeling, one would then have an intuitive uncertainty—for the competing alternatives of having forgotten the item and of not having forgotten the item would both be consciously discerned and deemed credible, though no justification would be cognized as to why both alternatives are upheld by oneself as momentarily credible. Because intuitive uncertainty shall not be a product of conscious reasoning, it shall be classified as noninferential.

Attributive uncertainty shall consist of conscious uncertainty that is maintained through deliberation—therefore, of conscious uncertainty that is obtained due to the conscious attribution of credibility to alternatives. As one example, a reasoned questioning of whether or not plants breath can equate to an attributive uncertainty via the following set of justifications: plants do not have lungs with which to respire—so it is a credible alternative that plants do not breath; but many of their cells do engage in photosynthesis—which is a process by which gases are exchanged with those of the environment in order to produce chemical energy—and, because this cellular process of gas exchange is that of respiration (this applicable to plants just as much as it is to lung-endowed animals), it stands as a credible alternative that plants (and not just their individual cells) do in fact respire and, therefore, breath. Because attributive uncertainty will be a product of reasoning, it shall be classified as inferential.

1.3.4. Five Examples of Conscious Uncertainty

Five subsets of conscious uncertainty shall be further mentioned for greater specificity. Each can pertain to either intuitive uncertainty or to attributive uncertainty. The five examples of conscious uncertainty are here termed tranquil uncertainty, disinterested uncertainty, anxious uncertainty, aversive uncertainty, and near-nonbelief (aka skeptical) uncertainty.

Tranquil uncertainty will consist of comfortable conscious uncertainty converged with interest in attaining some form of conscious certainty. The emotive states of wonder and curiosity can be entwined, in whole or in part, with tranquil uncertainty—for each can readily be a product of cognitive indeterminacy, or variance, regarding what factually is and a desire to be acquainted with what factually is. Likewise can be argued for all tranquil states of mind in which conscious reasoning occurs via any form of questioning; here, different alternatives which are momentarily deemed credible will be comfortably analyzed with the intention of arriving at a conclusion one can be consciously certain of. States of tranquil uncertainty may at times be otherwise expressed as open-mindedness toward that addressed—such as when one is comfortably uncertain of which of two or more alternatives regarding some subject matter is most preferable or accurate; is willing to enquire into this as time allows; and, furthermore, is impartial to the potential outcomes of obtained certainty.

Disinterested uncertainty will consist of comfortable conscious uncertainty converged with disinterest in attaining a form of conscious certainty. A relatively commonplace example of disinterested uncertainty can be the propositional attitude which can accompany the declaration of, “who cares”—this when declared by someone who is aware of their own ignorance regarding the subject matter concerned such that, while consciously apprehended, competing alternatives are present within the respective mind, there momentarily is no interest in finding out what the reality of the matter might be. For instance, one might hold a disinterested uncertainty concerning the precise quantity of individual hair follicles that one's pet cat has.

Anxious uncertainty will consist of uncomfortable conscious uncertainty converged with interest in attaining a form of conscious certainty. Contingent on its intensity, it at times can be accompanied by varying degrees of disquiet or fear. Uncertainty regarding whether or not it is dangerous to proceed as one would otherwise want can serve as an example of anxious uncertainty—as can a held uncertainty regarding whether or not a loved one is in fact safe.

Aversive uncertainty will consist of uncomfortable conscious uncertainty converged with an aversion to gaining conscious certainty. As an example, were one to receive a letter from a university to which one has applied, and that one greatly wants to attend, in which is specified whether one has been accepted or rejected, and were the recipient of this letter to not want to open the letter out of fear of the possible rejection, the individual in this scenario would then be experiencing a variant of aversive uncertainty regarding the letter’s contents. Arguably, this form of uncertainty can often also manifest in response to at least some forms of cognitive shock. News that someone close to oneself which one fully trusts did a terrible act can, for example, result in a state of mind wherein one is uncertain of what factually occurred while being simultaneously averse to finding out.

Lastly addressed will be the special case of near-nonbelief uncertainty, aka near-certainty disbelief, aka skeptical uncertainty—which conforms to the commonly understood semantics of being skeptical about. Here, let nonbelief be understood as the conscious certainty that some specified belief(s) X are erroneous. A near-nonbelief will then specify a state of mind in which one is close to holding a certainty that some given belief X is erroneous but, importantly, is not yet certain of this. Hence, near-nonbelief uncertainty will consist of a typically comfortable near-certainty that something is not the case. It entails that the verdict of belief X being erroneous, while being the preferred credible alternative, nevertheless does compete to some degree within one’s mind with the credible (and not merely justifiable) alternative verdict that belief X might in fact be correct. The following serves as an extravagant example of near-nonbelief uncertainty: Sam affirms that he is skeptical of—hence uncertain about—five-legged, telepathic, ghost-unicorns capable of telekinesis which have been teleported by means of advanced science to planet Earth from off of artificially intelligent UFOs that have traveled back in time from distant parallel universes. In this extravagant hypothetical, were Sam’s honest outlook to indeed be that of near-nonbelief uncertainty, Sam would then earnestly uphold that it is somehow credible that the described being might be possible—this though his currently favored position is that the described being is impossible. It is emphasized that earnest near-certainty disbelief, aka skeptical uncertainty, necessarily entails the occurrence of credible alternatives regarding that which is almost fully believed to not be the case—otherwise, "to be skeptical about" would semantically denote "being certain that that addressed is erroneous", and could therefore not be appraised as a form of uncertainty (and, as will be next discussed, a form of doubt).

1.4. Doubt as Contrasted to Doubt-Devoid Uncertainty

Uncertainty can be understood by some as unconditionally equivalent to, and hence fully synonymous with, doubt. However, in examples such as those that follow this understanding will be found wanting: When one affirms that the future is uncertain one does not by this intend to imply that the future is doubtful. As a second example, when Ted is interested to learn more about why E = mc2 strictly out of a general curiosity for the subject matter, Ted will be uncertain about the answers till the time they are discovered by him, but this does not imply that Ted thereby doubts these as of yet undiscovered answers.

In keeping with the aforementioned discrepancy of semantics, doubt will be here defined as conscious uncertainty about the validity of preestablished conscious certainties, be the latter one’s own or others—such that "certainties about" and "beliefs that" are here interchangeable concepts. More tersely defined, doubt can be expressed as uncertainty about some preestablished certainty (else expressed: uncertainty about some preestablished belief).

In contrast, doubt-devoid uncertainties will consist of all subjective uncertainties which do not concern preestablished certainties and, thereby, preestablished beliefs.

Hence, because one does not hold uncertainties about some previously established belief regarding the future when affirming that the future is uncertain, here, one's uncertainty in respect to the future will be doubt-devoid. In contrast, to doubt the future in an unqualified manner can signify that one is uncertain of the preestablished belief that there is a future—this being something not implied in the claim that the future is uncertain.

Likewise, because Ted does not hold uncertainties about the validity of preestablished conscious certainties concerning why E = mc2, Ted does not hold doubts about why E = mc2—though he is nevertheless uncertain of why E = mc2.

By comparison, were someone to have expressed the belief that the near-future will consist of cars that can be driven at over 500 miles per hour, and were one to be uncertain about this claim, one then would doubt this particular possibility of the future. (Were one to be certain that this belief is erroneous, one would not hold doubt for it but, instead, hold a conviction that it is a false belief.)

Or, in an alternate scenario where Ted’s motivation to discover why E = mc2 is not strictly that of a general curiosity but, instead, is spurred on by an uncertainty concerning what someone else claims to be the correct answer, Ted would then be here interested in discovering why E = mc2 on account of doubts oriented toward someone else's claims of what is. The only means by which Ted could come to doubt what are to him the as of yet undiscovered answers to this enquiry is by Ted becoming uncertain about some preestablished belief (be it his own or others') specifying that answers to this enquiry are possible—here again entailing that doubt is a conscious uncertainty about some preestablished conscious certainty.

Doubts, then, necessarily consist of the taking down of preestablished constructs—be these one’s own or others—whereas uncertainties in general do not hold this entailment.

More specifically, doubts necessitate the eradication of some certainty’s presence by means of transforming it into uncertainty. For clarity, the preestablished belief is not here abolished by means of proving its contents to be erroneous; rather, it is abolished by means of transforming the sole credible verdict which is maintained into one of multiple, mutually exclusive, credible possibilities that then compete for what factually was, is, or will be.

Because doubts will in all instances be a specific subset of conscious uncertainties, doubts will be comparable and can be qualified by terms such as slight, moderate, and strong.

Figure 1-3 provides an outline of the forms of doubt and of doubt-devoid uncertainty which this section will address.

Figure 1-3. An outline of doubt and doubt-devoid uncertainty.

1.4.1. Comfortable Doubts

Doubts can either be uncomfortable or, less commonly, comfortable.

Near-nonbelief uncertainty will typically, if not always, serve as an example of comfortable doubt. In review, one is here nearly certain (but not yet certain) that some preestablished conscious certainty is wrong. Because this uncertainty type always addresses preestablished certainties, near-nonbelief uncertainty will always consist of doubts. And, again, these doubts are typically experienced to be comfortable. Examples can include a materialist’s skepticism (with skepticism here strictly meaning dubiousness) that anything spiritual is true and a Young-Earth creationist’s skepticism (here again strictly meaning dubiousness) that biological evolution is true.

1.4.2. Uncomfortable Doubts

In contrast to near-nonbelief uncertainty, anxious uncertainties and aversive uncertainties will most often be examples of uncomfortable doubt.

Generally addressed, there will be a preestablished certainty (be it conscious or unconscious), which one in some way cherishes, favors, or else simply feels comfortable with, whose validity will here become uncertain. This hitherto maintained personal certainty will in these cases become abolished on account of now competing within cognition with other, mutually exclusive, credible verdicts. In sharp contrast to doubt in the form of near-nonbelief uncertainty, something cherished is here taken away by means of the now present doubt. This will thereby typically make this state of affairs unpleasant. Moreover, these other credible verdicts will often be undesirable possibilities of what in fact is—thereby often making this state of affairs as undesired as are its most undesirable yet credible alternative verdicts.

Doubts taking the form of anxious uncertainties will typically be identical to those taking the form of aversive uncertainty in all respects but one: namely, that the individual to whom the aversive uncertainty pertains will be averse to discovering what the case in fact is.

1.4.3. Comfortable Doubt-Devoid Uncertainties

The very act of honestly questioning, investigating, enquiring, or researching (to the extent these are differentiable) will entail some degree of cognitive indeterminacy in relation to that questioned, investigated, enquired into, or researched. Otherwise stated, these four activities will be contingent upon conscious uncertainty in relation to that regarded.

Neither questioning, investigating, enquiring, nor researching will entail the presence of doubt for that addressed. One could, for example, question what a proton is due to one’s ignorance regarding the topic without needing to doubt some other’s ready held conviction about the topic. Furthermore, the very acts of questioning, investigating, enquiring into, and researching do not entail that these activities are to any degree uncomfortable. Arguably, most instances of these activities will be comfortable for the subject and, at least sometimes, will be accompanied by significant degrees of pleasure. Hence, these addressed four activities will often—though not always—be spurred by comfortable doubt-devoid uncertainties.

Revisiting a previous example, in simple states of curiosity one merely intends to discover something which, as far as one is aware of during these states, could take on any number of possibilities. In many states of simple curiosity, the uncertainty as to what will be discovered shall range from mild comfort to being pleasantly exhilarating (such a child’s curiosity to discover what presents she will receive for her birthday). Hence, in cases of simple curiosity as just specified, there will typically occur tranquil uncertainties in respect to what is to be discovered—again, ranging from mildly comfortable to exceedingly pleasant in their mood. Furthermore, these will typically occur in manners devoid of manifesting doubts.

Also here exemplified will be the sentiment of wonder. The sentiment may at times consist of consciously entertained speculations and conjectures of what might in fact be; at other times the sentiment will be fully emotive, spurred by the unconscious mind, so that one maybe only senses amazement, maybe with some degree of pleasure, and, possibly, with some measure of beauty. Regardless of particulars, however, wonder will be an emotive product of imperfect comprehension regarding all significant aspects of that addressed. Hence, it is always a product of uncertainty regarding the particulars of its referent. Therefore, in cases where wonder is not produced by doubts, the emotion of wonder will be brought about by usually comfortable doubt-devoid uncertainties.

Where mutually exclusive credible possibilities do not incorporate doubts, disinterested uncertainty will itself be a manifestation of comfortable doubt-devoid uncertainty. For example, one may be uncertain of the number of planets the universe contains—this without needing to doubt someone else’s best guess—and, if one holds a disinterested uncertainty concerning the matter, one will likely also not find discomfort in one's given uncertainty.

1.4.4. Uncomfortable Doubt-Devoid Uncertainties

In contrast to comfortable doubt-devoid uncertainties, it stands to reason that uncomfortable doubt-devoid uncertainties will consist of unconscious uncertainties.

To the extent that—for example—unwanted tongue-tied speech, states of anxiety whose reason for being is unknown, and indeterminacy in one’s willed bodily action that results in clumsiness are products of the unconscious mind, these outcomes can then likewise be argued to be products of competing, alternative, unconsciously maintained beliefs or intentions. Where this is so, these uncomfortable outcomes will be brought about by unconsciously manifesting uncertainties. Because these uncertainties are unconscious, no doubt on the part of the conscious self shall manifest during the occurrence of these unconscious uncertainties. These uncertainties will thereby be both uncomfortable to experience as well as doubt-devoid.

1.4.5. Concluding Comments

Though it can be common to interpret all uncertainties as doubts, previous examples have shown this to not be the case. Furthermore, while it might be common to ascribe only unpleasant attributes to doubt and to uncertainty in general, our experiences illustrate that some doubts and many forms of doubt-devoid uncertainty are not only comfortable but, at times, pleasant to experience. Lastly, comfortable doubt-devoid uncertainties can be argued to be of great importance to the health and growth of, minimally, all human minds—for states such as those of inquisitiveness and wonder are often, if not always, dependent on the presence of doubt-devoid uncertainties.

1.5. Affective Certainties and Uncertainties

The manifestation of those subjective certainties and uncertainties—including the latter’s subcategory of doubts—that are noninferential will, again, not rely upon conscious reasoning. Because of this, such certainties and uncertainties will be here further classified as affective—i.e. relating to any aspect of emotions, moods, or feelings.

Unconscious certainties and uncertainties can be argued to perpetually affect the conscious individual. For example, unconscious certainties might bring about affective states such as those of confidence and enthusiasm, or else those of apathy and depression; whereas unconscious uncertainties might bring about affective states such as those of fear and mistrust, or else those of curiosity, wonder, and aesthetic awe.

Intuitive certainties and uncertainties—always consisting of feelings of certainty and feelings of uncertainty that hold no consciously discerned, rational explanation at the moment they manifest in consciousness—can be argued to emerge into consciousness from out of unconscious certainties and uncertainties, respectively.

All subjective certainties and uncertainties—including the latter’s subcategory of doubts—mentioned in this chapter that are neither unconscious nor intuitive shall be inferential, and shall not be here classified as affective (even though they can be argued to at least in part be governed by those certainties and uncertainties that are affective).

1.6. Doubts in Relation to Unfalsified Certainties

In review, even though an unfalsified certainty might hold justifiable alternatives in principle (this just as readily as it might not), these alternatives (if they do exist in principle) cannot ever be demonstrated in practice for as long as the certainty remains unfalsified. Furthermore, the possibility that an unfalsified certainty might at a future time be falsified via the provision of justifiable alternatives will not, of itself, serve as a means by which to falsify these certainties. This is so because, again, the possibility that an unfalsified certainty might hold justifiable alternatives in principle is an intrinsic component of all unfalsified certainties by definition.

Likewise in review, inferential uncertainty will only occur when alternatives are also consciously justified via inference. Inferential doubt—being a specific type of inferential uncertainty—will then consist of inferential uncertainty regarding some preestablished certainty. Conversely, affective uncertainty will only occur when the given alternatives hold no conscious justification for their occurrence at the moment they manifest. Affective doubt—being a specific type of affective uncertainty—will then consist of affective uncertainty regarding some preestablished certainty.

Then, because inferential doubt requires the presence of consciously justified alternatives, and because no justifiable alternative can in practice be discerned for an unfalsified certainty, no inferential doubt can in practice be held for a validly classified unfalsified certainty. In other words, all validly classified unfalsified certainties shall by their nature be inferentially indubitable.

Having expressed this, unfalsified certainties not only can be but must be affectively doubted if their status is to be considered to any extent substantiated:

Because unfalsified certainties are fallible by definition, they can be affectively doubted on grounds that no unfalsified certainty can be proven to be an unassailable certainty (if it were so proven, it would then be classified an infallible certainty and would no longer remain classified as unfalsified). Differently expressed, though unfalsified certainties cannot be inferentially doubted (due to lack of discerned justifiable alternatives by which to so doubt), their status of being fallible grants all unfalsified certainties the potential of being affectively doubted due to the possibility that they in fact do hold justifiable alternatives that have yet to be discovered.

The greater the affective doubt placed on an affirmed unfalsified certainty that fails to result in discovery of any justifiable alternatives, the greater the subsequent substantiation for this epistemic certainty's status. However, without any questioning of whether or not an upheld unfalsified certainty holds justifiable alternatives, the given certainty’s status as unfalsified will remain in due measure unsubstantiated. And such questioning of unfalsified certainties will, again, be itself contingent upon the presence of affective uncertainty regarding a specified, preestablished (here, unfalsified) certainty—hence, upon the presence of affective doubt.

In summation, all validly upheld unfalsified certainties will be inferentially indubitable while yet remaining affectively dubitable—thereby remaining perpetually open to doubts.

Appendix 1-1: The Term Certain when Referencing Indefinite Givens

As it has been defined, certainty will in all instances reference that which is either ontically or cognitively determinate. However, the term certain can, in some situations, address indefinite givens and, in this means, address givens whose properties are in some way indeterminate.

It is proposed that in such uses of the term certain, what will be addressed is a meta-certainty—else, a meta-determinate state of affairs—whose specifics alone are indeterminate.

As an example, in saying, “A certain person went to a gym,” rather than, “A person went to a gym,”—while the specifics of which person went to a gym will here be left indefinite in both cases—the term certain changes the meaning of, “A person went to a gym,” by adding a meta-certainty concerning the unnamed, hence indeterminate, person. While the nature of this meta-certainty may vary, it can include the implicitly made proposition a) of the person in question being known (hence, that his identity as an individual is nevertheless cognitively determinate) to the speaker and, maybe, to some of the speaker’s interlocutors, b) that the category or type of the person’s identity is known to the speaker and, maybe, to some of the speakers interlocutors (e.g., the specific social class, race, or social standing of the person addressed), or c) that the given scenario regards determinate facts that have transpired and not hypotheticals of what could have been.

Again, is it proposed that the use of certain to specify indefinite givens will specify an implicit meta-certainty governing the addressed indefinite given. In this manner, this use of the term certain will address a determinate state of affairs (i.e., a certainty) whose explicitly mentioned particulars yet remain indefinite and, hence, indeterminate (i.e., uncertain).

Appendix 1-2: Concerning Gradations of Certainty and Uncertainty

There can be found a comparative gradation between psychological certainties and conscious uncertainties—one that nevertheless obtains a quantum leap between the two just specified categories.

For example, one could be extremely certain that she slept eight hours yesterday, mildly certain that she shall sleep at least eight hours tonight, mildly uncertain of whether she shall have sufficient sleep every night in the upcoming week, and extremely uncertain of her sleeping patterns decades from now.

That which is extremely certain shall hold only one credible verdict—and all its noncredible yet justifiable alternatives shall be deemed to hold an exceedingly insignificant likelihood of being accurate representations of what is ontically certain.

That which is mildly certain shall likewise hold only one credible verdict—yet one or more of its noncredible yet justifiable alternatives shall, here, be deemed of a relatively significant likelihood of being accurate representations of ontic certainty, this by comparison to the noncredible yet justifiable alternatives pertaining to an extremely strong certainty.

That which is mildly uncertain shall now hold multiple credible verdicts that are mutually exclusive and which now compete within the respective mind for what is—this though one of these credible alternatives will seem far more likely to be an accurate representation of ontic certainty by comparison to the rest.

Lastly, that which is extremely uncertain shall also hold multiple credible alternatives that compete within the respective mind for what is—but, here, the credible alternatives' probabilities of being accurate representations of ontic certainty are now sensed to be of an approximately equal strength.

It is noteworthy that gradations can only apply to psychological certainties and to conscious uncertainties. Only these shall hold consciously discerned alternatives—be they deemed noncredible or credible—via whose deemed likelihood of being correct can be established comparable strengths of either certainty or uncertainty. Gradations of strength cannot apply to epistemic certainties because these are in all cases devoid of known justifiable alternatives. Neither can they apply to unconscious certainties and unconscious uncertainties because these will occur without any conscious apprehension of the respective verdicts or the respective alternatives involved.

• References

  1. Reed, Baron (Winter 2011 Edition) "Certainty", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>

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