Sunday, October 19, 2008 – Uncertainty


Who knows whether the gods will add tomorrow to the present hour? [Quis scit, an adjiciant hodiernae crastina summae Tempora di superi?] ~ Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Carmina (IV, 7, 17)


All human things hang on a slender thread, the strongest fall with a sudden crash. [Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo: Et subito casu, quae valuere, ruunt.] ~ Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso), Epistoloe Ex Ponto (IV, 3, 35)


My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function Is smothered in surmise and nothing is But what is not. ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth (Macbeth at I, iii)


This I ever held worse that all certitude / To know not what the worst ahead might be. ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne, Marino Faliero (Act V)


The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next. ~ Ursula K. LeGuin


Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing, through the overtaking and possessing of a wish discovers the folly of the chase. ~ William Congreve


Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. ~ Jacob Bronowski


An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties. ~ Djuna Barnes


We demand guaranteed rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty. ~ Douglas Adams


There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing. ~ Robert Burns


The character truest to itself becomes eccentric rather than immovably centered, as Emerson defined the noble character of the hero. At the edge, the certainty of borders gives way. We are more subject to invasions, less able to mobilize defenses, less sure of who we really are, even as we may be perceived by others as a person of character. The dislocation of self from center to indefinite edge merges us more with the world, so that we can feel “blest by everything.” ~ James Hillman


How little can we foresee the consequences either of wise or unwise action, of virtue or of malice. Without this measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed. ~ Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm


Human life is proverbially uncertain; few things are more certain than the solvency of a life-insurance company. ~ Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington


It is very natural for young men to be vehement, acrimonious and severe. For as they seldom comprehend at once all the consequences of a position, or perceive the difficulties by which cooler and more experienced reasoners are restrained from confidence, they form their conclusions with great precipitance. Seeing nothing that can darken or embarrass the question, they expect to find their own opinion universally prevalent, and are inclined to impute uncertainty and hesitation to want of honesty, rather than of knowledge. ~ Samuel Johnson


Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions. ~ Thomas S. Szasz


Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality. ~ Theodor W. Adorno


Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt. ~ Robertson Davies


A weak man has doubts before a decision; a strong man has them afterwards. ~ Karl Kraus


That must be wonderful; I have no idea of what it means. ~ Albert Camus


Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them. ~ Peter Ustinov


When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. ~ James H. Boren


Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty. ~ Mark Twain


When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others. ~ Bertrand Russell


Hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age. ~ Ernest Hemingway


As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. ~ Albert Einstein


As complexity rises, precise statements lose meaning, and meaningful statements lose precision. ~ Lotfi Zadeh


Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one. ~ Voltaire