“What most human beings really want to attain is not knowledge, but certainty. Gaining real knowledge requires taking risks and keeping the mind open—but most people prefer to be reassured rather than to learn the complex and often unsettling truth about anything.” This is a difficult statement to discuss not only because how we define knowledge and certainty is questionable but also because it makes assumptions about the value people place in knowledge, certainty and truth. It is clear that the author of this statement does not see knowledge and certainty as being the same. However, if this is the case, then what is knowledge? A basic deconstruction of the word tells us that knowledge is information that we know. Does it not follow that if we know something to be true we are certain of it? And if we are not certain of it, then can we consider it knowledge at all? I do not see a way to reconcile a difference between these terms. If one is not certain of the knowledge they possess then it follows that what they know may be false and the quest for further knowledge must continue. To know a thing is to be certain of it. It is possible to consider that knowledge is really just accumulated information amounting to substantial proof of a thing in which case knowledge is simply the precursor to certainty. If this is so, it cannot be said that human beings want certainty without knowledge unless they are simply willing to accept the conclusions of others with certainty. Thus, the statement appears to assume that the majority of people are willing to accept what they are told without knowledge of the truth behind that information. This is a poor form of certainty, a sad view of humanity, and a situation that I believe to be incorrect. It is undeniable that for centuries, individuals in positions of higher education, power and influence have had the ability to lead people through the provision of carefully selected truths and revealed knowledge. For example, the Catholic church successfully held sway over Europe for years, indoctrinating an entire society with a host of lucrative and politically beneficial ideals. However, it can be argued that the success of the church is related to the degree to which the lower echelons constituting the majority were kept uneducated and poor. Today, technology has made communication, education and the rapid exchange of information virtually impossible to control. People are more aware than ever of the political and social environment in which they live. The recent American election is a dramatic example of the fact that people are not willing to accept what they are told and more than that, certainty is apparently not the priority. By electing for Obama as President, the American people have demonstrated that taking risks and keeping an open mind are actually more important than the so called reassuring certainty that a McCain legislation might provide. Ultimately, the statement is convoluted and untrue. If we can differentiate between knowledge and certainty at all, we can be sure that modern education and communication has given humanity a new wave of independent perspective that can longer be satisfied by so-called simple certainty.
Your essay is excellent.
However I disagree one of your points:
"By electing for Obama as President, the American people have demonstrated that taking risks and keeping an open mind are actually more important than the so called reassuring certainty that a McCain legislation might provide."
People were more driven by the failure of the previous government which to my judgment was determinant of the outcome of the 44th Presidential Election.On the contradictory note of your argument,I will add McCain gave emphasis on being a maverick, and rather than the traditional republican approach asserted on his bipartisan methodology.
That is my outlook.