## What can I know with 100% certainty?

• 3.9k
You always get percentage of certainty. Some certainties are more certain than other certainties.
Therefore I suggested "All life on the earth will die eventually." was one of the 100% certainty. Because it is a conclusion derived by billions and billions of examples in millions of years of historic records, the biological facts of lives + the on-going processes happening right now. There maybe other 100% certainty cases, I am sure.

I can understand what people mean by "100% certain" vs "99.99% certain" -- the former means they know it to be true and it's impossible to be wrong, and the latter means that the believer understands that their feeling of certitude is the same as in the former case but they have a reason to believe that the belief's false value could be wrong (though they don't believe that).

But notice how this is just a binary between two kinds of certainty: one which is infallible, and the other which feels just as good but is not infallible, or at least we have a reason to believe that it's not infallible. Rather than a percentage of cases we're just using two different meanings of certitude, and the percentage is there more as an adjective than a mathematical relationship.

After all what could the domain even be for percent certainty when we're being as vague as all our knowledge or all our beliefs? Those aren't exactly easy to count sets, which is what you'd need to be able to do to set up a percentage -- something like the ratio between certain beliefs and all beliefs held.
• 124
I agree that "the percentage is there more as an adjective than a mathematical relationship."
• 2.4k
There are percentage of certainty attainable in accurate maths value if the data was available. For instance, I am looking at tomorrow's local weather forecast on the internet. It says it will rain at 12pm with 40% of certainty and at 3pm 90% of certainty. The forecasters surely have done some observation on the weather data via satellite monitor weather system, the movement direction of the clouds, the speed of winds etc. They must have apps for calculating the certainty in percentage.

But there are cases, as you pointed out, the calculation is impossible, but people still use statements such as - I feel 90% great today. I mean where is the data to utter such statement apart from just feeling great in most areas of life although I have some stress in finishing the project in time back of mind, or feeling rough on my back muscles due to heavy work in the garden ...etc.

Also there are cases, where certainty in percentage don't apply logically, because the topic belongs to in the realm of faith and belief such as Gods and souls, reincarnations - because it has no physical evidence in anywhere under the sun, apart from in the literature or religious text books. People could still say I am certain that souls exist, or reincarnate after deaths, it just means he has faith in existence of such entities or phenomenon, and believes in them - but most people will not take the statement as a truth or certainty.
• 3.9k
There are percentage of certainty attainable in accurate maths value if the data was available.

And what would the data for certainty be?

Cool :). Then I think I know what you mean, and I've answered the question with that thought in mind. It seems that if you follow what I've said, then, we can be 100%99.99%* certain of a lot of things, but that this doesn't have a relationship to our knowledge of whether or not our beliefs are infallible. Which on the face of things shouldn't be that surprising given that "infallible" is a pretty hard standard to reach, but we are certain of much more than what we are infallible about.

*I would say 100% certain, but the terms laid out made that the wrong expression.
• 431
Why would a proton be affected by other particles in a 5 light seconds radius? Surely, the zone of being affected would be mere millimetres or even less?

Yes, but one must also consider ones time horizon.

The general heuristic that i usually try to apply is to first identify the possibilities in a specific situation and then determine the probabilities associated with each possibility. This approach aims to consider all the factors that can converge on an event.

For instance, when considering the behavior of the aforementioned proton, it is known that light can interact with the proton and alter its quantum state. Given that light travels at a speed of 299,792,458 meters per second, it is necessary to take into account all potential interactions within the specified time horizon, such as the next 5 seconds. Within this time frame, a photon that is 1,498,962,290 meters (5 light-seconds) away can potentially interact with the proton 5 seconds later. If the time horizon were extended to the next 10 seconds, then the sphere of influence would expand to a radius of 2,997,924,580 meters (10 light-seconds). However, not every particle within this area would affect the proton. Only those particles on a trajectory towards the proton would have a probability of interaction, with the likelihood increasing as the particles get closer to the proton. Other factors also come into play such as the specific type and nature of the particles. Beyond the termination boundary (surface of the sphere of influence), the probability of interaction drops to 0% for any particle outside the sphere of influence.

Current technological capabilities are limited in dealing with the combinatorial explosion that arises from such calculations. However, technologies like quantum computers and artificial neural networks, which naturally handle probability calculations, could potentially address this challenge for us.

The example i used of the proton simplifies the concept only a little bit. Higher realms of complexity, such as biological, psychological, sociological systems, are much more highly integrated and therefore much more challenging to analyze. However, with the right tools and approaches, it should not be impossible to tackle these complexities.

Approaching 100% certainty in ones predictions or assertions is as difficult as approaching infinity itself.
• 124
Thank you very much for your explanation. I understand now. I agree with you.
• 124
I agree with you.
• 124
I agree with you.
• 2.2k
one can know that in order for absolute uncertainty to exist absolute certainty must exist. They're mutually dependent.

Ends of spectrums exist. Because of you remove the end point of any spectrum, there is always another point that then must assume the state of ultimate limit.

Therefore ultimate extremes must exist oractiy speaking. Of course, theoretically, we can have infinities, for example in natural number line, you can count forever. But physical things are quantized. They have quantities. And the conservation law dictates that if energy cannot be created nor destroyed then it's quantity is finite.
• 2.4k
And what would the data for certainty be?

Certainty is not some material object, but a mental product of knowledge. So what data it would be for certainty would depend on what knowledge the certainty derived from. If the knowledge was that it is raining outside now, then certainty gets generated from the sense data of the sound coming from the window even if it is dark night, and you cannot see anything, you can hear the noise of the rain falling down onto the ground will give you the certainty of 100% that it is raining outside?
• 124
I am not convinced that reality works in a way that requires absolute uncertainty to exist for absolute certainty to exist. The two ends of the electromagnetic spectrum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_spectrum are not total opposites of each other. Also, just because energy cannot be created or destroyed it does not mean that it is finite. There could be an infinite amount of energy spread across an infinite number of universes.
• 381
"I i think therefore I am" seems like the only justifiable 100% certainty to me. The best you can get after that, I would think, it's 99.9 followed by some amount of 9s percent certainty - there's always some doubt for any other statement I think.

My paraphrase of that is "existence exists right now".
If all of our memories are fake then we cannot be sure
that we really know how to do first grade arithmetic even
though we have a memory from a few seconds ago of doing
• 124
I agree with you.
• 1.7k
It seems useful to distinguish between certainty, the % confidence we have in a judgement, and precision, with how much detail our assessment has vis-á-vis what it is describing.

You can have a true description of something that is nonetheless misleading due to its lack of detail. E.g., "North Korea invaded South Korea because of Acheson"s equivocal response re defense of the First Island Chain."

While it is true that the Soviet archives show that the speech was taken as evidence that the US was unlikely to expend significant resources defending the ROK, which in turn led to the Soviets greenlighting the invasion, it's also fairly misleading. The war was likely to happen, maybe in a different form, regardless of the speech and it also seems like the speech was simply used to justify the position of the hawks in reports, who could have swayed the situation either way. Still, the speech has become a part of all histories of the war because it's an easy to pinpoint misstep by an administration that was otherwise one of the best at grand strategy in US history (Containment doctrine being formed under Truman and winning the Cold War mostly peacefully).

Likewise, "a car works by burning gas," is true, but it lacks the precision and detail of an in-depth explanation of how internal combustion engines and drive trains work, which in turn lack the detail of an engineers description of how a particular make and model of a vehicle works (e.g., if you have a turbo the engine works differently).

If we subscribe to the Principal of Sufficient Reason then it seems like total explanations will always trace backwards in time to prior causes such that any complete description may need us to explain everything, all causes from the begining of the universe, in order to explain anything (or at least anything we can't show through pure deduction).

To my mind, this suggests a sort of gradient of "accuracy," if not truth. E.g., Obiwan says Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Luke's father, Darth Vader says he is Luke's father.
• 381
To my mind, this suggests a sort of gradient of "accuracy," if not truth.

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, lays eggs like a duck
and does everything else just like a duck it could still possibly be
a space alien perfectly disguised as a duck.

Thus when a set of physical sensations matches a duck then it
is very reasonably plausible to conclude that it is most likely a duck.

Within the assumption that it is a duck we can know with 100%
perfectly justified complete certainty that it is an animal.
• 1.7k

Within the assumption that it is a duck we can know with 100%
perfectly justified complete certainty that it is an animal.

Exactly. These sorts of judgements are certain. On the downside, they are also the sorts of judgements where the conclusion is contained in the premises. So ,they sort of amount to "provided x is true, x is true."

This is the whole: Scandal of Deduction, or "Problem of Deduction."

Funny enough, if you accept the Problem of Induction and the Problem of Deduction, then we cannot be certain of anything we learn from induction, while deduction doesn't give us anything we don't already know, making knowledge production seem near impossible. And yet, we seem to manage pretty well... enough that these objections start to seem prima facie unreasonable, even if it is hard to pin down why they are wrong.
• 124
I agree with you.
• 124
I agree that a shapeshifting alien could be pretending to be a duck and we would not be able to tell without analysing blood samples, etc.
• 381
deduction doesn't give us anything we don't already know, making knowledge production seem near impossible.

The sum total of all analytical human knowledge is simply a {semantic tautology} a set of self-evident truths.

We create new knowledge in a way that is acceptable to the USPTO (Patent and Trademark office) by combining existing ideas together in a uniquely different way.

In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is a proposition that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-evidence

This means that deduction is simply one or more links into the knowledge tree verbal model of the actual world.

I only put copyright notices on key insights that have taken me many years to achieve.
• 381
↪PL Olcott I agree that a shapeshifting alien could be pretending to be a duck and we would not be able to tell without analysing blood samples, etc.

If it even has the same DNA as a Duck because it replaced the Duck's consciousness with its own, then we cannot even tell from blood samples.
• 124
How can a duck's consciousness be replaced by an alien? Is consciousness something separate from the body that can be put in different bodies or is it something emergent as a result of brain activities?
• 124
How do I know that something self-evident is true? My perceptions could be real or simulations or hallucinations or dreams or illusions.
• 381
↪PL Olcott How can a duck's consciousness be replaced by an alien? Is consciousness something separate from the body that can be put in different bodies or is it something emergent as a result of brain activities?

This is a hypothetical example thought experiment of the boundaries of the
Identity_of_indiscernibles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_of_indiscernibles#:~:text=The%20identity%20of%20indiscernibles%20is,by%20y%20and%20vice%20versa.
• 381
↪PL Olcott How do I know that something self-evident is true? My perceptions could be real or simulations or hallucinations or dreams or illusions.

The set of every self-evident truth is stored in a knowledge ontology verbal
model of the actual world. A cat is an animal even if no cats physically exist.
• 124
I understand. Thank you.
• 124
I agree.
• 381
Truth Seeker
38
↪PL Olcott I agree.
seconds ago

That is great. There is no simple upvote so I do it verbally.
• 124
I see. Thank you.
• 124
So far, I am 100% or completely certain of the following:
1. I am conscious.
2. I am typing in English.
3. I am not all-knowing.
4. I am not all-powerful.
5. I change.
6. I can't do lots of things I really want to do e.g. go back in time and prevent all suffering, inequality, injustice, and deaths and make all living things forever happy.
7. I do some things even though I don't want to do them.
Here are some things I have done, currently do or will do even though I don't want to do them:

1. Breathe
2. Eat
3. Drink
4. Sleep
5. Dream
7. Pee
8. Poo
9. Fart
10. Burp
11. Sneeze
12. Cough
13. Age
14. Get ill
15. Get injured
16. Sweat
17. Cry
18. Suffer
19. Snore
20. Think
21. Feel
22. Choose
23. Be conceived
24. Be born
25. Remember some events that I don't want to remember
26. Forget information that I want to remember
27. Die

I am 99.99% or almost certain of the following:
1. I and all the other organisms currently alive will die. Every second brings all organisms closer to death.
2. My body, other organisms, the Earth and the Universe really exist.
3. Other organisms e.g. humans, cows, dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, lions, elephants, butterflies, whales, dolphins, etc. are conscious.
4. Being a vegan is more ethical than being a vegetarian and being a vegetarian is more ethical than being an omnivore.
5. Gods do not exist.
6. Souls do not exist.
7. Reincarnation does not happen.
8. Resurrection does not happen.
10. Organisms evolved and were not created by God or Gods.
11. 99.9% of all the species to evolve so far on Earth became extinct in 5 mass extinctions long before humans evolved.
12. Humans and other organisms do not have free will. Our wills are determined and constrained by our genes, environments, nutrients, and experiences.
• 2.1k
I am 100% certain that I am conscious
I assume that this applied at the exact moment you were composing this topic. Because you cannot say "I am conscious" in general, i.e. with no time reference. So, since we are talking about 100% certainty, we should also be as exact as possible in our statements, whether these are applied to being, having or doing.

It is possible that what I perceive is either a dream or a hallucination or an illusion or a simulation and not objectively real.
Right. This is the first thing that came to my mind. And see, you are bringing it up yourself, invalidating therefore your first statement, i.e. that you are 100% certain that you are conscious! :smile:

I have no way of knowing this with 100% certainty. Given the fact that I cannot know with 100% certainty what is objectively real
Second invalidation! :smile

how can I know what is morally correct with 100% certainty?
Now, this makes it much more difficult to talk about 100% certainty, since morality is something relative and can be defined in a lot of different ways.

How can we know if macroscopic determinism is true or false with 100% certainty?
I think that now we lost --at least I-- the ball!

The more abstract the ideas the certainty of which we are querying, the more difficult is to establish its degree, esp. 100%. And the opposite, the more concrete and easily definable they are, the easier and more exact will be our estimation of their certainty.

Yet, the problem does not lie in concreteness or abstractness. It lies in the nature of knowledge, however we define it: "acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles" or "justified beliefs" (as some people like to describe it), etc. And the question of the topic becomes "Is there absolute knowledge?"
Because if I could have this absolute knowledge, then I would be 100% certain, wouldn't I?
And if we are talking about "absolute knowledge" then we are also taking about "absolute reality".

So, here's where views split. Mine is that "reality is subjective". (I have talked about that extensively in various occasions, but I won't do it here too.)
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