Certitude, Degrees of

From The Practical Ontology & Compendium of Social Cohesion

Definition: As used herein, Degrees of Certitude (or “Certitude”) refers to a continuum of overlapping approximations of certainty a Person has about a Proposition that, if it culminates, culminates in that Person’s Judgment (Action). A B C Actions of your Body Actions of Someone else (0) Ignorance, (-1) Invincible Ignorance, (1) Sensation, (2) Awareness, (-2) Denial, (3) Emotions, (-3) Denial (4) Attention, (5) Imagination, (6) Speculation, (7) Interpretation, (-7) Error (-7) Deception (8) Opinion, (-8) Error (-8) Deception (9) Understanding, (-9) Error (-9) Deception (9.5) Judgment (includes Action), (-9.5) Error (-9.5) Deception (10) Belief, (-10) False Belief, (-10) Deception (11) Knowledge, (-11) Deception (12) Truth, Beauty, Goodness (-12) Falsehood, Ugliness, Evil.


Introduction If you have not already done so, please read the following short essays in the order presented before you go deeper into the Degrees of Certitude. Remember - Use the BACK ARROW on your browser to return to your spot on this webpage.

1. How we know anything about anything 2. Your Sensorium is at the center of meaning 3. A better attitude towards our ancestors 4. Modernity - A troublesome concept in our Social Order 5. Coming or going - Can we do both?

Commentary In this section, I have a number of comments that will prepare you to Understand the Degrees of Certitude, "Understanding" itself being one of the degrees -

1) Degrees of Certitude has to do with an expanded notion of Reality - Namely, not only what exists in the present, but also what has been in the past as may be known from memory or by inference from that which is in the present, as well as what may be probable in the future.

For example, archaeologists make inferences with a Degree of Certitude about the past from artifacts they dig up in the present. Likewise, rocket scientists have a Degree of Certitude that the rocket ship they are building will reach its appointed destination. They carefully calculate the probabilities.

2) Certitude necessarily involves Action - That is, the Person moves along the Degrees of Certitude at a minimum with a feeling felt, i.e., a Sensation. If there is no Sensation there is no Certitude.

3) When I use the terms "Sense" or "Sensation," I am referring to the human Sensorium. Before going further, carefully study this concept by clicking here.

Now that you know what your Sensorium is you will Understand the importance of this premise -

As used herein, for purposes of the Degrees of Certitude, a given Sensation in question is deemed not to be a fantasy, illusion, delusion, hallucination or the result of a seizure. These sorts of Events really do happen in Reality sometimes, but I am alerting you that they are outside the scope of what we're talking about on this webpage. These Events should be evaluated by physicians or other experts.

4) Each approximation of Certitude is defined below as a Special Term. The continuum of Special Terms should be grasped as a whole rather than each term standing in isolation, one from the others. The terms are as follows -

(Invincible Ignorance), (Ignorance), Sensation, Awareness, (Denial), Emotions, Attention, Imagination, Speculation, Interpretation, Opinion, Understanding, Judgment, Belief, Knowledge, (Error), Truth (Falsehood).

5) To suggest the relationship of one Degree of Certitude to all others in the continuum, each Degree is assigned a number. They are -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9.5, 10, 11 and 12. A Certitude number greater than zero includes all lesser Certitude numbers greater than zero. For example, a Person who Understands (9) something must necessarily be Aware (2) of it. However, a Person cannot be Aware (2), much less Understand (9) something about which he or she is Ignorant (0). A Person who has an Opinion (8) about something is not yet making a Judgment (9.5) about it in the sense that he or she is not yet Ready-Willing-Able to take further Action on his or her Opinion. It's just an Opinion.

6) Several of the Degrees of Certitude defined below are presented along with their opposites designated by the letter "n" attached to their number. For example, at the top of the continuum is Truth (12) and Falsehood (12n).

7) One may view the Degrees of Certitude like the links in a chain of Actions. There are two especially pivotal Actions. Certitude begins with Sensation (defined below). A Sensation is an Action experienced by a Person’s Sensorium. One’s Sensorium (or the movements within one's Sensorium) is the first pivot upon which all Certitude turns. One cannot overstate the importance of the human Sensorium. The second pivot is Judgment (defined below). That is the point just beyond Understanding at which a Person is Ready-Willing-Able (discussed below) to Act and so, in fact, Acts in a manner consistent with his or her Judgment. All human consequences flow from Judgment.

8) By conforming one's Propositional statements about Reality to these Special Terms, the speaker/writer is being nuanced in contrast to being absolute. Using the Degrees of Certitude is a humble approach to Reality.

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(-1) Invincible Ignorance As used herein, Invincible Ignorance refers to the state of a Person who, for whatever reason, is unready, unwilling and/or unable to ascent to a positive Degree of Certitude about a given Proposition regardless of its credibility.

Commentary Here are four examples to illustrate "unready, unwilling and/or unable."

First, John Doe - many years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq - still insists that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. John is pigheaded. He is Invincibly Ignorant and cannot ascent to the Proposition, “Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.” There is no point arguing with John Doe further about this issue at this time. Maybe down the road, John will be open to correction. Second, Mary Smith, a Person living in impoverished Circumstances, is in Denial about her recent slide into alcoholism which then deforms her Certitude about many other Propositions such as, "I am spending too much money" or "I am taking too much risk." Mary's Denial is a delicate matter for another Person to challenge. During Mary's period of Denial, it may be accurate to say she is Invincibly Ignorant about the various matters about which she is using poor Judgment. One can only hope she "hits rock bottom" and begins to be more Ready-Willing-Able to move along positive Degrees of Certitude about whatever Proposition is at hand.

Third, Tiger Woods, the famous golfer, is my third example of Invincible Ignorance. Wikipedia reports that as a man married to an intelligent, beautiful Swedish woman and as a father of two children, Mr. Woods had affairs with over a dozen women. In retrospect, his Invincible Ignorance was evident to him. "On February 19, 2010, Woods gave a televised statement in which he said he had been in a 45-day therapy program since the end of December. He again apologized for his actions. 'I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,' he said. 'I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them [willing women]. I was wrong. I was foolish.'"

Fourth, elderly Bill Brown has dementia. There are many things he no longer is able to confirm or deny which when he was younger he could and did.

Reference - For further discussion, see Wikipedia on "invincible ignorance."

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(0) Ignorance As used herein, Ignorance refers to the absence of all positive Degrees of Certitude about a given Proposition or other Aspect of Reality.

Commentary "Ignorance" is not a pejorative term. It is a statement of fact. Preschool children, for example, are Ignorant about all Aspects of Reality beyond their little world of experience. The purpose of education is to alleviate Ignorance. Adults may be less Ignorant generally than children, but they, too, are Ignorant about many Aspects of Reality. For example, prior to September 11, 2001, most American citizens were Ignorant about the Proposition, "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." (Whether they Believed it or not, that was, in fact, a Proposition stated by some experts around the time of 9-11.) Most Americans prior to 9-11 could not have found Iraq on a map, much less named its political leader. Americans were simply Ignorant about these matters.

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(1) Sensation As used herein, Sensation refers to an Event that a Person’s Sensorium experiences.

Commentary At some point of stimulation, a Person’s Sensorium registers an unidentified something “out there” in Reality or “in here” inside the Person. Here are analogies - A Person has vague feelings but cannot identify them and so cannot say, “I feel faint," or a Person has vague feelings that something is “out there” in the fog that may not be the fog but cannot yet say, “Who goes there?”

Reference - For further discussion, see Wikipedia article on “sensation.” - Top -

(2) Awareness As used herein, Awareness refers to a Person’s Consciousness of an Object, Event, Person or Category “out there” in Reality or “in here” inside the Person.

Commentary When something registers sufficiently on the Sensorium of a Person we say the Person is Aware with a degree of particularity that an Object, Event, Person or Category is "out there" or "in here." For example, Mary starts to have certain feelings. At some point, she is able to say, "I feel faint." She is Aware of her faintness - a certain Aspect of Reality. Notice that her statement - "I feel faint" - is a Proposition. Awareness is the place in the Degrees of Certitude where Propositional statements begin. Before you are Aware of something you cannot say anything about it.

Reference - For further discussion, see Wikipedia on "awareness." - Top -

(2n, 3n) Denial As used herein, Denial is an Event. It is a response to an Awareness of a significant threat that a Person fears (an Emotion) may Overwhelm him or her so the Person denies the facts about what is happening.

Commentary Discussing a Person's Denial with him or she is a delicate matter. As a negative Degree of Certitude, Denial is situated somewhere in the area of Awareness and Emotions. For more discussion, see the Wikipedia article on denial. - Top -

(3) Emotions As used herein, an Emotion is an Event. In the absence of Denial, a Person's Awareness of something stimulates one or more distinguishable Emotions such as fear, anxiety, joy and so on.

References - For a very long list of emotions and their descriptions, see the Wikipedia article on "emotions." The length of the list suggests how complex human emotions are. - Top -

(4) Attention As used herein, to Attend to something is an Event. It means to concentrate on an Object, Event, Person or Category to the exclusion of all other Aspects of Reality.

Commentary Part of the process of Attending to something is the marshaling of the appropriate Emotions and the shutting out of ones that distract from one’s Attention.

Reference - For further discussion, see Wikipedia article on "attention." Concerning meaning Once a Person is Attending to something, he or she begins to develop meaning about that something. That is to say, he or she begins to deal consciously in Propositions about the something that he or she is Attending to. The following Degrees of Certitude are thus steps in arriving at Propositions. A narrative is offered as a way of illustrating the appropriateness of the remaining Special Terms as word-choices for conveying meaning through Propositions.

Narrative Fred (the first person) and Sam (the second person), two tourists, are sitting on beach chairs by Lake Michigan on a windy, wavy day. They are leisurely gazing at pretty girls strolling by. Fred suddenly shouts to Sam, "Look! There! Do you see it?" Sam looks in the direction Fred is pointing out in the lake and tries to Attend to whatever is there. Finally, Sam sees something at a distance out in the waves of Lake Michigan. He is focused (Attending) but does not yet have an idea of what it is that he is focusing on. - Top -

(5) Imagination As used herein, Imagining Aspects of something is an Event involving Attention. It refers to a Person "filling in the blanks" or "connecting the dots" with Aspects not yet Evident within a larger whole, Aspects of which are Evident.

This usage of "to imagine" in the context of the Degrees of Certitude is different from the ordinary meaning of "to imagine" which is "to form an image or idea of somebody or something in the mind"(Encarta online dictionary) which does not necessarily consider that some Aspects of the subject are Evident and some are not. In the ordinary sense, imagining could refer to pure daydreaming.

Commentary Somewhere along the line, a Person may become confident enough about the thing that he or she Attending to and Imaging such that he or she is willing to Speculate about its meaning and so utter a Proposition. (See the next Degree.) Prior to Speculation, however, there is no meaning – There is only something the Person is Attending to and Imagining what might be missing pieces of a whole.

See Wikipedia article on "imagine." - Top -

(6) Speculation To Speculate is to state a tentative Proposition about something. A Person Speculates until new evidence or Aspects of the thing come to light, which is expected. Speculation is the lowest kind of Proposition one can make.

See Wikipedia article on "speculative reason."

Narrative - Continued Now that Sam sees the Object that Fred was pointing to, Sam asks Fred, "What is that?" Fred says, "It looks like someone's floating dock has broken loose." Fred is Speculating that the large Object is a floating dock. That's what his Imagination suggests to him is the Meaning of the Object he sees in the waves of Lake Michigan until more details come into view. - Top -

(7) Interpretation Interpretation is more settled than Speculation and does not expect new evidence or Aspects of the thing to appear shortly.

See Wikipedia article on "interpretation."

Narrative - Continued Sam says, "No, that's not a floating dock. Look at its shape. That's one of those cigar-shaped racing boats. It's upside down." Fred after a few more moments of looking agrees. From a distance, the large Object that is rising and falling on the waves appears to be a capsized boat. Both men then recall that earlier in the day when the lake was calm, there had been speed boat races. This memory is more evidence. Yes, it's a capsized racing boat. That's their Interpretation.

But then Fred thinks, how did this capsized racing boat get out there in the waves in front of the beach where we are sitting? Those racing boats are expensive! Did someone just let it drift away from the dock? Wait a minute! It's upside down! What's going-on here? This does not make sense. Then Fred notices a smaller Object in the water near the overturned boat. "Look there," Fred cries to Sam, pointing. The Object is waving – an Event.

Sam, looking, asks, "You mean there," he points?

"No," Fred says. "Over there, to the left." Wait a minute, Fred then thinks. What is that over on the right that Sam is pointing to? It's another Object. It is not waving.

Both men began by Speculating and then they settled on an Interpretation of what they were seeing. The large Object was not a floating dock. It was an overturned boat. But then new Evidence arrived. Another Object was waving. Their Interpretation finally concludes that there were two people in the water near an overturned speedboat. The two people must have been in the boat that capsized. The one who is waving is clearly a man. He has a beard. He looks like he is wearing a dark shirt. - Top -

(8) Opinion An Opinion is firmer than an Interpretation. An Opinion assumes all Aspects of something and surrounding evidence is in hand.

Commentary An Opinion tends not to change until a more persuasive argument about existing or additional evidence changes it. Note, however, that a Person may hold an Opinion but not be willing to act based on it.

See Wikipedia article on "opinion."

Narrative - Continued Yes, that is an overturned racing boat in Lake Michigan on a wavy day. Yes, there are two men in the water. One is waving. The other is not. This has now become Fred and Sam's Opinion. They've got it figured out, finally. The question then arises - What should Fred and Sam do? They have already engaged in many Actions. Their Certitude has moved from one Degree to the next. What further Action do they undertake?

The only reason this next question arises is because the two men on the beach feel intense Sympathy for the people in the water. The people in the water are overwhelmed in the ordinary sense of being out of control and knowing it! They are in danger of drowning! If Fred and Sam were the one's overwhelmed in the water, what would they want people on the beach to do for them? If not for Empathy and Sympathy, our Degree of Certitude would stop at mere Opinions about Reality. For what reason would we say or do anything beyond express Opinions?

With regard to the two men in the water and what to do about it, Fred's Opinion is this. Sam's Opinion is that. But the fact is, both men stand there on the beach doing nothing.

Meanwhile, a mother and her two children who are on the beach nearby watch what the four men are doing, the two on the beach and the two in the water. The mother and children have two life preservers with them on the beach. - Top -

(9) Understanding As used herein, to Understand something means that a Person grasps the Evidence with regard to the something well enough such that he or she is Ready-Willing-Able to Act appropriately with regard that which is Understood.

Commentary A Person's Understanding precedes his or her Judgment and Action. A Person Believes his or her Understanding is correct, otherwise he or she would not consider Acting. A Person's Belief may turn out to be incorrect because his or her Understanding may turn out to be incorrect once he or she makes a Judgment and Acts. Still, to Understand means to be Ready-Willing-Able to act.

See Wikipedia article on "understanding."

Narrative - Continued The mother runs over to Fred and Sam with the two life preservers. "Here," she says as she hands Sam the life preservers. Sam is the man standing closest to her as she runs over.

All of the adults on the beach now Understand the situation before them and what the two people in the water Need. They Need to be saved. They Need not be overwhelmed. What do Fred and Sam do? What do Fred and Sam Need in order to take the next step? - Top -

(9.5) Judgment As used herein, the Special Term "Judgment" is the pivot upon which all else turns in human Consciousness with regard to a Person taking Action. It is the process by which a Person evaluates information received via his or her Sensorium to come to an Understanding of a Proposition and then makes a decision to take Action with regard to it and, in fact, takes the Action in the context of his or her Circumstances.

As used herein, Judgment includes (or fails to include) wisdom and discernment. In other words, one may take Action based on poor Judgment due to a lack of wisdom and/or discernment.

Judgment depends on the existence of Free Will and Liberty which may be impaired by various factors.

In a given scary case, Judgment may require Courage. If one does not have the necessary Courage to Act and therefore does not Act, the Event in question is not an instance of Judgment. It is an instance of cowardice.

See Control, Govern and Surrender

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(10) Belief To Believe something means to Act on one's Judgment about something in the absence of Adequate Evidence.

Commentary For example, before a Person Acts, he or she does not yet Know that his or her Understanding is, in fact, correct. If the Person Acts, he or she must have Believed.

See Wikipedia article on "belief." - Top -

Narrative - Continued If Fred and Sam were not tourists, but were instead two well-trained lifeguards on duty with the proper equipment near at hand, with many experiences of saving drowning people, they would go about their business to attempt to save the people in the water under the Circumstances then prevailing. They Understand the Circumstances, what to do and so they do it. They Believe they have a chance of succeeding. If they did not Believe, they would not go into the water.

But the fact is, Fred and Sam are tourists. Fred stands there, frozen. He cannot act. He is missing something vital that is Needed. Sam, meanwhile, puts on one of the life preservers and with the second one slung over his shoulder, goes into the water. What was Sam Believing? What was Fred missing? - Top -

(10n) False Belief

(7n thru 11n) Error To Believe something that is not True.

Narrative - Continued As it turns out, Sam’s Belief was False. He Believed that somehow he could save the two people in the water. His Belief was a False Belief. Both men drowned. (They were indeed men. Their bodies eventually washed ashore.) Sam could not save them or even one of them as he Believed he might. Injured on some rocks, Sam barely makes it back to shore alive.

False Beliefs are commonplace in children. They do not have enough experience to Know otherwise. They Believe in Santa Claus. They Believe they cause their parents to get a divorce and so on. - Top -

(11) Knowledge To Know something or to have Knowledge of it is to grasp it now or in retrospect as True in contrast to Believing something will be True.

Commentary Some of our Knowledge comes from firsthand experience that we recall but most of it comes to us from other people who teach us in classrooms or by example or it is conveyed by other Persons to us through Communication and we recall what we learned from these sources.

Plato said that Knowledge is "justified true belief." The assumption here is that our own experience, teachers, those who gave example and those who Communicated to us were reliable. We are justified, we Believe, to Believe the Knowledge we learned from these sources is True.

Note that it is Knowledge of some factors if not all that help us come to an Understanding of something and so make us Ready-Willing-Able to take of Action.

See Wikipedia article on "knowledge."

Narrative - Continued What separates amateur tourists from professional lifeguards is that lifeguards have much more Knowledge. They have, for example, received training, they have practiced, they have already saved many people. They Know these things before they go into the water. - Top -

(7n thru 11n)Deception To be Deceived is to Believe one has a Degree of Certitude about something that turns out to be False.

Commentary The word "deception" implies that a teacher, a person giving an example or someone Communicating something was purposely being dishonest. On the other hand, one can be a victim of self-deception, too. In any event, notice that Deception is a negative number that runs from Interpretation through Truth and Falsehood.

See Wikipedia article on "deception." - Top -

(12) Truth, Beauty, Goodness See Truth/Falsehood.

(12n) Falsehood, Ugliness, Evil

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Questions raised by the Narrative What should Fred and Sam do once they realized a boat had capsized and two people were in the water and Needed saving? You as an Observer of this narrative - or of the real scene if you were actually there - are left to answer this question.

What do Fred and Sam Need to go into the water to save the two strangers if, for example, you - the Observer - Believe they should?

They Need Courage. Sam had enough of it to act on his Understanding of the Circumstances and his Belief that he might succeed. He apparently Believed that risking his life as an inexperienced amateur was "worth it." We do not know what "it" refers to in Sam’s mind. Fred, apparently, did not have enough Courage to act OR he Believed it was not “worth it.” Again, we do not know what “it” refers to in the case of Fred.

Having Degrees of Certitude about something does not add up to much if a Person does not have Courage. - Top -

Related terms: Action | Attention | Awareness | Belief | Denial | Emotions | Evil | Falsehood | Ignorance | Imagination | Interpretation | Invincible Ignorance | Opinion | Person | Proposition | Sensation | Speculation | Truth | Understanding | Judgment | False Belief | Error | Knowledge | Deception | Beauty | Goodness | Ugliness

Subordinate Special Terms: Ignorance | Awareness | Truth | Belief | Imagination | Invincible Ignorance | Evident

See also:

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