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Monday Musings: are you seeking knowledge or certainty?

We often praise certainty in today's world; it can be seen as synonymous with competence, confidence or expertise. But certainty may not be the best outcome.

What's the difference between certainty and knowledge? Philosopher Karl Popper wrote "Knowledge consists in the search for truth...It is not the search for certainty." Inherent in his assertion is the idea that truth is constantly shifting, and that knowledge is continuing to seek truth even as it shifts. When we seek knowledge, we ultimately realize we cannot be certain of much in this world, but we can continue to ask questions, seek information and evolve our understanding.

Certainty, on the other hand, is absolute. It closes the door to curiosity and, along with it, to learning. When we are certain, we believe we have people and situations all figured out. That means we don't need to listen to others, to seek different perspectives, or to question our assumptions. I think we can all see the problem with certainty.

Do you always know when you're seeking certainty instead of knowledge? Whenever you're not sure, consider asking yourself:

  • What do I really "know" here? (spoiler alert: it's usually less than you think)

  • What information might I be missing?

  • If I had to consider a different perspective, what would it be?

  • Where can I go or who can I talk to shed new light on this person/situation/problem/opportunity?

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