One argument advanced against certainty is boredom. To be sure of things, says the argument, you have to stick to the same things. You give up the excitement of surprise, the adventure of uncertainty. You know how things will turn out, so you're bored.
Omniscience, if it existed, might be boring, but certainty is not omniscience. Certainty is not knowing everything, but being sure of what you do know. It is confidence in your method of knowing. This confidence means that you can stride boldly into the unknown, since you have a way of handling it. Adventure is not a threat to you, but a way of life.
The argument that certainty is dull gets it backwards. To see how, think of the last time you skipped something that, in hindsight, you wish you had tried. Was that because you were too sure of yourself, or not sure enough? If it was lack of confidence, you were not alone. People who lack confidence in their ability to handle new things tend to avoid new things. They sometimes complain that they find themselves boring.
What's boring is not the bold life, but the gingerly life—the life of one who lives at the beach, but never goes near the water. To get into the swim, you need confidence in mental skills. You need conviction that you can learn new things. You need what Ayn Rand's theory of concepts offers: knowledge of how your mind works and how to keep it working.
If you think that you are stuck in a dull life, analyze it. Does the dullness come from outside, or from inside? Even a plain rock can stir the imagination. If you are certain of your geology, you might note that it is an igneous rock: it was once spit out of a volcano. You can imagine that boring hill over there as it once was—a fiery menace to all life around. But what life would that have been? And could that rise once have been a stream of lava? You are surrounded with secrets to discover.
When you are certain of your epistemology, you see no dull people. You see active minds, passive minds, confident minds, uncertain minds, quick minds, slow minds, direct minds, evasive minds—and varying mixtures of these attributes in the same minds. More importantly, you are never bored by your own mind, since you are in charge of it. You keep it supplied with challenges, and prepare it for bigger challenges. You find that when you are alone, you are in good company.
|Next Essay||Previous Essay||Essays Index||Home|