Selected Quotes about Uncertainty

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth. -- Pierre Abelard

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough. -- Frank Crane

There are no creeds in mathematics. -- Peter F. Drucker

In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain. -- Pliny the Elder

Don't waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our distrust is very expensive. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him. -- Victor Frankl

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. -- Erich Fromm

The common dogma [of fundamentalists] is fear of modern knowledge, inability to cope with the fast change in a scientific-technological society, and the real breakdown in apparent moral order in recent years.... That is why hate is the major fuel, fear is the cement of the movement, and superstitious ignorance is the best defense against the dangerous new knowledge. ... When you bring up arguments that cast serious doubts on their cherished beliefs you are not simply making a rhetorical point, you are threatening their whole Universe and their immortality. That provokes anger and quite frequently violence. ... Unfortunately you cannot reason with them and you even risk violence in confronting them. Their numbers will decline only when society stabilizes, and adapts to modernity. -- G Gaia

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. -- Andre Gide

To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Unthinking faith is a curious offering to be made to the creator of the human mind. -- John A. Hutchinson

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever or whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing. -- Thomas H. Huxley

I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality. -- James Joyce

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking. -- Alfred Korzybski

Trust him not with your secrets, who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers. -- Johann Kaspar Lavater

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next. -- Ursula K. LeGuin

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next. -- Ursula K. LeGuin

The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt. -- Rollo May

To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely -- this is for man what running is for a horse. -- Blaise Pascal

We must learn our limits. We are all something, but none of us are everything. -- Blaise Pascal

If you're not confused, you're not paying attention. -- Tom Peters

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking. -- Theodore Rubin

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality. -- Bertrand Russell

When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others. -- Bertrand Russell

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise. -- Bertrand Russell

When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also add that some things are more nearly certain than others. -- Bertrand Russell

It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science. -- Carl Sagan

It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones. (1987 lecture "The Burden of Skepticism") -- Carl Sagan

Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters. -- Isaac Bashevis Singer

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. -- Voltaire

I believe that uncertainty is really my spirit's way of whispering, "I'm in flux. I can't decide for you. Something is off-balance here." -- Oprah Winfrey

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. -- John Wooden

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything. -- Virginia Woolf

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