OLLI  CSUEB


Bill Garrett, PhD 
bill@kenon.us

 


 

The Virtue of Uncertainty

 

"Modern science is based on the Latin injunction― ignoramus― ‘we do not know.’ The assumption is not only that we don’t know everything; even more critically, the assumption is that the things that we think we know, can be proven wrong as we gain more knowledge."

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

 

The course will survey the unique function of uncertainty and the vital role it has come to play in philosophy, religion, politics, and science. It sounds strange to say, but ‘ignorance’ is not the enemy of science, but its precondition. The true enemy of science is certainty― the uncritical acceptance of beliefs that are confidently based on authority and tradition, rather than on evidence. In this course, we’ll elaborate and assess the extent to which uncritical certainty has become prevalent in American culture. Thoughtful uncertainy has been shouted down by thundering ‘certainties’― a development that threatens both liberal democracy and personal integrity.

 

 


 

Bibliography


 

READINGS

  

#1: Emerson, Bacon, Snyder

#2: Nietzsche & William James

#3: Kurt Anderson

#4: "You're Not Going to Change Your Mind"

#5: News Overload

#6: Reason on the Ropes

#7: Rethinking Ecology

 



Supplementary Readings

Power Causes Brain Damage: Jerry Useem (2017)

 

Supplementary Videos

POLITICS AND CULTURE

How We Stopped Thinking Critically

Adam Curtis 

The Century of the Self  (3 hours/55 minutes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s

 

The Power of Nightmares  (3 hours)

https://archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares-AdamCurtis

 

Climate Change and Its Implications

Years of Living Dangerously: Season 1, Episode 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ

 

NOVA: Earth from Space

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpFryXQbVEA

 

NatGeo: Earth: A New Wild― Water

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2itwwx

NatGeo: Earth: A New Wild― Plains

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2i3gp0