Bill Garrett, PhD 



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.








#1: Emerson, Bacon, Snyder

#2: Kurt Andersen

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

#4: The Social Psychology of Freedom


Supplementary Readings