Thursday, September 5, 2013

The science of Maybe Logic

We've talked before on this blog about "maybe logic," about Robert Anton Wilson's suggestion that people would be saner if they qualified their opinions with "maybe,"  and about his goal to convince people to approach opinions in a state of generalized agnosticism.

In an article published in 2008 at Salon, Dr. Robert Burton argues that we would all be less certain that we know the truth about a particular issue if we understood that certainty isn't always connected with a firm grasp of the facts.

"But modern biology is pointing in a different direction. It is telling us that despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of 'knowing what we know' arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us."

Burton writes that understanding brain biology explains "why your red is not my red." Who is the master who makes the grass green?

The article is excepted from a book. Since then, Burton has written another nonfiction book, A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind. He's also written three novels. Burton apparently is a neurologist and novelist; more information here. (Actually, it appears his name is "Robert A." Burton).

Via Timothy Leary Futique on Twitter. Despite the new vogue for uncertainty, I'm pretty sure it's worth following.

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