There often follows a question about the dangers of acknowledging that we do not, and perhaps can never, know anything with the certitude required for action. Therefore there is a profound discomfort with this admission about our mental deficits, as if the admission itself will hamstring our ability to ever affect our world in a positive way. Here I think that we must first make a commitment to what is true, as Socrates did. Hopefully we will not die for it, but I am sure that we will be discomfited by it. Until we acknowledge our human frailties of mind, emotion and reason, we will be forever mired in a kind of Hegelian purgatory, with one persons certitude polarized against another’s until they can beat out a kind of compromise that suits no one.
I believe that it is only when we accept our limitations, and come to understand what methods might be used to challenge ourselves to a greater clarity of mind, even knowing that we cannot approach as close to certitude as we would like, that we can most effectively work for improvements in our own lives and in the world. It takes humility of spirit and intention to listen to and fully hear the stories of those with whom we disagree. And I think it is this kind of listening that will lead to the culture shifts that are necessary before policy and platform changes can emerge. The philosopher/poet/animal trainer Vicki Hearne wrote “The stories we tell ourselves are enormously important.” When we become mindful and attentive to our stories and the stories of others, we might just have a chance.