Joseph Levine’s definition of the “hard problem” appears simply false to me.
He misses several key issues, and makes pronouncements about understanding that he has no authority for.
I accept it is his opinion, and not that it is any sort of fact.
A few days back, while driving to Dunedin, and having spent several hours listening to lectures on philosophy, mainly of the ancient Greeks, I recorded some thoughts on general epistemological questions. The recording was just over an hour, and below is a transcription of it, that is my best effort to date of attempting to explain how the so called “hard problem” actually seems to resolve. At least in my mind, I am confident that it is a problem no longer, and is actually rather easily understood once one adopts an appropriate set of metaphors.
Plato started with Truth – what is it?
According to Plato – Truth is the thing that is good. It is only something eternal that can be true. Nothing of the senses can be true, because the senses are always changing.
He also, in similar vein, thought that the soul (that which is essentially human) cannot be part of the real, because of the fact that the real is always changing and his idea is that you could only learn specifics through the senses. You cannot learn an abstract from the senses. To my understanding, all of these things have been clearly falsified beyond any reasonable doubt.
What he thought made sense based upon the assumptions he started out with. But there isn’t actually anything in our experience which validates those assumptions.
We have something in our environment today which was not in Plato’s world, and was not in anyone’s world until very recently.
We have in our world today computers. We have these devices made from grains of sand with tiny strips of metal in them that will do things repetitively, over and over and over, in completely predictable ways, and yet we can use symbolic languages to control the way those computers do what they do. And we can create almost anything based upon those rules. Now – some of those systems can be very abstract; they can be systems built upon systems, upon systems; and in an average computer in 2013 (something like an iPad or a reasonable laptop) there are probably 12 different levels of abstraction in the systems running those machines.
And each level can affect the levels above and below, and can in turn be affected by the levels above and below.
So we get systems that are very sensitive to the inputs from the environment and can have very very complex responses to the environment.
We can play video games.
We can listen to classical music.
We can watch great movies.
We can be moved to tears.
We can be moved to anger.
And all of these things are done based upon systems that (at their lowest level) can be brought down to, is there a current flowing or not, through a switch.
And the complexity of those systems, on any given silicon chip within a modern computer, is far beyond the ability of any human mind to comprehend in detail during a human lifetime.
Yet they are simple in a sense.
In any given computer there are only 7 basic circuits in operation. And those basic circuits are in repetitively grouped patterns, that are repeated over and over, and while we can understand the groupings, as in looking at one of them singly, and saying “oh yeah, I understand how that particular one works”. To look at all of the trillions of transistors that are in a modern computer would take longer than a human lifetime of 70 years.
Now that sort of analogy simply was not available to Plato, or any of the ancient Greeks. They had nothing like that in their experience set.
So the sorts of assumptions that they made about the world, were very different to the sorts of assumptions that we can now make based upon our experience of the world we find ourselves in.
So, whereas many of the things that made perfect logical sense back then, they make very little sense in today’s world.
So stepping right back to the ontology, to the basic principles; what do we mean when we say something is true?
In Plato’s world, they looked to something that was unchanging. They looked to mathematics for truth (particularly the Pythagoreans), because they saw in mathematics principles that were unchanging.
What they failed to do was to draw a clear distinction between the realms of the real, and the realms of conceptual thought, of which mathematics is an example.
Their idea was that the realm of mathematics must have eternal existence, independent, and we must be born with that eternal existence already extant in our soul, and the process of education was to reveal that which was already there.
Our modern understanding, which is backed up by masses of data, and seems beyond any reasonable doubt, is that that is not how things are.
From a modern understanding of neurophysiology, of the way the neurons are structured in our brains, and the way in which we learn pattern and the way in which we recall stuff, and the way in which we experience reality, is very different from any conceptualisation that was available even a hundred years ago.
It is now very clear to us that our experience of being has a similar (and very different) relationship to our bodies as does a piece of software running on a computer. The software is not the hardware of the computer. The software is a pattern of energies flowing through that computer, and has a result that is given either as visual signals displayed on a screen or sounds. It is through a series of patterns of flowing energies, and the relationships and interactions of those flowing energies, that those sights and sounds are bought into being.
So too is it with our being.
Our being starts out when an egg and a sperm get together inside a woman’s womb. And from that simple beginning, that cell replicates, and from the instructions that are embedded within the DNA of that single cell, there is a pattern of the growth of that cell as it divides and divides again. Chemical gradients are established that define axes of head and tail, back and front, left and right. There are symmetries and asymmetries around and along these axes. Different processes occur along these gradients, and other levels of pattern occur in segmentation and then further specialisation. We see the development of muscles, of circulatory systems, of neurons, and heart and eventually brain. All of those patterns are set down in a sense in the DNA, but the patterns of chemistry within the DNA require a particular environment, and that particular environment is given by the womb of the woman. If that environment is upset at any particular stage, then things can happen. There is a well known effect called foetal alcohol syndrome, where if a woman gets drunk at a particular time during the development of that child, the child will have its brain structure changed in a way that it is unlikely to really fully develop awareness. The child is “stunted” for life.
The environment of the womb is very critical to the development of the embryo. It needs to be stable in order to produce the outcome we expect, of a fully functioning human child, with all of the capacities that we expect of a human child.
In terms of our awareness, it seems that that starts from a zero point.
It is not a simple thing.
It is not a singular thing in the first instance.
We get born, like all animals, with certain impulses. Some of those impulses are in the form of likes and dislikes.
Some of those things come from the chemistry that is inherent in the DNA. We like sweet things. Most of us dislike sour things.
Those tendencies tend to draw us towards or away from things. We like things that are warm and fuzzy. We dislike the cold and the sharp in general.
These things lead children to develop certain ideas, certain patterns of neuronal connection, certain responses to things in their environment.
Even before we are born, there is a lot of learning goes on within the womb. There is a lot of conditioning of the brain by inputs from the mother’s heartbeat, from the sounds that come in from outside, from the learning that the embryo does as to how it can control the body that it has. It learns to kick and flail around with its arms and legs.
It learns that it can contact things. It can kick its mom (even if it has no idea what a mom is or what a kick is).
It just does these things, and patterns are reinforced or inhibited as a result of trials and experience.
And so patterns build up, over time, that enable control of movement.
Once a child is born, it is exposed to many more stimuli. Stimuli in terms of the environment in which it finds itself, warm places, hot places, cold places, sharp places, smooth places, etc. Places with and without eyes, places with and without people. Over time, the brain gets all of these stimuli coming in from all of its senses, from eyes, skin, nose, mouth, ears and other more subtle senses. A young child will put stuff in its mouth to see what it tastes like. It will reach out and touch things to see what they feel like. Over time it builds up a repertoire of knowledge – this thing feels good, smooth and warm; don’t like that one, cold and sharp.
And so it begins to associate sights and smells and tastes, and these patterns build up and are reinforced in the brain.
And then language as it comes along.
Language is there, it is a part of culture.
So we learn to associate words with particular things in the environment and with particular experiences and ideas.
This idea of ideas is an abstract notion.
The way in which our brains store and retrieve information, the way in which they associate different stimuli, enables us to form abstractions and gives us intuitions. So that we can take a set of experiences of particulars, and link them together to form an abstraction (the thing that is common in them all).
So we can take an experience of many different balls, and from that, linked set of balls, we can form an abstraction of a sphere.
A sphere is an abstract notion, it is nothing real.
Reality seems not to have anything that is perfectly spherical.
Reality seems to be composed of little knobby bits of stuff when you look at it very closely. It doesn’t contain perfect spheres of anything.
Everything has irregularities and uncertainties in it.
But we can get this abstract idea that there could be, in abstract, the idea of some thing perfectly spherical, even if there is no such thing in reality.
The reason that we have such thoughts is that our thoughts, our experiences, are not themselves of reality.
It seems now, from our knowledge of the mechanics of being, of how the cells in our body create electrical signals and send them to our brain, and how our brain assembles those signals into patterns of electrical activity, that what we, as conscious awarenesses, experience as reality, is not reality itself, but is rather this pattern in electricity within our brains (a pattern in a flow of energy) that models the reality.
It seems that what we take as reality isn’t, it is but a model of reality, contained within our brain.
And so, in this way, when we take an abstract notion like a sphere, that we derive from a set of things (like a set of balls), we can ascribe to reality an idea that doesn’t really live in reality, it lives only in our model.
It seems that we can do this, because what we think of as reality isn’t in fact reality, it is, in fact, a model that exists within our brains.
And it is this notion, that has confused philosophers since people started seeking after wisdom, that they can actually know something about the real, that our experience is of reality.
Our modern understanding, which is an understanding based in probabilities, says that the conception of ancient philosophers is not how it really is.
It seems entirely probable that we cannot know anything about the nature of the reality in which we exist with any sort of absolute certainty.
The more we look into the fine structure of this reality in which we exist, when we look at the fine structure that makes up the atoms, that make up the matter, that makes up all of the chemistry and the life and the physical reality we see around us, the more confident we become that we cannot be certain about any aspect of it with absolute precision.
It seems that all of life has at least two fundamental aspects to it, and the more certain we become about one aspect the less certain we become about the other(s).
In terms of a particle, you can look at where that particle is in space and time, and the more certain you become about where that particle is, the less certain you become about its momentum (the direction it is traveling and how much energy it has).
Conversely, the more certain you become about the momentum, the less certain you become about where it is.
That is fundamentally what is known in physics as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
There is another aspect to this, in that the way our brains are structured, they give us intuitions (ways of knowing, the idea that we know something), and we derive this from what is commonly known as common sense.
How we get that, is that it is based upon many thousands of repetitions of experience, and our “common sense” works very well in situations that are common to our experience.
Common sense does not work well in situations that are unfamiliar to us (uncommon to us).
When it comes to the realm of the very small, then ordinary “common sense” makes no sense at all, it misleads us.
When we start dealing with realms that are outside our normal experience, with realms that are either very large or very small, then the measurements that we make with our instruments these days indicate to us that what is going on at these other scales is not at all like what we experience in our normal day to day realm of experience. Our “common sense” leads us astray.
When we look at things beyond the scale of our solar system, or we look at thing below the scale of single atoms, the rules change significantly. Our ordinary “common sense” understanding breaks down. Yet if one spends enough time dwelling in those realms, one can build a new and very “uncommon sense” about how those things work, and this new “uncommon sense” with its “uncommon intuitions” can allow people who do spend a lot of time dwelling in those realms, to develop an intuitive understanding of what is happening there.
And such an intuitive understanding will make no sense at all to people who have not spent a similar amount of time dwelling in those realms.
So there is a fundamental problem there, in that people who have not spent time dwelling in those realms, have great difficulty in gaining any sort of understanding about how those realms actually work.
And what we can say about them is that there are rules, and those rules do seem to be based in probability, and mathematics (nothing can be known with certainty in those realms, only with levels of confidence).
And we do know that what happens in those realms, is not at all like what happens in the realm of our ordinary experience.
If you want to go digging in those areas, then prepare to be shocked.
They are not at all like you might think they are.
And for ordinary purposes, we don’t need to worry too much about those realms, other than to be very clear that there is no certainty in them.
The one thing we can be most confident about is that there is no certainty there.
The more we try to be certain about anything, the more the systems sort of “fall apart” on us.
Where the ancient philosophers started out was looking for certainty.
They had a belief in truth, a belief in certainty, a belief in rules and reason.
And they tried to substantiate those beliefs.
After thousands of years of people investigating, and building upon the experiments and the investigations and the thoughts of others, it has now become clear, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is no certainty in any realm that is related to the real, in any realm that is about the physical world in which we find ourselves, the physicality of our existence, or the essence of the patterns that make up a human being.
We can understand much about the general principles, at many different levels.
Being a human being is not simple (at any level).
It has many layers to it.
It has many different aspects to it.
And every one of those aspects has fundamental uncertainties attached to it (uncertainties that cannot be known in any sort of absolute sense).
So the idea that there can be anything that is “right” in any sort of absolute sense, is, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, a complete nonsense.
So why do most people have this notion of “right”?
Why are we attached to it?
Why is it so important to us?
Why do we hold on to it?
It seems that, when we start from nothing, and we are faced with a very large collection of things, and we have to make some sense of it, then we have to categorise it in some way.
We have to come up with a classification system that allows us to group things, so that we can deal with them.
We have to be able to say, these things belong to that group, and those things belong to another group, etc.
And the simplest way that it is possible to do that is to divide a group into two.
So if you have a collection (even a potentially infinite collection, as it seems to be in the case of possible strategies that one can adopt in life) you can split it into two groups.
When you talk about the physical being of life, it seems that it is a set of things that is very very large in human terms. It seems that the number of possible quantum states in our universe since it began is something like a 1 with 220 zeros after it. It is a very very large number. It is not the sort of number that most human minds can make much sense of, and it seems very likely that it is a finite number.
It is a large number, but it is not infinite.
So in terms of the reality in which we find ourselves, it seems that that is big, but finite (in any given instant).
In terms of what might become in that reality, that appears to be infinite.
So while there seems to be a finite amount of energy in our universe that can be expressed either in terms of what we call energy or what we call matter, it appears that the potential number of patterns that can be formed by that energy and matter is not constrained.
That is not finite, that is infinite.
The form in any given instant is finite, but the potentiality, the possibilities, are infinite.
[This can only happen in a realm that is a mix of the lawful and the random.]
It appears that our awareness, this experience of being human, is an experience of a very large collection of pattern recognisers, existent within the neocortex of a human brain. It is a pattern of energy, a flux of energy, through those neocortical systems, which is experiencing a model of reality as reality itself; and trying to make sense of its being.
It seems that this idea of making sense of its being, is an artefact of language.
It is a pattern of words within that model, within those pattern recognisers.
Whereas the words are symbolic referents, and each word brings with it a group of pattern recognisers, and those groups of pattern recognisers have associated with them experiences:
Experiences in the realm of reality;
Experiences in the realm of dreams;
Experiences in the realm of abstraction;
Experiences in the realm of intuitions;
Experiences of being, be they of reality, or of the internal experience of these patterns of energy within the human mind.
And it is in the realm of these pattern recognisers associating words that we experience our being.
We are not simply constrained to language, because we have all of these other capacities as well.
We can experience sights, sounds, visions, tastes, smells, touch; and we can recall each of these from previous experiences.
We can mix and match from experiential in the now, and recall, to make hallucinations and dreams.
We can create many variations on themes around this mix and match of reality and unreality to create a vast range of experience of being human.
In that experience of being human there are aspects of it that are given by the physicality, the chemistry, that are basically a function of the particular DNA of our conception, which then grew in a particular womb, subject to the particular set of small fluctuations in the environment, all of which lead to particular differences in who we got born as. And that will come with particular tendencies toward liking and disliking particular things, and particular tendencies towards experiencing different things, to be able to experience different colours, tastes and smells for example.
Some people can see colours that others can’t.
Some people can taste tastes that others can’t.
That comes in part from the chemistry given by our DNA, and in part from experience. We may have the potential to recognise things, but just haven’t yet trained our pattern recognising neuronal systems to distinguish them; or we may lack the necessary chemical pathways.
The two things cannot be totally separated.
Experience plays a very big role in which of the senses actually get to be linked to different pattern recognisers.
It is very much the case that we can learn to see new sights, and we can learn to taste new tastes by training the pattern recognisers within our brains to see ever finer gradations in the things we experience.
It seems that this experience of being human is in no way a simple thing.
We come with this set of genetic predispositions, we learn many patterns from culture (patterns of behaviour, thought, language) mostly without question, and it is only later, after we have learned these patterns, after we have the language, and the concepts, that we can form ideas like scepticism, like enquiry, like testing things for ourselves, that we are able to go back and investigate “was this idea that I got from culture still a useful approximation to how things are, or have I got something better now, that delivers more useful choices more frequently? Or is it an approximation that was useful for a child, but is no longer appropriate for an adult.”
And so it is with most of the ideas we have that are simple binaries, ideas like good & bad or good & evil or right & wrong or hot & cold or light & dark.
The idea that you can classify the world into light and dark without having all of the trillions of shades of grey that are possible, all of the billions of colours that are possible.
Life would be a very sparse experience if one could only describe life in terms of light or dark, and could not say anything about colour or shades of grey.
And yet most people hold onto notions like right and wrong, and good and bad, as if they had a reality that was any more real than the idea of light and dark.
All the evidence I have seems to indicate that they don’t.
All the evidence we have today is that they are, in most cases, simple approximations of an infinite spectrum.
It appears that we live in a world where every individual acts in reality.
People are capable of making choices, and in the absence of active choice, active contemplation, people will act out patterns from their past.
So, to be a human being is to have many aspects.
We cannot consciously think about everything we do.
The world in which we live is far too complicated for that.
And we can take higher level choices. We can train ourselves to react in particular ways in particular environments and we can train ourselves to produce certain contexts and have those contexts trigger particular ways of being, particular patterns of behaviour. And we cannot consciously control what we do. Just try sometime to consciously put a fork full of food in your mouth, and don’t be surprised if you end up stabbing yourself in the cheek. And yet, when was the last time your missed your mouth with a fork full of food?
Your body knows what to do. It learns by doing, and it builds up patterns of behaviour that work in normal circumstances. And this seems to be true not just of the body, but of all levels of mental activity.
And we all learn to trust these patterns, and in normal circumstances they work.
And often the trick in life is becoming aware of when the circumstances are no longer normal, of when we are now in a new pattern and the old ways of being are no longer appropriate. Being able to recognise new contexts like this is perhaps the most difficult thing for any of us to do, and there is no absolute certainty in any of it, for any of us.
All such things are essentially probabilistic in nature.
We can be more or less confident about context.
And yet each of has to act, and an action is not probabilistic, an action is a real thing.
So each of us has to bring into being what we choose to do, and following from that choice there will be action.
And then that action becomes history.
It is done.
It is real.
It is past.
And consequences will flow.
And none of us can ever be 100% certain about what the ultimate consequence of any action is going to be.
We all make our choices, and the consequences of our choices go out there and mingle with the consequences of the choices of others.
So there is a very real sense in which all any of us can do, is make the best choice we can in the instant, and be prepared to dance with whatever comes along when those consequences mix and mingle with the consequences of other people’s choices.
This seems to be the essential playground, the essential beingness of being human that we find ourselves in.
It appears that there are some very big changes in the fundamental ways of being, the fundamental possibilities offered to being, that are now available that were never before available in history.
Many of the things that have been true throughout the history of humanity, will no longer be true.
Very soon it is going to be possible for everyone to experience abundance, for everyone to have access to the freedom to do whatever they responsibly choose, without having to impose anything on another human being.
And, of course, everything we do will influence other human beings.
And it will no longer be necessary for us to have a plumber to fix a broken drain, we will be able to have a robot to fix the drain.
It will no longer be necessary to have to have farmer to grow our food, or to grow food ourselves, because we will have robotic systems that can grow the food, that can supply the water, that can maintain the energy systems, the energy distribution grids, and all of the essential housework can be done by non-human entities if no human wants to do them.
Now a human will always do things differently to a machine.
A programmed machine will essentially do the same thing in the same way over and over again, without ever getting tired of it, without any awareness of what it is doing. It will just do what it does, because that is what its particular pattern is designed to do.
It seems quite probable, that at some time in the future we will be able to produce machines of sufficient complexity, that they will have an awareness of being that is similar to our own, and the computers and robots of today (while they are amazingly complex machines) are still many orders of magnitude short of the sort of complexity that will give them an ability to respond to reality in ways that we would recognise as thinking self-aware entities.
They are much more like simple viruses or simple bacteria. And they are “bacteria” that we can control, that we can instruct to work for us, to free us to do whatever we choose to do, rather than what we have to do.
So then the question becomes:
What sort of things can we do?
One answer to that question is:
And then the next consequence is:
Yes, and some of those things will cause us to die, to stop living.
A more powerful question is perhaps:
What sort of things can we do that tend to promote our own freedom of existence?
That is a very interesting question.
To my mind it is a question that was asked by Jesus several thousand years ago.
And he found an answer that seems to be as true now as it was then, though he expressed it in the terms of his day, the understanding of his day, which is not an understanding that I share. I don’t think of things in terms of God, I think of things in terms of systems and interactions.
The principles he had:
that we must value every human life;
that we must think in terms of universally applicable actions;
seem to be true in the realm of mathematics and games theory, in terms of how can we act in a way that promotes our own freedom and our own continued existence.
And the answer seems to be:
we act in a way the promotes the freedom and the continued existence of all thinking entities.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This seems to be as good a principle for action today as it was 2 thousand years ago.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” seems to be as true now as it was then.
None of us is perfect in action.
To be human is to make mistakes.
Accept that all human beings make mistakes, and do whatever we can to assist others to see the most powerful paths ahead for themselves and for others.
Assist others to learn new contexts of thinking, new habits of behaviour, that encourage actions together, that encourage cooperative behaviours that are of benefit to all – to self and to others.
Make it clear that short term selfish behaviour is a cost on everyone.
Make it clear that the ways of being that evolved in our animal ancestors, the likes and dislikes we evolved that served our ape like ancestors very well, like a liking for sweet fruit, do not serve us at all well when we have supermarkets that serve us things like sugar and cocoa powder in the form of chocolate, or fizzy sugar water drinks.
Such foods do not deliver us the nutrients that we need, that we have evolved to live with, that were present in the sweet fruits in the jungle.
We have evolved a need for fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts.
If we are to live healthy lives, we need to feed our bodies healthy diets that are mostly (over 90% in terms of calories) plant based.
I spent 55 years on a diet that was mostly animal based. I was a meat eater, a hunter, a fisherman, and it was only when I faced incurable cancer at the age of 55, that I examined the evidence sufficiently closely. It was only once I had been told that there was nothing known to medical science that could extend the probability of my survival, and I would likely be dead within 6 weeks, a 50% chance of living 5 months and a 2% chance of living two years, that I looked very closely at the evidence.
I looked very closely at what experiments had been done.
I got to see that actually there is a great deal of evidence out there that says that if you eat a plant based diet, if you have very little animal products, which in my case, the easiest way was to say none, then you can live a long and healthy life.
Transferring from an animal diet to a plant diet was not something that my senses agreed with.
Everything tasted bad initially, and for several months.
Giving up sugar and chocolate, alcohol, all my favourite meats and fats and oils, wasn’t easy, and I have done it.
The tumours went away.
They have been away for several years now.
While we have these evolved animal passions, these likes and dislikes, these pleasures and pains, they are not always appropriate to our modern being.
Our modern being is an existence that must acknowledge the reality of those pleasures and pains, likes and dislikes, and need not take any particular heed of them.
Our modern being is now in a realm that is based upon, but is no longer controlled by, the physicality of our being.
It seems we must look after our physical being, if we want to live.
It seems we cannot exist separate from it, however much we might think we can, or wish that we might. Such technologies do not, to the best of my knowledge, exist as yet.
We may develop them in the future, and I think it will be a very long way off in our future.
I have no evidence at all that they exist as yet.
Certainly we can have experiences that make it seem like such technologies exist.
We can have experiences that seem like we can exist outside our bodies. I have had many such.
And I have also had experiences of such sensations being created by stimulation of particular areas of the brain.
We can now understand the sorts of chemical and electrical processes that can cause that experience of being by decoupling the model of reality that we have from the inputs of our senses that keep that model entrained to reality.
The model we have, that we take as being reality, seems to be actually a predictive model that our brain makes for us. So we seem not to experience reality as it is, we experience reality as our brains expect it to be. And most of the time our brain gets it right, and every now and then, we jump a half second or so, when the brain got it wrong. And most of the time we don’t notice those “jumps” we just adapt to the new reality.
And if you watch very carefully, particularly in situations of danger, for example when the car in front brakes unexpectedly, you will suddenly find that there is a jump. You will experience being a certain distance behind the car in front, then suddenly, you will be very much closer to it than you thought you were. There is no time difference there.
The model has simply been updated by the new information.
What we thought of as reality wasn’t. It is a model of reality, created by our brains, and slightly ahead of time (out of phase). It seems it is out of phase by a significant fraction of a second. It varies somewhat, usually between a third and a tenth of a second, depending on circumstance.
It seems that:
We live in the model.
We have no access to absolute truth.
It seems very likely that all of the truth that we have is a probability – that this might be so, or it might not be so, in the realm of the real.
As Descartes said “Cogito ergo sum” – I think therefore I am. Yes, we can be certain that we are. And we cannot be certain of any aspect of what we are.
It seems likely that we can have access to a confidence, to a certainty of knowledge. We cannot have absolute certainty or confidence of anything that relates to physical reality.
We can be certain that we are something, yet we cannot have absolute certainty about what that something is.
We can have a confidence.
We can have a confidence beyond any reasonable doubt, and I do indeed have such a confidence, beyond any reasonable doubt, that we are as I have described.
And I make no claim to any absolute certainty, any absolute infallibility.
I have no absolute certainty with respect to anything in reality, I have only confidence.