George Will & Certitude

June 19, 2005  

George Will, the well-known conservative columnist, recently addressed the University of Miami class of 2005. In his speech, he discusses the inherent dangers of certitude, and the power accidents. In his Newsweek article about his speech to these graduates, he says (excerpted):

“The more they appreciate the complexity and improbability of everyday things…the more they can understand the role that accidents, contingencies and luck have played in bringing the human story to its current chapter. And the more they understand the vast and mysterious indeterminacy of things, the more suited they will be to participate in writing the next chapter.

“This is so because the greatest threat to civility — and ultimately to civilization — is an excess of certitude. The world is much menaced just now by people who think that the world and their duties in it are clear and simple… It has been well said that the spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure that you are right. One way to immunize ourselves against misplaced certitude is to contemplate — even to savor — the unfathomable strangeness of everything, including ourselves.”

Although Will certainly did not have Goal-Free Living in mind when he made these statements, they do reinforce the power of living without certainty. When we know where we are going and how we want to get there, we are often blind to new experiences, missing out on new – potentially better – opportunities. With goals we are often certain of the outcome, the path, and the rationale. But sometimes allowing for the unknown, the mystery of life to unfold, can provide the greatest pleasures of all.

Read George Will’s complete article at

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