Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Uncertainty

"Uncertainty and expectation are the joyous of life. Security is an insipid thing, and the overtaking and possessing or a wish discovers the folly of the chase." - William Congreve

"The freer a man’s judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined; while the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that it is controlled by the very object it should itself control. Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, an control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development." - Friedrich Engels

"Maturity is the capacity to endure uncertainty." - John H. Finley

"Uncertainty will always be part of the taking-charge process." - John J. Gabarro, aka Jack Gabarro

"An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual’s inwardness and the objective uncertainty. If I am capable of grasping god objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast to the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go of the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty." -

"We live between two dense clouds the forgetting of what was and the uncertainty of what will be." - Anatole France, pen name of Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his power." -

"If subjectivity is the truth, the conceptual account of truth must include an expression of the antithesis to objectivity, a mark of the fork in the road where the way swings off; that expression will serve at the same time to indicate the tension of the subjective inwardness. Here is such a definition of truth: the truth is an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation process of the most passionate inwardness, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"In that fearful loneliness of spirit, when those who should have been his friends and counselors only frown upon his misgivings... and everything seems wrapped in hideous uncertainty, I know but one way in which a man may come forth from his agony scathless: it is by holding fast to those things which are certain still - the grand, simple landmarks of morality. In the darkest hour through which a human soul can pass, whatever is doubtful, this at least is certain. If there be no God and no future state, yet even then, it is better to be generous than selfish, better to be chaste than licentious, better to be true than false, better to be brave than to be a coward. Blessed beyond all earthly blessedness is the man who in the tempestuous darkness of the soul has dared to hold fast to these venerable landmarks." -

"There greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depends upon the future. We let go the preseNt, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance - and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty." -

"Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favored by fortune: but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune’s greedily coveted favors, they are consequently, for the most part, very prone to credulity." -

"Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed." - Winston Churchill, fully Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

"Congreve, William Congreve - Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing and the overtaking and possessing of a wish, discovers the folly of the chase." - Yves Congar, fully Yves Marie-Joseph Congar

"Those very characteristics which are demanded by war – the ability to tolerate uncertainty, spontaneity of thought and action, having a mind open to the receipt of novel, and perhaps threatening information – are the antitheses of those possessed by people attracted to the controls, and orderliness, of militarism." - Norman F. Dixon

"After the day’s struggle there is no freedom like unfettered thoughts, no sound like the music of silence. And though behind you lies a road of dust and heat and discouragement, and before you the challenge and uncertainty of untried paths, in this brief hour you are master of all highways, and the universe nestles in your soul." - Max Ehrmann

"Maturity is the capacity to endure uncertainty." - John Finley

"Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don't let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity." -

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel people to unfold their powers." - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"Uncertainty will always be part of the taking charge process." - Harold Geneen, fully Harold "Hal" Sydney Geneen

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers." -

"Education is the process of leading people from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty." - Denis Hickey

"The essence of romance is uncertainty." -

"To face the inevitable is to confront something sacred. As long as anything is uncertain, the roads are open in more than one direction, and right and wrong may have many aspects. But let the issue be determined, let the die be cast, and acceptance and adjustment become our immediate duty. Until God’s will be known, we may work and wrestle and pry to carry our point, to save the day, to win the prize, spurred only the more by the uncertainty; of the result. But let the result be known, however dark and disappointing, and we should view it in the light of God’s plan to make us His evident children, and ask what we are to learn, what next we are to do." - Author Unknown NULL

"Metaphysics, or the attempt to conceive the world as a whole by means of thought, has been developed, from the first, by the union and conflict of two very different human impulses, the one urging men towards mysticism, the other urging them towards science... But the greatest men who have been philosophers have felt the need both of science and mysticism: the attempt to harmonize the two was what made their life, and what always must, for all its arduous uncertainty, make philosophy, to some minds, a greater thing than either science or religion." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"The value of philosophy is to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. He who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thought and free them from the tyranny of custom." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"To teach how to live with uncertainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy in our age can still do for those who study it." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"The instinct of conventionality, horror of uncertainty, and vested interests, all militate against the acceptance of a new idea." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"To teach how to live with uncertainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy in our age can still do for those who study it." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"We desire truth, and find within ourselves only uncertainty. We seek happiness, and find only misery and death." - Blaise Pascal

"What a chimera is man! what a confused chaos! what a subject of contradiction! a professed judge of all things, and ;yet a feeble worm of the earth! the great depository and guardian of truth, and yet a mere huddle of uncertainty! the glory and the scandal of the universe!" - Blaise Pascal

"We desire the truth, but find within ourselves nothing but uncertainty. We seek happiness, but find mainly misery. We are incapable of suppressing the desire for truth and happiness, and yet are incapable of knowing truth and happiness. These frustrated desires remind us how far we have fallen from our true state." - Blaise Pascal

"Truth is strengthened by observation and time, pretenses by haste and uncertainty." - Tacitus, fully Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus NULL

"The longest journey is the journey inwards. Of him who has chosen his destiny, who has started upon his quest for the source of his being (Is there a source?). He is still with you, but without relation, isolated in your feeling like one condemned to death or one whom imminent farewell prematurely dedicates to the loneliness which is the final lot of all. Between you and him is distance, uncertainty - care." - Dag Hammarskjöld

"A clear stream reflects all the objects on its shore, but is unsullied by them; so it should be with our hearts; they should show the effect of all earthly objects, but remain unstained by any... All worldly things are so much without us, and so subject to variety and uncertainty, that they do not make us when they come, nor mend us while they stay, nor undo us when they are taken away." - François de La Rochefoucauld, François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac, Francois A. F. Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

"The mind-expanding discovery of quantum mechanics is that Newtonian physics does not apply to subatomic phenomena... We cannot know both the position and the momentum of a particle with absolute precision... This is Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle." - Gary Zukav

"Nothing is certain, but uncertainty." - George Bernard Shaw

"Wisdom means keeping a sense of the fallibility of all our views and opinions, and of the uncertainty and instability of the things we most count on." - Gerald Brenan, fully Edward FitzGerald "Gerald" Brenan

"Human knowledge is personal and responsible, an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty." - Jacob Bronowski

"The essence of romance is uncertainty." - Oscar Wilde, pen name for Fingal O'Flahertie Wills

"Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don't let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity." - R. I. Fitzhenry, fully Robert I. Fitzhenry

"If life were eternal all interest and anticipation would vanish. It is uncertainty which lends its fascination." - Yoshida Kenko

"Demanding security and certainty prevents peace of mind. No human has the omniscience to foresee everything. Always realize the unexpected can occur. Plan as much as is appropriate, but realize that regardless of how much you plan there will always be difficulties that you had previously not imagined. By expecting there will always be unexpected occurrences and accepting them, you will have much greater peace of mind than if you have unrealistic expectations of complete control. A person would be making a big mistake if he felt that the way to peace of mind is to obtain complete security from all risks... Uncertainty is inevitable... The demand for success is detrimental to peace of mind... Keep your focus on trying to accomplish with the best of your ability." - Zelig Pliskin

"Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favored by fortune: but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune’s greedily coveted favors, they are consequently, for the most part, very prone to credulity." -

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers." - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"The future is uncertain... but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity." - Ilya, Viscount Prigogine, fully Ilya Romanovich Prigozhin

"The Principle of Uncertainty is a bad name. In science or outside of it we are not uncertain; our knowledge is merely confined, within a certain tolerance. We should call it the Principle of Tolerance. " - Jacob Bronowski

"In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted shortcuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world." - John Steinbeck, fully John Ernst Steinbeck

"Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating." - Carl von Clausewitz, fully Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz, also Karl von Clausewitz