Carved in Stone or Carried by the Wind?

  • Stephen Toulmin
Part of the Artificial Intelligence and Society book series (HCS)


The title “Beyond Certainty” is ambiguous in a way that can, but need not, be misleading. Wittgenstein did not claim that we can arrive at no kind of Certainty: merely that the philosophers deceive us if they pretend that the only kind of Certainty that has any intellectual relevance is a formal, geometrical kind. He did not direct us beyond all Certainty, only beyond the monopoly of inappropriate, formal Certainty (decontextual logical necessity) and toward an appropriate, pragmatic Certainty, a well grounded, situated certitude. With the Death of Cartesian foundational epistemology, we do not lose all hope of certainty, only the illusion that the only Certainty worth having is a formal, eternal feature of knowledge, exemplified in the logical coherence of texts. In its place, we recover an alternative Certitude: a timely, pragmatic feature of knowledge, within particular situations and modes of praxis.


Practical Wisdom Philosophical Theory Deductive Inference Practical Philosophy Moral Doctrine 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Toulmin

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