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The self-falsifying error of dismissive, hyperskeptical certitude

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It seems that Seversky has fallen into an exemplary case of error in the nothing certain thread that needs to be headlined and corrected for the record:

Sev, 13: >>What I see in the writings of the likes of kf, BA and BA77 is the same craving for certainty [in context, held by murderous dictators of C20 and compared to “religious zealots” of the remoter past] – some impregnable bedrock Truth – on which their lives and beliefs can be founded. Let me say that I don’t believe for one moment that anyone here would knowingly do anyone any harm in the name of their beliefs. But the siren-song of that need for certainty is what can and has lured people to follow courses of action they they and others have later come to regret. I can’t speak for others at TSZ but I, as an a/mat v2.0, believe that a constant awareness the limitations and fallibility of all of us should entail a humility which is currently unfashionable but is our best defense against the sort of horrors which human beings have unleashed on one another in the past.>>

On right of fair comment and reply . . . after all, I head Seversky’s list . . . I first find this rather unfair, one-sided, ill-informed on the actual views of the evolutionary materialism driven or influenced Communist and neopagan Aryan Man occultist dictators of C20.

In the case of one certain Adolph Schicklegruber in Mein Kampf:

>>Any crossing of two beings not at exactly the same level produces a medium between the level of the two parents . . . Consequently, it will later succumb in the struggle against the higher level. Such mating is contrary to the will of Nature for a higher breeding of all life [–> reifies natural selection into his neopagan god] . . . The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he after all is only a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher development of organic living beings [–> a reference to evolution] would be unthinkable.

The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in Nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races, but their uniform character in themselves. The fox is always a fox, the goose a goose, the tiger a tiger, etc., and the difference can lie at most in the varying measure of force, strength, intelligence, dexterity, endurance, etc., of the individual specimens. But you will never find a fox who in his inner attitude might, for example, show humanitarian tendencies toward geese, as similarly there is no cat with a friendly inclination toward mice [–> survival of the fittest by using the power of violence to prey on the weaker, a grimly prophetic warning to Jewish and Polish “mice”] . . . .

In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. [–> That is, Darwinian sexual selection.] And struggle is always a means for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of its higher development [–> that is, its evolution].

If the process were different, all further and higher development would cease and the opposite would occur. For, since the inferior always predominates numerically over the best [ –> NB: this is a theme in Darwin’s discussion of the Irish, the Scots and the English in Descent of Man], if both had the same possibility of preserving life and propagating, the inferior would multiply so much more rapidly that in the end the best would inevitably be driven into the background, unless a correction of this state of affairs were undertaken. Nature does just this by subjecting the weaker part to such severe living conditions that by them alone the number is limited, and by not permitting the remainder to increase promiscuously, but making a new and ruthless choice according to strength and health . . . >>

That should give food for thought, as should this blasphemous distortion of the descent of the Spirit on Jesus at Jordan, into that of a demonic bomber-bird as Hitler leads an army of the deluded:


Enough has been said to correct the rhetoric of projection. In sum, I find the rhetoric Seversky used abusively loaded and evasive of ideological responsibility, especially on the strength  of my longstanding remarks here on, on the sins and blessings of Christendom (note especially Bernard Lewis’ wise balancing words), but I think there are bigger worldview level fish to fry here today.

For, Seversky has managed to make himself a poster-boy for the self-falsifying error of dismissive, hyperskeptical certitude:

KF, 36: >> . . . notice the attempt to convert an argument on logic and facts to an emotional feeling that can be dismissed as a “craving”?

That resort to dismissive motive mongering rhetoric inadvertently tells us Seversky has no answer so a bit of projection will do to dismiss.

In reply, a lesson: no emotion is better or worse than the underlying perceptions, evaluations and judgements that trigger the felt response. So, to the merits, the merits, the merits of fact and logic we must go.

And a sense of duty to seek and respect evident truth is hardly a craving for certainty that is by insinuation always, inevitably ill-founded. And, where did such cynical certainty come from? Is it well founded to be certain that there is no certainty to be had?

(Or, is that not yet another self-referential absurdity that guarantees just what it would dismiss: (1) certain truth exists on pain of absurdity on attempted denial, (2) the certainty that there is no certainty is certainly false by way of self-refutation?)

Okay, to the first steps.

Error exists, E. Try to deny it, ~E — it is an error to hold error exists, whoops.

Undeniably and self evidently true.

Truth, knowable truth to self evident certainty exists and serves as a yardstick or plumbline for worldviews which in general will be much broader than such SETs.

For instance, once SETs exist, truth and knowledge that are objective, connected to realities of the world, exist. Worldviews that cannot handle truth, knowledge and knowledge of reality beyond our inner consciousness are all swept away en bloc. Their name is legion.

But at the same time, yardstick SET no 1 is a warning, a warning on the possibility of error, so one who prizes truth and knowledge will prize the plumbline truths that will allow policing thought-life towards growth in truth and knowledge.

And as truths include moral truths, we have a basis for moral government also: evil like Hitler’s holocaust or the like is abhorrent. But evil is the frustration, perversion, undue truncation or privation of the good, and we must then reflect on the root of goodness.

Where that points via the IS-OUGHT challenge is profound and enlightening, at world root level.

Exactly where so many are desperate not to go.>>

So, ironically, the certitude that there is no certainty to be had refutes itself and shows that on pain of self-referential incoherence, certain truth exists. The first example of which, is that error exists — as the case under the microscope of logic exemplifies.

Let us trust that such hyperskeptical objectors will recognise the error in their implicit certainty that there is no certainty to be had. If not, let us ask such: are you certain that it is certain that there are no certain truths?

If they are not certain, they should at once withdraw their loaded invidious insinuations on “cravings” for certainty.

If they are certain, then they patently fall under their own condemnation and cannot live consistent with their view. It refutes itself.

As a wiser beginning, let us instead reckon that certain, self-evident truth no 1 is that error exists, a direct humbling warning as well as a hope. On the strength of which, we must ever seek and prize those few plumbline truths that allow us to be genuinely critically self-reflective.

And, given the atmosphere poisoning tactics at work, let us heed Bernard Lewis’ balanced caution in his epochal 1990 essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage:

. . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty — not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet . . . .

In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. We do not hold Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular, responsible for the diseases they diagnosed and to which they gave their names.

Words for the wise indeed. END

15 Replies to “The self-falsifying error of dismissive, hyperskeptical certitude

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Are you certain there’s no certain, well-warranted truth to be had? Why or why not? (And where does this point?)

  2. 2
    sean samis says:

    kairosfocus @1:

    Are you certain there’s no certain, well-warranted truth to be had?

    Here’s one: The Wikipedia page on Godwin’s Law should feature your picture!


    sean s.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:


    I notice, first, you have nothing to say to the headlined error, the main focus of the post.

    That walk by as though it is not there speaks volumes.

    Next, if you had taken time to first notice that I replied to an invidious connexion that tried to transfer blame for the atrocities of the C20’s dictators to religious faith [a path pioneered by Dawkins et al], it would have better served your cause.

    It is noteworthy that the Wiki article you link comments:

    Godwin’s law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one’s opponent) with Nazis – often referred to as “playing the Hitler card”. The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics, or racial superiority, nor, more debatably, to a discussion of other totalitarian regimes or ideologies,[citation needed] if that was the explicit topic of conversation, because a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate

    Seversky played the Hitler-Stalin-Mao echo religious zealotry and the thought crime of certainty card, I replied to correct. Get over it.

    Second, you are trying the tactic of the one liner dismissive snipe=-shot by out of context appeal to Godwin on the irrelevant injection of reference to herr Schicklegruber.

    Given direct context in Seversky’s remarks, my correctives are NOT irrelevant.

    Further to this, as it is a notorious atheistical tactic to try to suggest Hitler was a Christian acting on the ethics of that faith, the demonstration from a Nazi party poster that Hitler blasphemously abused scriptural themes and pivotal incidents, tells any inclined to the truth and fairness that we see here the spirit of antichrist, not that of Christ.

    So, inadvertently, your silence on the main point and attempt to dismiss simply because Hitler has come up show where the true balance on merits lies.

    Not, where you would like onlookers to imagine it is.


  4. 4
    epistememe says:

    But when we have these irrational beliefs, these culturally coded assumptions, running so deep within our community and movement, how do we actually change that? How do we get people to further question themselves when they’ve already become convinced that they’re a rational person, a skeptic, and have moved on from irrationality, cognitive distortion and bias?

    Well I think what we need to do is to change the fundamental structure and values of skepticism. We need to build our community and movement around slightly different premises.

    As it has stood in the past, skepticism has been predicated on a belief in the power of the empirical and rational. It has been based on the premise that there is an empirical truth, and that it is knowable, and that certain tools and strategies like science and logic will allow us to reach that truth. In short, the “old guard” skepticism was based on a veneration of the rational. But the veneration of certain techniques or certain philosophies creates the problematic possibility of choosing to consider certain conclusions or beliefs to BE empirical and rational and above criticism, particularly beliefs derived from the “right” tools, and even more dangerously, to consider oneself “rational”.

    I believe that in order to be able to question our own beliefs as well as we question those of others, we need to restructure skepticism around awareness of human limitation, irrationality and flaws. Rather than venerating the rational, and aspiring to become some kind of superhuman fully rational vulcan minds, we need to instead create a more human skepticism, built around understanding how belief operates, how we draw conclusions, and how we can cope with the human limitations. I believe we need to remove the focus from aspiring towards ridding ourselves of the irrational, and instead move the focus towards understanding how this irrationality operates and why we believe all the crazy things we believe. We need to position as our primary aspiration not the achievement of a perfect comprehending mind, but instead an ability to maintain constant hesitation and doubt, to always always ALWAYS second-guess our positions and understand that they’re being created through a flawed mind, from flawed perceptions.

    Science and reason are excellent tools to allow us to cope with being crazy, irrational human beings, but it CANNOT allow us to transcend that. The instant we begin to believe that we have become A Skeptic, A Rational Person, that is when we’ve fucked up, that is when we stop practicing skepticism, stop keeping an eye out for our mistakes, and begin to imagine our irrational perceptions as perfect rational conclusions. It’s only by building a skepticism based on the practice of doubt, rather than the state of Skeptic, that we’ll truly be able to be move on from our assumptions.

    – Natalie Reed, Getting Skeptics to Think Rationally About Their Skepticism

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:


    Welcome to UD, you have raised some thoughtful issues.

    Going way back, IEP:

    Although all skeptics in some way cast doubt on our ability to gain knowledge of the world, the term “skeptic” actually covers a wide range of attitudes and positions. There are skeptical elements in the views of many Greek philosophers, but the term “ancient skeptic” is generally applied either to a member of Plato’s Academy during its skeptical period (c. 273 B.C.E to 1st century B.C.E.) or to a follower of Pyrrho (c. 365 to 270 B.C.E.). Pyrrhonian skepticism flourished from Aenesidemus’ revival (1st century B.C.E.) to Sextus Empiricus, who lived sometime in the 2nd or 3rd centuries C.E. Thus the two main varieties of ancient skepticism: Academic and Pyrrhonian . . .

    Wiki summarises on the latter:

    Whereas academic skepticism, with Carneades as its most famous adherent, claims that “Nothing can be known, not even this”, Pyrrhonian skeptics withhold any assent with regard to non-evident propositions and remain in a state of perpetual inquiry. They disputed the possibility of attaining truth by sensory apprehension, reason, or the two combined, and thence inferred the need for total suspension of judgment (epoché) on things.[4] A Pyrrhonist tries to make the arguments of both sides as strong as possible. Then he asks himself if there is any reason to prefer one side to the other. And if not, he suspends belief in either side. According to them, even the statement that nothing can be known is dogmatic. They thus attempted to make their skepticism universal, and to escape the reproach of basing it upon a fresh dogmatism.[5] Mental imperturbability (ataraxia) was the result to be attained by cultivating such a frame of mind.[5]

    As in Stoicism and Epicureanism, the happiness or satisfaction of the individual was the goal of life, and all three philosophies placed it in tranquility or indifference.[5] According to the Pyrrhonists, it is our opinions or unwarranted judgments about things which turn them into desires, painful effort, and disappointment.[5] From all this a person is delivered who abstains from judging one state to be preferable to another.[5] But, as complete inactivity would have been synonymous with death, the skeptic, while retaining his consciousness of the complete uncertainty enveloping every step, might follow custom (or nature) in the ordinary affairs of life.[5]

    My overall view is that it has been a mistake to promote skepticism, especially hyper forms, into being thought virtues.

    Instead, we should take a worldviews oriented approach to thought. Such would take a more balanced view, e.g. cf here: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....u2_bld_wvu

    What has happened in our time is that as radical secularisation advanced, evolutionary materialist scientism has become more and more powerful, but without adequate critical analysis of its fatal weaknesses. Of particular importance are undermining of rationality and ethics.

    Those are becoming increasingly evident, and linked agendas are proving ruinous.

    Consequences of such trends will be very painful.

    I am pessimistic.


  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Craving for ‘certainty”? What kind of lame accusation is that from an atheist? Is Seversky certain about anything? Of course he is! Did he ever crave to know if something was true (i.e. was ‘certain’)? Of course he has!

    We all have certainty about many things. For instance when we get out of bed in the morning and stand up, we all have a certainty that gravity is going to hold our feet to the floor and that we are not going to go flying off into the air because gravity suddenly stopped working during the night. Yet on materialism we have no reason to believe that gravity should hold constant throughout time.

    Random Chaos vs. Uniformity Of Nature – Presuppositional Apologetics – video

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 Greg Bahnsen debate available at the bottom of the site
    Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,

    Materialists/atheists simply have no reason they can give for why the constants should remain constant

    Scientists Question Nature’s Fundamental Laws – Michael Schirber – 2006
    Excerpt: “There is absolutely no reason these constants should be constant,” says astronomer Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. “These are famous numbers in physics, but we have no real reason for why they are what they are.”
    The observed differences are small-roughly a few parts in a million-but the implications are huge (if they hold up): The laws of physics would have to be rewritten, not to mention we might need to make room for six more spatial dimensions than the three that we are used to.”,,,
    The speed of light, for instance, might be measured one day with a ruler and a clock. If the next day the same measurement gave a different answer, no one could tell if the speed of light changed, the ruler length changed, or the clock ticking changed.

    Only Theism gives us a coherent reason for why gravity (and all the other constants) do not vary over time.

    Stronger and More Comprehensive Tests Affirm the Universe’s Unchanging Physics – July 1, 2013 By Dr. Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: For thousands of years, the Bible has been on record stating that the physical laws governing the universe do not vary. For example, Jeremiah 33:25, God declares that he “established the fixed laws of heaven and earth” (NIV, 1984).,,,
    Laboratory measurements have established that variations any greater than four parts per hundred quadrillion (less than 4 x 10-17) per year cannot exist in the fine structure constant, which undergirds several of the physical laws.,,,
    ,,they confirmed with 99 percent certainty that possible variations in the fine structure must be less than two parts per 10 quadrillion per year over the past 10 billion years. This limit is about a thousand times more constraining than the one I described in More Than a Theory.

    “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it.”
    Lewis, C.S., Miracles: a preliminary study, Collins, London, p. 110, 1947.

    Psalm 119:89-91
    Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.

    Thus, the reason we all can have certainty that the constants will be the same tomorrow as they are today, (and thus have the taken for granted certainty to get up out of bed in the morning and put our feet on the floor knowing full well that we will not suddenly go flying off in the air), is because God is faithful!

    And our certainty in this is ‘certainly’ not because of the random chaos that is foundational to atheistic/materialistic thought.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    BA77, ironically, the hyperskeptics seem to be quite certain that we cannot be certain. KF

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    semi related:

    Most precise test of Lorentz symmetry for the photon finds that the speed of light is indeed constant – by Lisa Zyga – September 15, 2015
    Excerpt: “Lorentz symmetry”,,, is a cornerstone of Einstein’s special relativity theory. According to special relativity, there is no absolute space or absolute time.,,,
    The cavity test here involves two cavities containing sapphire crystals. The researchers excited an electromagnetic resonance in the crystals at a specific frequency, and supercooled them with liquid helium to stabilize the frequency and improve sensitivity. Like the mirrors of the interferometer, the cavities are carefully aligned orthogonal (at right angles) to each other to detect any tiny change in the speed of light along different axes. In the case of the cavities, a change in the speed of light would induce a change in the resonance frequency of the crystals. But after analysis of a full year of data, no such change was found.
    “This is the first direct test of polarization-independent effects for Lorentz invariance violations of the photon that has reached the level of the Planck-suppressed electroweak unification scale,” Parker told Phys.org. “The energy scale of electroweak unification (about 100 GeV) suppressed by the Planck scale (about 1.2 x 10^19 GeV) gives the dimensionless ratio of about 8 x 10^-18, so perhaps naively one might expect to start seeing Lorentz symmetry of the photon being broken in this regime, yet we didn’t see any evidence for this.”,,,
    These improved bounds could prove very useful for experimentally testing (falsifying) theories that (try to) unify general relativity and the standard model while predicting Lorentz symmetry violations. Some of these theories, for example, include string theory-based models and quantum gravity theories, among others.,,,

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 1

    Are you certain there’s no certain, well-warranted truth to be had? Why or why not? (And where does this point?)

    By “truth”, do you mean the extent to which our explanations or models of objective reality correspond to what they purport to describe or do you mean the actual nature of that reality, at least insofar as we can observe it?

    Are there models or explanations in which we have greater confidence than others? Yes, of course. Is our observational access to the nature or truth of objective reality limited by the available means of observation, such that we can see only a very limited, incomplete “truth”? Yes, it is so we need to be very wary about claims of absolute certainty. Outside of formal systems like logic and mathematics, it’s really hard to come by.

    I’m actually not sure what the point of your OP is. I’m not claiming any sort of certainty, hyperskeptical or otherwise. I’m not the one constantly citing Royce’s “error exists” argument as a certain proof of God’s existence or claiming the existence of truths so irresistibly self-evident that only a liar could possibly deny them. As I wrote, people – and not just people here – crave certainty. That’s why they are so drawn to religions or political ideologies that promise it.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:


    you know the gap between perception and reality very well.

    Perception may influence actions but reality governs consequences.

    That is why it is very important to maintain a due distinction between views, opinions and beliefs on one hand and truth and knowledge of the truth on the other. Truth is not a matter of if we deem the tail of a sheep a leg then it has five legs. No amount of rhetoric or question-begging redefinition and imposition can make a tail into a leg.

    Truth was aptly summed up by Aristotle as saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.

    Not too hard, and learned with: Johnny, did you take a cookie from the jar without permission?

    No, Mommy.

    Then, why are there crumbs on your mouth?

    As for the issue at stake in the OP, I note that the hyperskeptical view that there is no certainty to be had implies its own certitude and so refutes itself.

    If all you had in mind in invidiously connecting us to Nazi and Communist dictators thence oppressive religious zealots (violating the actual reasonable connexions) was that we need to be humble, you would be found in SUPPORT of my point that undeniably certain truth no 1 is that error exists.

    That, as you full well know, is a longstanding argument I have made, tracing to Josiah Royce.

    You full well know that I have taken this point to show two things. First, self evident certain and knowable truths and knowledge exist, second that the first such truth on the table is also a warning that error also exists. Which is a due and warranted balance that leads to critically aware epistemic confidence where such is due but tempers confidence with the equal awareness of the possibility of error.

    So, let us pose a test:

    Are you Seversky, willing to acknowledge that error exists is self-evidently and undeniably thus certainly and infallibly true?

    If yes, then why have you taxed us as you did and why have you sought to taint us as you did with a an alleged [implicitly, unjustifiable and dangerous] craving for certainty directly compared to the ilk of a Stalin or a Mao or a Hitler, and onwards through that alleged unjustifiable craving to the ilk of a Torquemada or the like?

    If no, then you have amply, directly justified my point in the OP.


  11. 11

    It seems to me that Seversky and some are worried about the potential misapplication of certainty and where that has led in the past. While that concern is good, and it should require one to pay close attention to that which they are certain of, some seem to think that the best bulwark against the abuse of certainty in beliefs is hyperskepticism – insisting on uncertainty in all things.

    Unfortunately, Seversky appears to be blind to the potential misuse and negative consequences of such over-extended, unwarranted skepticism.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:


    perhaps, then they should start with as certainty no 1, error exists.

    That instantly creates a balance of acknowledging truth, knowable truth, knowledge, self evident truth even, whilst putting on the table that we are finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often stubbornly ill-willed.

    So we are in the parabolic saw-pit of the Sermon on the Mount.

    The top dog sawyer is there on top for good reason but must be aware that the under dog down on the other end in the pit likely will get sawdust in eyes but if he is not reasonable he may have the metaphorical whole log in his eye. Even, especially if he becomes so concerned about making a quick buck that he puts the log over his junior down in the pit.

    The problem is not being certain per se, but the context of what we are certain over, why.

    And, it is an outrage to try to duck the moral hazards of evolutionary materialism’s amorality by projecting an invidious association between Christians and atheistical or evolutionary neopagan C20 dictators and then onwards the likes of a Torquemada.

    The lack of balance and fair-mindedness involved in that sort of rhetoric are big warning signs.


  13. 13

    sean s @1,

    Although falling foul of Godwin’s law tends to cause the individual making the comparison to lose his argument or credibility, Godwin’s law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even as censorship, fallaciously
    miscasting an opponent’s argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate

    From the Wiki you cite.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    CY, in short, too often Godwin’s point is abused in order to prevent us drawing sound but inconvenient lessons bought at horrific cost of blood and tears. To such, the proper reply is that those who refuse the sound lessons of history are doomed to pay much the same cost of blood and tears to repeat the same lessons again. In short, such closed minded dismissiveness, disrespect and folly reflect implicit misanthropy. KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Notice, how — days later, there is still no cogent response to the issue that certitude in dismissing that there are certainly knowable truths (e.g. error exists) reflects self-referential incoherence. KF

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