This time, I decided to read Against Academics. It is a series of discussions about the possibility of accurate knowledge. In it, Augustine argues that it is possible to know the truth, while his opponent argues that safe knowledge is not possible, although probable knowledge is possible. Of course, Augustine argues that the truth is safely knowable, since he is a Christian. So it should be no secret that the discussion will end in this way. But even without being religious it is possible to agree that there are things we can know for sure. As this is a short work, I did not take a lot of advice from it.
Possession of the truth, even when it does not bring happiness immediately, is useful to life.
For Augustine, it is only possible to be happy in possession of the truth. I have my reservations about this, as his opponent has in the debate. But it is certain that possession of the truth or our closeness to it certainly improves our lives. Much of what we owe in relation to our comfort comes from scientific discoveries in the fields of medicine, physics, information technology, chemistry, economics, among other things. Because despairing of the truth causes inaction, nobody would go after understanding the objects treated by the sciences if we thought that it is not possible to understand such things. So even when the truth does not bring immediate happiness, it certainly makes our lives better. This should be enough to encourage us to seek knowledge.
It is one thing to know, intuitively, that a person is wrong; being able to prove that person is wrong is something else entirely.
In the preface written by another guy, he points out that Augustine’s opponent, Licêncio, seems to be intuitively aware that Augustine is wrong in some points (and he is), but he doesn’t have the intellect to argue against such mistakes. This is quite true in any discussion. That is why discussions between stupid people degenerate into name-calling. Arguing back requires patience, requires study, and requires rhetoric. Not everyone is in possession of such weapons. Thus, the study of any cause cannot be separated from the study of debate techniques, or you will not be able to defend what you think is right.
There is nothing wrong with a person pursuing a goal with little chance of achieving it.
Even if the truth is difficult to find and even if the chance of finding it is slim, it is not unusual for any person to devote himself to searching truth. After all, a lot of people play the lottery. The chance of success is low, but it is possible to win. The defense of almost impossible causes should also not be abandoned. As long as the chance of success is not zero, someone, somewhere, will try it.
If you take profit from an action, that action was not in vain.
This is also true in the search for truth. Even when we don’t find reliable knowledge, at least we rule out false possibilities on the way there. Another person, in learning from our mistakes, will know what was already tried and this will help him find what we were looking for. What one does not achieve, the other will achieve and the task becomes easier for everyone the more attempts have been made. That means that mistakes are also profit, when it comes to science.
Doubt causes inaction. Doubt leads to neither approving nor rejecting, which can have particularly serious consequences in law.
Whoever doubts, does not affirm or deny. Now, those who do not affirm or deny do not act either. It is necessary that the person has confidence in a course of action so that he can make a decision. For that, he needs to be sure of what he is doing. This advice is good for MAPs ( minor-attracted people ). Augustine is saying here that we need to be sure to move in any direction. Taking this advice in reverse, that is, in a destructive way: if you make your opponent doubt of his own position in relation to something, his defense will be suspended. You don’t need to make an anti agree with you. You just have to create conditions for him to question his own beliefs. This will not earn you an ally, but it will reduce your number of enemies. Of course, this, in this particular case, must be done indirectly. The direct confrontation will probably lead the anti to become even more attached to what he already thinks. After all, says Voltaire, nothing ignites a fanatic more than a controversy. Creating doubt without controversy requires manipulation of the information environment (convincing others, proving that you are harmless, writing texts, collecting publications in scientific journals or in the news and keeping the appearance that times are changing).
That is how it is done in law. In the accusatory system, the accuser needs to prove that the accused is guilty. What is the lawyer’s job? If not to prove that the accuser is wrong, at least cast doubt on the accuser’s thesis. After all, unless the judge is certain that the accused person is guilty, it will not be possible to convict him.
There are truths that cannot be doubted.
If the truth was unreachable, what would happen to mathematics? I think we can all agree that mathematics is safe knowledge. It would be safe, although less secure, everything that is based on it, like the natural sciences. It would also be safe, although less secure, things that are based on natural sciences, such as the humanities (to an extent). And so on. Safe knowledge is possible, therefore.