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Dancing with Absurdity

Your Most Cherished Beliefs (and All Your Others) Are Probably Wrong


Fred Leavitt

Dancing with Absurdity explores the limitations of knowledge and argues that neither reasoning nor direct observation can be trusted. Not only are they unreliable sources, they do not even justify assigning probabilities to claims about what we can know. This position, called radical skepticism, has intrigued philosophers since before the birth of Christ, yet nobody has been able to refute it.
Fred Leavitt uses two unique methods of presentation. First, he supports abstract arguments with summaries of real-life examples from many and varied fields, which make the arguments much more convincing and compelling. He cites more than 200 studies from psychology, mathematics, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, evolutionary theory, history, the corporate world, politics, the military, and current news reporting. Second, Leavitt’s writing is user-friendly, even when dealing with complex issues.
Whether answering the telephone, turning on the TV, talking with friends, or munching on an apple, we expect things to happen predictably. These expectations, paired with radical skepticism, exemplify cognitive dissonance at the highest level. Although certain of nothing, other than that we can be certain of nothing, it’s certain that readers will come to be intrigued by the problem.
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Chapter Seventeen: Conclusions


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From the moment of birth we learn methods of coping with and making sense of the world. The methods that work are retained and built upon, and the less effective are discarded. Countless experiences with them let us tame the world and make it less threatening than it otherwise would be. If anarchy reigned we would, like the biblical ass between two bales of hay, starve, paralyzed by indecision. And we’d have not two, but an infinite number of options. So, we are justified in eating bread rather than cyanide—not because of any meaningful evidence that one is more likely than the other to promote health—but because we must choose between them. To eat the cyanide, or nothing, or to alternate between them, would be to commit to a different worldview, also without merit. Our worldview is shaped not by concern for the truth, but from the need to convince ourselves that we have answers.

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