by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I do not find Larison's a charitable reading of Obama. Doubt can be a great teacher, at least as I understand Obama to be describing it. Perhaps Larison has something different in mind. Doubt can remind me that I am not God, among other things. Two favorites on doubt. One is as an academic psychologist who has studied decision making, I understand that decisions are made under uncertainty. Indeed, one of my favorite books is Rational Choice in an Uncertain World (1st edition) by Robyn Dawes. A trick to making good decisions is to know that they are made in uncertainty. That truth helps prevent a lot of delusion. One of the sources Appel cited, or who in turn cited those sources, spoke of great social progress being made only under certainty. I don't believe that has to be so. Instead, one can accept uncertainty and humbly do one's best. Indeed, the things I believe I have done best (though I could be mistaken) were when I was most powerfully aware of how uncertain the right path was, but when I nonetheless did what I discerned to be best.

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